(I would like to apologize ahead of time for the length of this post)
“Perspective gives us the ability to accurately contrast the large with the small, and the important with the less important. Without it we are lost in a world where all ideas, news, and information look the same. We cannot differentiate, we cannot prioritize, and we cannot make good choices.”- John Sununu
Original Van Gogh painting: Starry Night Over the Rhone, 1888
Same painting, tilt-shifted by illustrator Serena Malyon. [ "Nothing in any of these paintings been added or removed or had its proportions changed. The effect is achieved simply by manipulating the light in the scene and adjusting the areas of the image that are more and less in focus, as you will see. This is all being done in fun, so don’t take it too seriously."]
The artist herself explains the production of the piece, so there isn’t much need for me to reiterate. Instead, I shall focus more on the impression that these changes give to the viewer. In the original painting done by Van Gogh, the focus is on the entire image, including the river, the city and sky in the background, and the smaller figures in the foreground. Because of this, one doesn’t really pay attention to each of the individual aspects and occasionally overlooks certain characteristics of the painting.
In the tilt-shifted image, with the majority of the painting blurred and indistinct, the focus is solely on the foreground figures. All you can really see is the image of the boats moored to the dock and the couple walking along that same dock. In the original image, you can tell that there are two people at the bottom of the painting, and, if you really pay attention, you can see they are a man and a woman who are walking as a couple. In the Malyon’s version, though, you can clearly see that the woman’s hand is held in the crook of the man’s elbow, the way a husband may lovingly escort his wife. Also, although this is simply my personal view, the way that the man’s hat is painted almost makes it seem as if he is watching his wife’s face as they walk along, something you can’t really get from glancing at the original painting.
In case you didn’t read the quote, the heart of this post is perspective. As with the painting, different perspectives of a situation allow one to notice and understand different aspects of it that would not normally be noticed otherwise. My mom used to be a district attorney and is now a district court judge, so I have seriously come to understand and appreciate the true need to understand the various sides of a story after listening to her discuss her cases and sitting in on some. Despite what may be said about the United States justice system, it at least attempts to allow for multiple perspectives of events to be shown and investigated before passing judgement on the people involved.
It isn’t just single events that in which perspective plays a big role, though; it is entire lives and periods of history. One of the classes I am currently taking is a history class on the guerrilla movements and insurgencies in 20th century Latin America, a topic that is very close to the hearts of some United States citizens because of our involvement in the opposition to these movements. Everyone in the US knows that we don’t get along with Fidel Castro in Cuba, and most of us learned at least a little bit about why that is. The issue is that we learned this from the point of view of an American, so we see him as this evil communist dictator who overthrew the previous government in his quest for power. But do you ever wonder why he had, and still sort of has, so much loyalty from his followers? One of the books we were required to read this history class I’m taking is written by Ernesto “Che” Guevara, who fought alongside Castro for awhile and was eventually killed trying to aid other guerrilla groups. He describes Castro as “a young, intelligent guy, very sure of himself and extraordinarily audacious” and said that it was “Fidel’s personal commitment toward people he holds in esteem” that was the reason behind the loyalty of his followers. Che thought of Fidel Castro as a man who was so concerned with the lives and wellbeing of his people that he was willing to do anything, even fight when there was no chance of survival, for them. The United States’ opinion of Castro is not the only one that exists, nor is it necessarily the correct one; it is simply the the opinion that has arisen from one of the various perspectives of his life and deeds, as is the opinion that Che had of the man.
Sorry that I completely got away from the discussion of the artwork here. This point of this post is not meant to advocate for foreign leaders or oppose people’s opinions. The goal is simply to express the true effect the that perspective has. If nothing else, I just hope that this post can communicate the importance of looking at various perspectives to understand a situation. People lie, exaggerate, forget details, and are often biased about events because of their emotions, but looking at all sides to a story can help dispel some of the fallacies that are involved.
P.S. “Where We Land” by Ed Sheeran= Sort of heading back in the direction of the artwork, this song is just a really cute, romantic one that I could see being played in a film during a scene similar to the painting. Ed Sheeran’s other songs are great, as well (The A-Team, anyone?). Additionally, the quotes used in the body of the post come from Che: The Diaries of Ernesto Che Guevara, written by the man himself.
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