25 July 2009

Snapshots in the Palm of Your Hand

Portrait of the Artist as a Young (?) Man
All illustrations by Letitia Barnhill©
Used with permission

Because I was in Brussels for Father’s Day, I was unable to phone my dad. Instead, I did something I haven’t done in many years: I bought him a present. While strolling around the old part of town, waiting for Susan Graham’s performance at the Théâtre de La Monnaie/De Munt, I came across a little shop where a fellow was making 3-D photo portraits, etched by laser inside Lucite cubes.

In the gift shops of Paris, I’d seen much simpler objects, schematic images of the Eiffel Tower in cubes, but never a photographic image like this one. Figuring that my father, a retired engineer, would be even more intrigued than I by the technology, I sat for my portrait: my picture snapped by a camera with a couple of lenses, then rendered with that laser beam. Uncanny.

And yet I’d hardly received the finished portrait before I began to imagine how quaint — how primitive — how like a tintype to us — this portrait will seem to future generations. Say four or five years from now.

Side view

“Look, children, here’s an old-fashioned hologram!”

“Ewww, Mrs. Tillotson! It’s gross! Is it like some kind of a death mask or something? He’s all pale!”

“No, Betty, this was from the days before we had color.”

“Hey!” [Hitting the cube against a countertop.] “I can’t get this thing to work, Mrs. Tillotson! It’s not moving or anything!”

“I’m sorry, Jimmy. Back when this was made, holograms didn’t move. They didn’t even have the freestanding desktop model, in those days!”

“This is so dumb! Why would anybody want anything like that?”

My dad has the new freestanding animated laptop model, the Lap-Topless-a-Go-Go 3000. It cost him four hundred quatloos! It doesn’t look like Mommy, but what’s so cool is, it can even — ”

“That’s enough, Bobby, dear. I don’t think your father needs for us to hear about what he does with his hologram in his private time.”

“Mrs. Tillotson! Mrs. Tillotson! Can we leave the museum now? I wanna go play with the robots!”

“But Cindy, dear, you keep forgetting — I am a robot!”*

To give you an idea of the scale,
my cousin photographed the portrait next to her car keys.

*NOTE: In the future, no human will be able to afford to work for a public-school teacher’s salary.

1 comment:

Girl From Texas said...

It's not a bad image of you; but the overall effect is kinda creepy. "Halp me ! I 'm trapped in this cube and I can't get out!"