Before I present the new frontier of contemporary imaging, I'd like to brief you on a history of photography. A few moderately important things happened prior to this year's major turning point in history within these twelve feline portraits. I only got to where my cat is now by standing on the shoulders of giants:
420,000 BC: Aliens land and bury a camera deep within the pockets of the Earth that will take the right picture of the right person at the right time in a foreseen effort to save the future from totalitarian capitalism.
300 BC: Aristotle looks at stuff and thinks about how to put an image on a surface.
470 BC - 1700 C: Chinese philosopher Mozi invented the camera obscura and wrote about why light travels upside down, making him the progenitor of precontemporary optics. Egyptian scientist Alhazen invented it again in 11th century Africa. Western scientists like Roger Bacon, Leonardo DaVinci, Leonardo DiCaprio, Johannes Kepler, Giambattista Dellaporta and Charles Tiphagnie also invented it in premodern Europe.
1614: Angelo Sala demonstrated the alchemical concept of how silver nitrate blackened in the sun and can be transformed into images on paper.
1839: "Commercial" photography as we know it flashed into existence when French chemist Louis Daguerre developed the daguerrotype process, after like a half century of Western geniuses trying to figure it out with paganistic rituals like burning resin, pouring lavender oil, and avoiding the sun.
1861: Thomas Sutton takes the first durable color photograph, 'Ribbon'.
1936: Dorothea Lange photographs 'Migrant Mother'.
1957: A very important event photographer snaps this iconic moment of Sophia Loren side-eyeing Jayne Mansfield's cleavage.
1976: Samy's Camera opens in Los Angeles.
1986: Kodak scientists develop the first megapixel sensor, setting the stage for digital photography.
1992: Mario Sorrentini photographs Kate Moss for Calvin Klein, launching not only 'heroin chic' but a minimalist style of fashion and lifestyle #aesthetic that to this day is on trend, come thru fam it's lit (with a single flashbulb) blank white wall is bae ;-(
2010: Instagram launches. The ~ #selfie ~ enters the cultural lexicon.
2016: Nastya Valentine points her iPhone at her cat, forever shifting the contemporary framework of what it means when a human, an animal, and a flat rectangular circuit board covered in glass, stainless steel, and plastic engage in a triadic connection which manifests into a tangible square of art. This, directly presented to you dear readers now, is art. This is a signifier of three separately directed gazes which intersect in a manner most subtle, yet effective. This is a movement. This is the paradigm shifting, straining to bring from the future a perspective that resonates among all species, robots, and humans, while simultaneously flashing back to a primordial emotive state. This is a scientific inquiry into the eyes of existence itself. This is the rebirth of expressive sensibility. This.... is Russell.
1. Russell with his tongue out half winking, 2016
This first image really hits at the heart of the story of Russell, reclining at a diagonal angle on a couch as if to say, "yes, I know I'm an icon worldwide". While the wink may be an intentional sparkling gesture to appease the camera lens, the tongue sticking out is a medical coincidence. Russell is missing his two front teeth, and very often ends up sticking it out accidentally. Notice how he works it, bringing his paws closer to his face to draw the eye upwards in a pleasant trigonometric composition.
2. Russell with his tongue out gazing into the camera, 2015
Here, Russell is zoning out with his eyes but taunting the iPhone camera with the lower half of his face. This emotional tension raises quite a few questions. However, it is tempered by the cool pastel colors of his bedspread and softer focus of an older iPhone model.
3. Russell with his tongue out on snapchat, 2016
A slightly different take on the original subject. Consider the setting: it's Friday in WeHo, and the ghost emoji wants to party. Russell, however, would rather luxuriate. This photo captures Russell's charmingly lazy essence within contemporary semiotics. An exquisite glimmer permeates his eyes as though Russell knows that his tongue matches the hue of the curtains, and he smizes like the love child of Tyra Banks and La Joconde because his sense of color theory is always immaculate.
4. Russell high-fiving the photographer, who just got her acrylics, 2016
This photograph shows a goofier side of Russell's disposition; one may get the feeling that Russell only has a singular mode of expression, laying down with his tongue out, but he has quite a variable emotional range. Within this range is an affinity for high-fiving, as though he is glad the photographer just got her nails done and is engaging in an intersubjective moment of shared joy.
5. Russell in zero gravity, 2016
What this photograph reveals about Russell is that he can go into zero gravity even while on Earth, bypassing the basic laws of physics. What it reveals about our time is that the Internet was not wrong in asserting that cats have special powers.
6. Russell trying to make a parabola, 2016
An educational facility is not a place Russell has set foot into, but he has sat atop his human's science and math textbooks enough to learn what a parabola is. Here, Russell demonstrates his knowledge by mimicking the shape of a mirror-symmetrical curve. Many photographers tell their models to "find the light" ; I tell mine to find their axis of symmetry. With a cat like this, who needs a NASA internship?
7. Zoomed in Russell diptych, 2016
Twice the Russell. A delicately curated instant classic whose slight blur offers a mysterious sense of urgency.
8. Russell trying to get out of taking a selfie, 2016
Observe that face: it has "fml" written all over it. Russell wants to be the only star of the iPhone camera, and his expressive look makes that clear (this is the Russell version of the "Sophia Loren/Jayne Mansfield side-eye pic"). Occasionally, though, he does make exceptions for a cameo....
9. The martyrdom of Russell and Biscuits, 2016
Russell demonstrates that he is tolerant of those who step into his spotlight, as long as it is in dramatic chiaroscuro. Many of Russell's admirers don't register that this photograph is an iPhone pic; they are wowed by the employed lighting tricks and closer resemblance to Baroque tenebrism than mobile phone aesthetics. In fact, this is a pure iPhone 6 creation with the aid of an external LED flash. Russell is a true method model who in his immediate light posed like a character in a Gentleschi painting, with Biscuits as the Maidservant to his Judith.
10. Russell and Carlos lounging existentially in b&w, 2016
This photograph, lush with symbolism and iconography, is especially striking because it is black and white. It is very photography. Its lack of color only heightens the significance of how chill Russell looks sunbathing next to a triad of sunflowers, and how contemplative Carlos looks as he gazes into an empty crystal bowl.
11. Carlos and the dawn of man, 2015
Enough with the historical analysis; this pic of Russell's colleague Carlos is comparable to the dawn of man scenes in the more recent masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. In fact, as I am posting this, Carlos has jumped onto my bed and is suspiciously investigating my laptop. A true portrait of nature vs technology. Perhaps sweet Carl wants to become a robot. Or, potentially, he saw a pic of Russell on my desktop and vowed not to be outdone. Maybe he wants to watch a Kubrick film, to which I would not object because I Love The Cinema.
12. Russell, 2016
There is the aphorism that 'a picture says a thousand words', but to me this picture says only one: Russell. ;(