Behind the Scenes on Christmas Eve with Salvador Dali
People sometimes ask us where we get our blog post ideas. There are almost as many answers to that question as there are IF posts. This particular idea came last Wednesday when Valerie took a taxi to the IF presentation at the Textile Study Group of New York. We each brought a bag of goodies for Show and Tell, so we both opted for taxis rather than our usual wallet-friendly bus or train. As the taxi rounded a corner, what to Valerie's wondering eyes should appear but this huuuuuuuuge portrait of Salvador Dali, the master of surrealism, complete with imperious stare and unmistakable mustache. Valerie recognized the graffiti right away as a post in the making, and scribbled the street coordinates on the back of her hand before she could forget them. (You know how that is, right?)
Winter days are short, and it's dark by 5pm, so on Christmas eve, since both our companies closed at noon, we took advantage of the midday light (so-called light - it rained or misted all day) to photograph ourselves in front of this hilarious work by Brazilian graffitist Sipros and upload it to Instagram for Christmas. We brought a tripod, which we foolishly/fearlessly set up in the gutter in order not to cut off the top of the master's head. Of course we had to do a series of test shots.
We found that standing against the wall made us too small and hard to see in the final picture. (We couldn't have THAT, now, could we?!)
Standing a few feet away from the wall, it turned out, was far better. But then we had to carefully mark our positions on the ground, just as they do in the theater, because a one inch difference would cut our shoes out of the picture. (Couldn't have that either, now could we? The things one has to think of!) Jean is holding a Christmas-y prop, to see if that would work in the final picture.
This shot was rejected because each of us was obscuring a bit of the all-important mustache. Some of you, particularly those of you with a touch of OCD (like us) will be asking why we've taken all these shots on an angle instead of straight on. The answer is, alas, a tree had already taken that spot. You can see a bit of the tree bed in the lower left corner of all of these shots. To the right, we had to contend with a large metal trash container. Even to set up at this angle we had to wait about ten minutes for a UPS truck to vacate its parking spot at the curb, so we could set up the tripod in its place. We watched vigilantly for oncoming traffic between stop lights and while shooting. The things we do for art!
We were able to get several good photos in a few minutes, and received a lot of positive reinforcement from passersby on the street. (One woman insisted we should send photos to Vogue. We're still considering that.) And yes, it really was warm enough to go coatless on December 24th! The thermometer hit a record-breaking 71 degrees that day.
As we were about to wrap up, we decided to take a few close-ups against the mustache, with an eye to photoshopping them for fun. Some of you are familiar with a Dali photograph that could be called an early precursor of Photoshop: Dali Atomicus, by Phillippe Halsman, taken in 1948. We would have done something along these extravagant lines if we could have, but we probably would have needed a couple of interns, and these days we wouldn't have blamed anyone if they'd called the ASPCA on us. So we didn't do anything quite so elaborate or fun as this.
Instead, we took half a dozen close-ups, rejecting anything in which we had even the vaguest hint of a smile. (You can't look imperious if you're smiling.)
Later, scowling imperiously, we paid homage to the master with the help of Sketchbook Express (yes, we really are that primitive). Below is the finished product! (Also on Instagram if you need to see it again.)
TO ALL OUR READERS!