by Adam Wilkinson

University: Paris College of Art, Paris (France)
Year of graduation: 2016
Thesis: Supporting Evidence
Contacts: adam.wilkinson[at]paris[dot]edu | website


Abstract: The humanization of man might even be happen in the unlikeliest of places- Instagram. I consider the work of James Fridman conceptual art.42 I cannot speak to Fridman’s artistic aspirations but his photoshop skills are admired by some one hundred thousand thirty-four followers. Fridman welcomes viewers and followers to submit an image they would like altered or edited. The correspondences are then presented in diptych formation with Fridman’s Photoshop intervention. There are some good-natured submissions: “Hey James can you photoshop us. Anything works”. Fridman responded with a “spot the twelve differences” game (Fig.1). Another charming submission gave Fridman carte blanche on a banal, straight-on portrait of a boy clad in a t-shirt that featured a portrait of a t-shirted boy. Fridman’s intervention was a brilliant mise en abyme: he inverted the narrative of the portrait so the boy on the t-shirt was now the main subject while his t-shirt featured the image of the original picture. One submission featured a line-up of girls jumping for the camera on the sandy shores at the beach (Fig.2). All but one of the girls is held down by gravity. Fridman was asked to make this friend appear as high or higher than the others. Fridman compensated for this gravitational pull by placing a small trampoline under the girl; consequently she has now made her way to the top of the frame where we can only see her lower torso.

Fig. 1 | Fig. 2

Fridman’s humanism, as I see it, is in the submissions he subverts. Here Fridman, in the vain of Mandel and Sultan’s collaborations, critiques societal ideology. Sexual intolerance, sexism, notions of ideal beauty are disrupted by Fridman’s Photoshop brilliance and wit. Fridman objected to enlarging the lips of a teenager so she could look like a Kardashian; he reaffirms her natural beauty by keeping the left (before) and right (after) image unaltered (Fig.3). His caption says “You are beautiful. No need to go for a Kardashain look”. Similarly, when a young boy of brown complexion asks Fridman to make him appear white, Fridman demurred with “If your skin was white, that would be a completely different person. You are who you are and that’s the beauty of it” (Fig.4) One young lady asks Fridman to assist her in providing falsified photographic evidence of a recent trip to Paris for her friends (Fig.4). Could Fridman place her next to the ‘eyeful’ tower? Fridman gives her a tall stone structure with large eyeballs. When a homophobic young man wants his group portrait to exclude the presence of one person in particular, Fridman clones the face of the discriminated on to all the other faces. Fridman will not enlarge the buttocks of women or elongate legs or “remove” people or animals from pictures because they are an “embarrassment”. In short, Fridman does not condone the misuse of the power of photography.

Fig. 3 

Francois Arago, the French scientist and politician, at a 1839 lecture on the daguerreotype, knew then to stress that photography would heavily influence memory and perception. Meaning, photography could stabilize what escaped the blinking eye while fixing what would otherwise escape memory; visual information could now be quickly imparted. 43 Fridman fields a world of insecurities and intolerance, of superficiality and self-delusion. The people who send him their pictures know full well the supporting evidence photographic images provide. Fridman is their maker of credibility, neutrality and truth. But Fridman’s intervention or non-intervention humanizes us by calling attention to the fact that a picture, for all its persuasive power, should not be used as a weapon on ourselves.

Fig. 4, Fig 5


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