The Most Iconic Photograph Ever – On Perspectives

Lunch atop a skyscraper is believed to be one of the most iconic photographs of all time.

The photograph shows 11 men having their lunch, seated on a crossbeam with their feet dangling some hundreds of feet above the New York City streets. Many of us might possibly remember seeing this picture over the years and sometimes even wondering if this was just a work of some smart ass CG. Else, what on earth could they possibly be doing there? 

Power of Perspective as an Evocative Device

When I think about it, this iconic shot – that was apparently taken by an unknown photographer on September 20th 1932 from the 69th floor of the RCA Building during the last months of its construction – captures our imagination precisely because it presents a unique perspective of a moment frozen in time and space to evoke a multitude of reflections (and questions) from us: historical, metaphorical and  physical. It is these very questions that an upcoming documentary Men at Lunch seeks to answer. See this trailer:

The historical significance aside, what stands out to me here is the power of ‘perspective’ to make us react to, reflect upon and realize the multiple facets of a story.In other words, the power of perspective as a compelling story telling device. 

Power of Perspective as a Provocative Device

It is known that our preferences are mostly shaped by our perceptions. Hence when we are presented with something in such a way that our perspective shifts, it challenges us, provokes us and sometimes even immerses us in new ways.

Willow – a Belgian band has recently released a music video for their song ‘Sweater’. It is a tour-de-force in 3-D projection mapping that creates an outstanding optical illusion. Play the music video below and see your perceptions getting provoked as your perspective rapidly shifts (and possibly gets restored):

Obviously the guy just ‘strolls’ on a treadmill in a room while the projections on the walls play with our notion of perspective every passing second. That is for me, the impact that gets created when our perspective shifts – even for a moment –  despite our best struggles to restore it.

Power Of Perspective as a Narrative Device 

Did you see the website for 2012 Air Jordan Collection from Nike? Click on the pic below to land on the site:

(No. Seriously.  Browse through this site before reading any further)

How did you like it? Were you intrigued to scroll down till the end of the page? This is called as Parallax Scrolling Effect.  Essentially it  uses multiple backgrounds which seem to move at different speeds to create a sensation of depth and an interesting browsing experience that challenges your perspective of a web page.

No wonder then, Parallax Scrolling can be a powerful device that can in itself become the narrative of a page. (See some brilliant examples from the WWW that employ this UI design technique.)

And lastly and more importantly the Power of ‘Perspective Restored’ 

Recently Candy Chang has envisaged an experiment called “Before I Die” in New Orleans. What followed was an extremely thought provoking story about how she has taken up a neglected wall and transformed that into a constructive space where one can restore perspective. See her soul stirring TED talk here:

‘Before I Die’  has been recognized as one of the most creative and transformative community projects ever and has soon begun to expand to a number of cities around the world.

In Summary: 

While our formative years shape up our perspectives, these certainly need to get challenged and shifted as we grow up, in order for us to learn and unlearn. But may be sometimes when we get too caught up in our day to day, perhaps we just need to take a step back and seek strength in this power of our perspective, restored.

What is your perspective?

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