Museums are wonderful places where the human-animal is observed and portrayed, mostly at their best but sometimes caught unawares. This young girl seems unimpressed by Leonardo’s extraordinary tourist attraction. With her back to the Mona Lisa and her interests more nasal than visual, she will probably remember the Musée du Louvre with mixed emotions.
Like all moments in time, this photograph is a lie. A conceit where an instant is captured, then put forward as something more than just one fleeting moment. It may not be representative of reality at all. But just as Mona’s fleeting smile has launched a thousand academic treatises, I can assert that this little slice of life reveals something universal about the questioning disrespect for cultural certitudes that only kids can get away with.
The rest of us shuffle from painting to painting, hands clasped loosely behind our backs, leaning slightly forward at the waist to signify our interest and respect, peering at century-old details we are ill-equipped to understand.
I liked her spirit or what I imagined it to be. And I like to remember what it was like to be that free.
About the photo: there is a vast amount of manipulation used to make this photo work. The most obvious things are the tone dropout to give the photo a duo-tone tint and the motion blur delivered courtesy of Madame Photoshop. I wanted to isolate and focus on just the young girl and the Mona Lisa. The eager crowd’s blurring achieved that, while suggesting a ghostly cavalcade of sightseers moving past the famous icon every opening minute of the day.
The raw photo was also unsatisfactory because the painting itself was much lower and to the left, making the shot unbalanced. So I shifted it to be lined up along my principal axis of interest. Cheating, I hear you mutter. Yes. That is true.
I wonder if Leonardo would worry about rearranging reality to suit his purpose. But a photo may be different in that it purports to represent reality. When you deliberately distort that reality, then truth goes out the window.
But as I have already confessed to cheating, it’s moot!