VILSHULT - $49.99 Ready to Hang
November 20, 2018 2:44 PM   Subscribe

Filmmaker Tom Roes tracks down the photographer behind the ubiquitous photo of a red bike in Amsterdam from IKEA and finds out how a very personal image can become a generic commodity. (Make sure to turn the English captions on the YouTube video)
posted by octothorpe (23 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
A touching story. It brings home (literally) and humanizes a part of the tragedy of the 2004 tsunami. Also, I didn’t know Nate Berkus was there at the time (though I confess I don’t follow him all that much).
posted by darkstar at 2:53 PM on November 20, 2018


Incredibly personal story but how depressing that 427,000 choose that to hang in their homes. Like they just want something, anything to fill a space on the wall - an image as generic and inoffensive in design as it is in price.
posted by JonB at 2:56 PM on November 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


Hey it’s either that or the NYC skyline or Marilyn Monroe. But I’d like to think the majority are small offices, demo housing units, etc that were furnished hastily out of necessity.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:01 PM on November 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


I guess you could find a lot of photos that are nicer, and then size them up and get them mounted. But that’s going to cost a lot more than $50, and time and energy beyond just picking up a picture while strolling through IKEA.

Also, if you’re just looking for something that covers a lot of wall, maybe gives a small apartment the sense of a larger, more expansive space, and conveys a theme of global (or at least European) consciousness, you could do worse.

Interestingly, Berkus and his husband discuss honoring Bengoechea in their marriage.
posted by darkstar at 3:08 PM on November 20, 2018 [9 favorites]


Wow, yeah, if you ever feel like you want to kill all the magic in the world, there's your story.

This photo was just very, very cheap, and that’s why they picked it.
posted by GuyZero at 3:12 PM on November 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


Art is subjective. I’m sure plenty of people actually liked the picture.
posted by greermahoney at 3:15 PM on November 20, 2018 [12 favorites]


Yeah, jeez, chill out people. It’s an interesting story and I’m sure people have bought the picture because they like it. Nothing makes you sound more out of touch than expressing dismay at what other people choose to hang on their walls.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 3:27 PM on November 20, 2018 [20 favorites]


$50???
posted by Thorzdad at 3:28 PM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I actually like the picture. It conjures a rush of emotion in me... even moreso after reading the backstory.
posted by maggieb at 3:30 PM on November 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's a bad picture at all although I don't like the selective colorization gimmick but that wasn't in Bengoechea's original; IKEA added that. It's just fascinating that something that started out very personal could become so generic after losing all of it's context.
posted by octothorpe at 3:49 PM on November 20, 2018 [8 favorites]


This photo was just very, very cheap, and that’s why they picked it.

The first thing they look at is price, sure. But there are exactly 78 billion photos available for the same price or less, so they probably had to use some other criteria as well. Maybe the stock photos were ordered alphabetically by photographer's last name.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 6:01 PM on November 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


Now I wonder if the bicycle is distinct enough that someone who lived in Amsterdam in 1999 can say, "Hey, that's my bike."
posted by RobotHero at 6:21 PM on November 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


Incredibly personal story but how depressing that 427,000 choose that to hang in their homes.

Hey, I didn't want to spend more than $50.00 to cover the blood splatters. I guess I could have bought a wall rug instead...
posted by happyroach at 6:57 PM on November 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


So I read this article earlier today and when I went to dinner at a new korean bbq / hot pot place, I noticed that very same photo on one of its wall. Next to it was another similar size photograph that I also recognized as from Ikea, because it's one that my ex-roommate had considered buying more than once scrolling through Ikea.

And now I'll probably notice that damn bike photo everywhere.

What's interesting to me is that it's not a bad photo. It's a good example of using color filtering to point out an interesting thing that brings life to what is a drab environment that people know to be lively. What he pointed out in the video, that the pigeons, the trash, and the lack of leaves make for kind of a sad view of Amsterdam almost disappears when you're focused on this simple red bike.
posted by numaner at 10:55 PM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I live nearby so I walked over to where the photo was taken and snapped a picture. Can't say it has changed much.

It is where Brouwersgracht meets Herengracht in case others are curious.
posted by vacapinta at 4:42 AM on November 21, 2018 [12 favorites]


But I’d like to think the majority are small offices, demo housing units, etc that were furnished hastily out of necessity.

When I lived in London, I became convinced that there is a market for landlords to buy items to furnish rental accommodation with a measured amount of depressing mediocrity to put the tenants in their place and prevent them from getting ideas above their station. Things like drawer units that don't quite close, toilets that require two flushes (with a mandatory 2-minute vigil waiting for the tank to fill) to clear, and a specific genre of decorative objects, which superficially look “classy” or “cute” or “friendly” but, on closer examination, telegraph their mediocrity and the inhabitant's lowly status. Standard IKEA photographs, in Tasteful black and white with selectively colorised elements, would fit this genre, falling somewhere slightly above sub-Bang-On-The-Door twee bear/sheep/heart cartoons.
posted by acb at 5:23 AM on November 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


vacapinta: "I live nearby so I walked over to where the photo was taken and snapped a picture. Can't say it has changed much."

The trash can is gone.
posted by octothorpe at 6:10 AM on November 21, 2018


There's a trash can now just to the left of the photo frame.

What is more interesting is that if you look at the OP link above, he also took a recent photo and there is a bench there! Which means, a bench was added at some point and was very recently removed.
posted by vacapinta at 6:21 AM on November 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'm kind of wary of the "Corporate art SUUUUX MAAAN wakeupsheeple" arguments.

It's not wrong to wave away the rubbish and pigeons as a more honest take on a place. In fact, a more corporate take on the art would have been to edit those aspects right out of it, to maximise Charm on some kind of simplistic filtering function.

What I like about the photo is that the highlights in the water frame the bicycle in the shot. It was probably easier to do the colour-highlight technique as a result of this, since most of the bike's frame is against a white backdrop. The bike was always the subject of the photo, and the description of the email in which it was sent confirms this.

So you have a portrait of a grubby yet well-maintained city: the rubbish is all in the bin, the cobbles kept from crumbling away too much, and the well-appointed houseboats enjoying the sun through the less-than-verdant trees. Where are all the people? Probably enjoying a hot drink inside. It's not Great Art, but it's a good photo.

I also agree the colour treatment feels like a cheap trick. I think that's what makes people react so strongly to it. It's like a laugh track.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 6:24 AM on November 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


> It's a good example of using color filtering

That is not a thing that exists.
posted by komara at 9:23 AM on November 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


That's what I knew it as, when I was using a Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS. One of the features it had was that you can pick a color and it'd make everything else black and white. I haven't seen an official name for that process, but on the camera the feature was called "color filtering".
posted by numaner at 4:14 PM on November 21, 2018


I think komara is objecting to the "good" part, not the terminology
posted by vibratory manner of working at 5:32 PM on November 21, 2018


> It's a good example of using color filtering
That is not a thing that exists.

I teach photography, and students want to learn this. So I show them. I then show examples and make fun of wedding photos that use it. I call it the "cheeseball effect." I will consider my life complete if I ever hear that term used in the wild. (Or if none of my students go on to use that horrible effect.)
posted by cccorlew at 7:57 PM on November 21, 2018 [3 favorites]


« Older Why 536 was 'the worst year to be alive'   |   “The Christmas display has been changed to feature... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments