hats made of balloons
December 3, 2002 5:23 AM   Subscribe

Addi Somekh and Charlie Eckert travel around the world, photographing people wearing their spur-of-the-moment, whimsical balloon hats. It's hard not to smile when you have an inflatable, multi-colored crown on your head. Via obsessive Magnificent Obsessions.
posted by iconomy (21 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Fantastic link. Gotta order the calendar.
posted by fungible at 8:09 AM on December 3, 2002

this has long been one of my favourite websites on the entire internet. ever.
posted by Marquis at 8:12 AM on December 3, 2002

this is a fantastic link: brightened my day.

thanks iconomy.
posted by fishfucker at 9:43 AM on December 3, 2002

Yay, look! People from America taking funny pictures of people dying of starvation! Glad I saw this to brighten my day.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a person who cries "exploitation" at every instance of an artist taking pictures of poor people, but please. Perhaps if they had gone around to America's rural west, or inner cities it would have been a little more acceptable, but I can't even imagine the kind of cultural egoism a project like this entails. Did they even reimburse these people for their trouble?
posted by chason at 10:13 AM on December 3, 2002

Um, hello? They did go to America's rural west. And reimburse people for making them laugh? Cultural egoism? Wha-?

Anywho, I especially like the Navajo one:

In the Navajo tradition we have what we call Chi Dlo Dil, or a Laughing Party, for a newborn. The Laughing Party is the first laugh you hear from a child. It's usually around six weeks. It's the baby's first expression to the world, saying 'I'm ready to interact.' . . . At the party everybody sits around the baby and has a big meal and plays with the baby. The person who makes the baby laugh first plays an important role in the child's life.

How cool is that?
posted by gottabefunky at 10:39 AM on December 3, 2002 [1 favorite]

I meant only America's west, or some other locale where the population might have some conception of what these photographers were doing. I'm not classifying all of these photographs as offensive, just the ones where they go to places where there is massive suffering and take funny pictures of people in hats. It seems in poor taste. Even if their subjects are "willing", they likely don't understand the purpose of the pictures.

By "cultural egoism" I mean the sort of chauvinism it takes to go to a foriegn country, take a funny picture of somone who is likely hungry, diseased, or dying (or all three), then come back to America and show people "look at these funny pictures!"

Additionally, what do pictures like these add to the social or artistic (although I'm not sure the objective of these pictures is really "art" status) discourse? It only seems to debase the subjects of the photos by making them perform tricks to make far more privledged people smile.
posted by chason at 11:16 AM on December 3, 2002

I thought those pictures were sweet. Not everyone in the "third world" is starving, and not every poor person is a noble savage with no concept of universal truths like the enjoyment of funny hats.
posted by JoanArkham at 11:33 AM on December 3, 2002

I think the worst sort of cultural egoism is the condescension of thinking "I have it so much better than these people that I shouldn't even try to interact with them".

Chason, I suspect these people probably understood the purpose of these pictures perfectly. Balloons are fun.

Besides, I think the pictures do accomplish something quite remarkable. I mean, we're all used to seeing pictures of strange people in strange clothing, and we easily maintain a sense of distance from the (possibly suffering) person in the picture. Put a balloon hat on them, though, and that sense of otherness disappears, and maybe we start to think about what their life is really like.
posted by jeffj at 11:53 AM on December 3, 2002

making them perform tricks to make far more privileged people smile.

I don't see it that way at all, chason. The people wearing the hats are the ones that are smiling. Looking at the pictures, most really seem to be enjoying themselves. There's a real sweetness and sense of being in on a bit of fun that comes through in these photos.
posted by iconomy at 12:22 PM on December 3, 2002

some conception of what these photographers were doing

They were going around taking pictures of people with balloons on their heads. Which is funny. I think the subjects understood that much. Only cultural egoism in sight is assuming they aren't bright enough to "get" it, and were somehow being exploited as a result.

Now I'd be interested in how many of the subjects saw their photo on the internet, and what they thought, and how you'd increase the odds of that happening.

In my travels I've never paid to photograph someone, but I have promised to send them a copy, which I did (god knows if they arrived). Polaroids are even better ice-breakers, but with the proliferation of internet cafes, this is even better. Just give them the URL.
posted by gottabefunky at 1:06 PM on December 3, 2002 [1 favorite]

While balloon hats have a certain charm, I much prefer the raw urban aesthetic of neon hats.
posted by snez at 3:03 PM on December 3, 2002

Boy, some people need to lighten up a bit! Great link, iconomy - if only people wore balloon hats more often, maybe we would all be happier.
posted by dg at 5:03 PM on December 3, 2002

I'll concede that maybe I'm showing a bit of first-world classism, but I just can't see the point of flying around the world to take pictures of poor people (and the pictures are almost universally of people in disadvantaged situations) in funny hats. It seems alot like dressing one's dog up in funny clothes, just something done to make something or someone perform for an audience.

It just rubs me the wrong way.
posted by chason at 5:05 PM on December 3, 2002

we need a photo of you with a funny balloon hat on , chason , that would be nice.
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:08 PM on December 3, 2002

I just can't see the point of flying around the world to take pictures of poor people ... in funny hats.

Please report at once for your optorectomy procedure.
posted by Wet Spot at 5:58 PM on December 3, 2002

oh, come on. just because i don't see poor people wearing balloon hats particularly funny or uplifting doesn't mean i have a shitty outlook on life. I am actually a pretty happy-go-lucky guy.

I do like pictures of dogs playing poker, though.
posted by chason at 7:00 PM on December 3, 2002

... but I just can't see the point of flying around the world to take pictures ...

Whay does everything have to have a point? Maybe they did it just because.
posted by dg at 7:01 PM on December 3, 2002

Ok, chason, no foul. I doff my hat to you as an example of not getting snarkily defensive. Dressing up pets makes me wince too.

But dogs playing poker - heh. How do they hold the cards? How do they hold the cards?
posted by gottabefunky at 6:59 AM on December 4, 2002

I too love pictures of dogs playing poker (who doesn't??), but what I love even more are pictures of dogs smoking cigars and drinking beer.
posted by iconomy at 7:39 AM on December 4, 2002

In Mumbai, India, and other parts of India, you can buy many many balloon toys. I was about 6 or 7, when I remember getting a He Man vest and sword made from balloons. They're fun to play with. Indians love their balloon toys.
posted by riffola at 10:31 AM on December 4, 2002

Catching up on a few days of posts here, and how delightful to find this great site iconomy, thanks! I had actually seen it before but forgot about it, and I really hadn't explored it all that well.

It's a real heartwarmer to be reminded we are all more alike than different, that humor is universal. I love this and this and this. I like them all, actually - thanks!
posted by madamjujujive at 7:22 PM on December 5, 2002

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