Film Stills

Digitally manipulated images, 20" x 30"

Have you ever looked at a piece of film up close? You can see all the scratches and dirt that create the mesmerizing, moving texture we notice when the screen goes blank.

This texture has come to signify reality, authenticity, truth. We see it in car commercials, music videos and print ads. "Trust us. This is the real deal..."

But what if it's not? What if it never existed?

I wanted to see if this type of familiarity could be manufactured. I used old family photos, tourist slides and my own miscellaneous pictures as source material. Over these I imposed scratches and stains scanned from various weathered surfaces. In some cases, simply putting dust and fingerprints on the glass of the scanner worked wonders.

The next step was putting "subtitles" on several of the pieces. The trick to this seems to have been to create some sort of textual non sequitur. This created the filmic sense that something had preceded the moment, and that something would follow.

The first time I showed these large prints, several people asked me what movie particular "stills" had been taken from. "I know I've seen that movie before. What was the name of it?...."

I explained that this was the idea; the pieces had been designed to be recognizable, although they were based on nothing a viewer could possibly have seen in a theatre.

These photos were eventually shown in Los Angeles, as part of a group show of Seattle artists at Post gallery. The exhibit garnered a "Pick of the Week" review in the LA Weekly. In it, the esteemed art critic Peter Frank was quite generous, writing of the exhibiting artists that "each displays technical mastery, wit and poignancy."

When describing these photos, however, Mr. Frank wrote that "John Kieltyka blows up frames from found film footage, scratches, subtitles and all."

How perfect! I was trying to illustrate the idea that, in the digital age, you can't believe everything you see. And Mr. Frank reminded his readers that you can't believe everything you read.

John Kieltyka