Pandemic photography has become a veritable cottage industry these last six (or is it seven) months. Getty Images has been their primary thoroughfare, the photo service now nearly exclusively peddling images of desolate American landscapes, shuttered businesses, and lines extending down the block. It’s been a slow, if steady, descent into madness for the platform, perhaps best illustrated by Sunday night’s person-less MTV Video Music Awards. Absent of a red carpet or awards hall, the only images available to me from the night are downright bonkers.
Getty Images normally covers me whenever I need pictures of Lady Gaga’s frighteningly mundane outfits. In a perfect world, I could steal a screenshot of whatever it was she was wearing or rip the image off Twitter. But this is not a perfect world. I can’t (legally) steal from media conglomerates, so I pay hundreds of dollars to them instead. Usually. The pandemic has changed that. Now, actual photographic evidence of Lady Gaga has been replaced by whatever this is.
This is not a picture of Lady Gaga. This is a picture of a sheetless bed, somewhat ugly brown velvet pillows, and a laptop. Sure, there is a picture of Lady Gaga on the laptop, but that does not make this a picture of Lady Gaga. It is a picture of a laptop and bed.
Cindy Ord, the photographer, has taken tens of thousands of celebrity pictures. I know, because I have used quite a bit of them. These are not “celebrity photos.” These are pictures of laptops, and I am being charged for them.
What, exactly, is poor Cindy to do, though? There wasn’t actually a “ceremony” last night. What transpired could best be described as an amalgamation of Toyota commercials in the vague shape of an awards ceremony. There’s wasn’t actually anything to take photographs of, except Cindy’s laptop charging cable, which is a necessity when streaming said awards ceremony. MTV certainly didn’t provide me with high-res photographs of its video stream. And short of a few, ever-shrinking legal loopholes I exploit in my various blogs, Cindy and I can’t just rip the photographs we need from our television. And so laptops haunted by YUNGBLUD are photographed, and then sold to me, on Getty Images.
But Cindy’s laptop was not the only photographic offering of last night’s VMAs. There were also plenty of photographs of televisions on Getty, which is about as many levels of abstraction the VMAs or I can endure before the universe caves in on itself.
There were also a few nicely moisturized hands holding up slightly smudged iPhones. If I zoom in really close and press my actual eyeball to the computer monitor, I can almost make out a vague, humanoid shape.
Frazer Harrison, the above photographer, thankfully got creative with their camera angles, television stylings, and iPhone placements. Look at this dutch angle on this beautiful high-def flatscreen while the Weeknd accepts an award for something.
Look how nice Keke Palmer looks on this still-smudged iPhone screen!
My favorite, however, is this photograph of a red screen of doom, which I am told depicts Miley Cyrus doing something. It doesn’t really matter, as the bloodlike aura it emits is a nice summary of the celebrity industry and me as the jaws of Hell open up and swallow us whole.