The most exciting thing that has happened to me today was that I changed the background on my computer. Gracing my desktop is a black and white photograph. Two men are sitting across from each other eating breakfast. They’re having a great time, sipping coffee and smiling cheerily when out of nowhere comes a giraffe! It cranes its long neck towards the table in search of his own cup of coffee. Please, thank you, and a good morning to you too, sir.
It’s not quite surrealism, but this image is far from ordinary. No matter how many times I imagine it, there will be no African savanna dwelling animals wandering the streets of New Jersey anytime soon. It’s a shame really. I am fascinated by such creatures – lions, elephants, giraffes (oh my?). Whenever I look closely at pictures or zoo exhibits, I can see how strange they really are, how if I had never set sight on them before, they’d be downright bizarre. Sure, a giraffe is a giraffe. Its image has been indoctrinated into the realm of the ordinary. But if you can distance yourself and maybe squint a little, you can see a giraffe for its strangeness. Suddenly, that is the quality that momentarily defines it.
For our purposes though, let’s go back to how most people see giraffes. It’s a funny-looking animal, vegetarian, perhaps friendly, and certainly tall. This image is general and familiar, printed in textbooks and featured on Animal Planet documentaries. Now, picture breakfast on a Sunday morning. There are waffles and bacon, ceramic mugs and china plates, tall glasses of orange juice, fresh-squeezed if you’re lucky. This is a portrait of daily life, something out of a Norman Rockwell painting.
By themselves, these images are ordinary. No one blinks twice at a photograph of a giraffe munching on acacia leaves or of two people enjoying a breakfast spread. However, these two images are ordinary in their own distinct ways, and when you combine them, the resulting picture immediately joins the ranks of the uncanny, the strange, and the striking. Similar to the way the product of two negative numbers is positive, two ordinary components can create something else entirely.
Image analysis, aside, giraffes at breakfast made my day. As far as house guests go, the tallest animal in the world is hard to beat.