I had an utterly brand new and instructive experience tonight.
I went to a double birthday party at a hip SoHo photography gallery, as a friend of a friend of one of the honorees. I genuinely enjoyed the images, especially the slightly distorted shots of underground parking lots and subway stations, which I was admiring when a young woman asked me if I liked the photos.
She said her husband shot them, and before we could say a word she introduced him to my friend and me. I remember thinking, "Shit, I was enjoying this," at the moment he put his hand on my shoulder. The first thing he said was "Have you ever been to London?" (His wife had an American accent, he was British.)
Before we could get away, he insisted that we needed to hear about how pure his artwork was. For example, he only used a double exposure to get that slightly blurry image, when it appears he could have done eight in the same one-second time span. And he never uses props or poses people. He insists on capturing "the perfect moment," because of course anything less than that would be less than real. And he never spoils his perfect picture by digitally retouching it. He directed his wine scented breath with amazing force, and always where I'd pretty much have to breathe it (I think I was supposed to swoon). And his wife asked why in the world I had to drink coffee when everyone else had wine.
On the way home, my friend April and I explored some of the assumptions we made about the people at the party, and some of the assumptions we assumed they made about us. We were guests of the less-cool birthday celebrant, the one who didn't know many people at the gallery. We took the time to look at the pictures, instead of engaging in witty conversation with the people around us. We used the word picture; which, as if our garage sale outfits weren't enough, proved that we were too unsophisticated for the scene. And we were drinking coffee! Could we at least make an effort to go with the flow?!?
For our part, we assumed that none of these people could conceive of doing actual work. How else could they fail to understand that most people are tired on a weekday night? And of course, they take pride in their uselessness - isn't that the very point in spending huge sums of money on art that most other people don't understand? We assumed that these things remove this sort of person from the plane of reality, to a certain extent. And at the same time, maybe because of their removal, we assumed that they exercise an exponentially greater deal of influence in the world than April or I.
We talked about the way these assumptions made us feel, and we agreed that we felt judgmental and moralistic. We also agreed that these emotions created chemical reactions in our bodies that made us feel good and gave us energy.