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World of One: The Paradox of Choice | Johnny Tang Photo

World of One: The Paradox of Choice

The Paradox of Choice

The Paradox of Choice (from the series World of One)

2013
Archival Pigment Print from 35mm Negatives
24″ x 42 7/16″ inches | edition of 5

 

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” – Soren Kierkegaard

Earlier this year, my brother introduced me to Sergio Leone’s classic gangster film Once Upon a Time in America, which tells the story of a New York City street gang during the Great Depression. When I arrived in Brooklyn, my brother sent me on a mission to find this area, and specifically this shot, which was used for the movie poster. This is probably one of the most photographed areas of Brooklyn; in fact, if you look at it on Google street view, you can see a whole gallery of images from people who submitted their own shots of the intersection at Washington and Water Street. It was extraordinarily difficult to get a clean shot of the background, as there was a constant stream of tourists walking into my frame. There even was an Asian couple that was literally in 3/4 of my shots, who I’ve magically erased with Photoshop.

I recently watched the Matrix trilogy again because my girlfriend had never seen it (forgive her, she’s a bit of a FOB). This time, I paid extra attention to all the scenes featuring multiple Agent Smiths. Usually one of the first things people say when they see my World of One collection is, “oh, it’s like the Matrix!” So I thought it was appropriate to study up on my doppelganger imagery. The composition and placement of the figures in The Paradox of Choice was inspired by the last shot in the playground scene from the Matrix Reloaded. In this scene, Neo flies off after fighting with the small platoon of Agent Smiths, and the camera cuts to the crowd of Smiths staring at the flying Neo before slowly walking off in disappointment. I originally tried to replicate that shot by placing a central white figure close to the camera and looking up, with a central dark figure looking at him. They didn’t work too well with the rest of the figures in the photo, so, in the end, I decided to take them out.

For me, this image illustrates my search for success. I keep trying to walk forward, but I can’t help but look back. It doesn’t matter which side path I choose, they all seem to head towards the same final destination. While there are rays of hope here and there, for the most part I still have to walk through the darkness to get to where I’m going.

Special thanks to honorable pusher of buttons Jenn Boudreau for assisting me with this image!

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