The Ballardian Image


Stephen Teso, 2010

From Design Observer:

When it comes to visualizations of Ballard, his admirers and fans, as close readers of the texts, have a much better idea of what an adequately Ballardian image requires than Ballard’s official mediators in publishing. Perhaps the most striking demonstration of the perspicacity of Ballard’s fans can be seen in the community-based, image-sharing website, Flickr. The site allows members of the public, mostly amateur photographers, to upload their own pictures. These images can then be tagged with a range of keywords so that the photos will show up in different Flickr collections. Thousands of pictures have been classified with the tags “Ballardian” and “J.G. Ballard” and there is a Ballard group, founded in 2005, consisting (on 3 February 2011) of 585 members. They provide a brief mission statement: “This group shall collect images that evoke the narrative of J.G. Ballard. Drained swimming pools in suburban landscapes, gated communities with their security video surveillance, highway embankments, deserted airport concourses, the post industrial nightmare of the end of the western empire.”

Some members upload dozens and even hundreds of pictures on these themes. While many are mundane, limited by the photographer’s eye and skill, the best attain a high level of intensity and resonance. Inevitably, there are smashed cars but covers of Crash have often displayed the same literalism. Other images of cars attain a heightened realism — a Surrealism — that might recall the dream car buried in the sand on the cover of The Drought. Some pictures display a Ballardian relish for the deserted, empty, drained, ruined and abandoned. Many photographers venture under the concrete roadways to document the immense stanchions and soaring thoroughfares.

The flyover has become a defining Ballardian image in publishing and commentary, so there is a sense, here, of the image-makers affirming their perception of Ballard and the personal meanings that his texts hold for them by adding their own versions of these images to a potentially limitless library of scenarios and epiphanies, which any Ballard reader with visual inclinations might share.

David Pelham, 1974

“What Does J.G. Ballard Look Like?”, Rick Poynor, Design Observer