Jennifer in Paradise – the correspondence

1 March 2016

Jennifer.ps, Constant Dullaart, 2014

Courtesy of a private collection

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The Correspondence

5 September, 2013

Constant to Jennifer

Dear Jennifer,

Sometime in 1987, you were sitting on a beach in Bora Bora, looking at To’opua island, enjoying a holiday with a very serious boyfriend. The serious boyfriend, John, took a photograph of you sitting on the beach, not wearing your bikini top. John later became your husband and father to your children Sarah, Lisa, Alex and Jane.

This photograph of a beautiful moment in your personal history has also become a part of my history, and that of many other people; it has even shaped our outlooks on the world at large. John’s image of you became the first image to be publicly altered by the most influential image manipulation program ever. Of course, this is why I know the names of your children, and this is also why I know about the cool things you do trying to get a .green top level domain name to promote environmental sustainability. (Although, personally, I believe that the importance of the domain name has been reduced to a nostalgic, poetic value).

I still wonder if you felt the world change there on that beach. The fact that reality would be more moldable, that normal people could change their history, brighten up their past, and put twirl effects on their faces? That holiday image was distributed with the first demo editions of Photoshop, and your intimate beach moment became the reality for many people to play with. Two Jennifers, no Jennifer, less clouds, etc. In essence, it was the very first photoshop meme—but now the image is nowhere to be found online.

Did John ask you if he could use the image? Did you enjoy seeing yourself on the screen as much as he did? Did you think you would be the muse that would inspire so much contemporary image making? Did you ever print out the image? Would you be willing to share it with me, and so, the other people for whom it took on such an unexpected significance? Shouldn’t the Smithsonian have the negative of that image, not to mention digital backups of its endless variations?

All these questions have made me decide to redistribute the image ‘jennifer in paradise’ as well as I can, somewhat as an artist, somewhat as a digital archeologist, restoring what few traces of it I could find. It was sad to realize this blurry screen grab was the closest I could get to the image, but beautiful at the same time. How often do you find an important image that is not online in several different sizes already?

I have two exhibitions opening this coming Saturday in Berlin, Germany. Both of them are called Jennifer in Paradise. And you, or at least your depiction, play a central part in these exhibitions. A faint, blurry, pixelated focal point. To celebrate the time that you were young, and the world was young, as it still naïvely believed in the authenticity of the photograph.

Sometimes, when I am anxious about the future of our surveilled, computer-mediated world, when I worry about cultural imperialism and the politics behind software design, I imagine myself traveling back in time. just like the Terminator, to that important moment in technological world history, there on the beach in Bora Bora. And just sit there with you, watching the tide roll away.

Sincerely,

Constant Dullaart

Courtesy Rhizome and the Artist

JenniferInParadise Jennifer_in_Paradise, Constant Dullaart, 2013

 

11 December, 2013

John to Wall Street Journal

Hi Ellen,

If you’re fact checking the story told here:
http://futuregallery.org/past/constant-dullaart-jennifer-in-paradise/

Where he states: “Jennifer in Paradise is the name of the first picture ever to be photoshopped. Taken by John Knoll, co-creator – along with his brother Thomas – of the now ubiquitous software, it depicts his girlfriend on a tropical beach. The image was digitized by Kodak in 1987 and supplied with early versions of the program. Though initially ubiquitous, it has since become harder to track down. For the online component of this exhibition Dullaart is redistributing a version that contains a steganographically encrypted payload.”

This statement is incorrect in a number of ways.  It’s ONE of the first images to be “photoshopped” (I Guess that’s a word now).  It was the first good color photograph I had to work with to do Photoshop demos with.  It is a photograph I took of my then girlfriend (now wife) Jennifer on the beach in Bora Bora during a vacation we went on in August 1988.  I proposed marriage to her the next day.  That vacation was a special and treasured memory of mine and that photograph has great emotional significance to me.

About a month later, I was visiting Jim Batson, a friend of mine at the time at Apple’s Advanced Technology Group, when he showed me that they had this really nice flatbed scanner.  I scanned a 4×6 print of the Jennifer image (with Jim’s help) on his Sharp JX-450 flatbed scanner, and I took it home on multiple floppy discs.  If I remember right, I saved the red, green and blue channels as separate images on separate floppy discs, and reassembled the “high resolution” 24-bit color image once I got home.

I gave the Jennifer image to some friends at Apple, and a few others who had early copies of Photoshop under NDA as an example image to work with.  It was never distributed with Photoshop, and I still own the copyright.  That’s why it’s “harder to track down”.  Nobody has permission to redistribute the image and nobody has asked.  As you can see, I’m not that hard to find, so I’m surprised that Dullaart hadn’t made the attempt.

Please let me know if you have any other questions.

John Knoll

 

20 February, 2014

Constant to John

Dear John Knoll,

Hopefully you and your family had wonderful holidays. My name is Constant Dullaart, and I am the artist that tried to restore the picture you used to demonstrate Photoshop with. Due to the holidays, and most of all my excitement for writing this letter, I waited with my reply in hope not to disturb you. First of all I would like to thank you for including the Future Gallery in your reply to Ellen Gamerman of the Wall Street Journal newspaper. Since his gives me the opportunity to hopefully provide you with some context to the work that involves the beautiful and important picture you made. I can not emphasize enough that no harm was intended in any way with this attempt to restore the image, and I would like to offer my sincere apologies for any misunderstandings, worries or time this may have caused. The work is only meant to emphasize the cultural impact of Photoshop, and the personal beauty and poetry that hides in it’s history. This comes from my personal conviction that we live in an age where computer interfaces depersonalize the changes in culture we experience, although the decisions these cultural changes have arisen from are mostly very beautiful and easy for people to relate to. Even more beautiful was the fact that this digital photograph you had used to demonstrate the capabilities of Photoshop with, was so hard to find on the internet. Due to it’s rarity it became a digital artifact to me, or even relic from a revolution in photography to only be found in traces left in a re-enacted demonstration video.
After an attempt to contact your brother Thomas Knoll through his website, in my inexperience I did not know how to track you down, I decided it was more beautiful to restore the image from the available traces left on the internet to emphasize mystery around the image. To work with the few traces an every day internet surfer could find. This made me realize that the protagonist in the image would be much more beautiful to address. She plays a central role in this story, and on the image. This i what I attempted to do by writing an open letter to your wife featured on Rhizome.org, which I tweeted and emailed to your wife, Mrs Jennifer Knoll. As a visual artist the personal motivations and background stories are what interested me most in telling an anthropologic history on a global change in photography and aesthetics in general. And I hoped to make it into a beautiful gesture contacting the women featured in that digital relic, and not a journalists research of the facts. Hopefully you can forgive me for the liberties I have taken in this work, and allow the restoration attempt to remain online. When possible I would like to converse with you about the work, but more importantly about your work, and the choices that were made in making Photoshop. Even though I am a Dutch artist based in Berlin with no money to my name, I would borrow money to fly over just for a coffee.
Since the focus of all my work in the last decade has been about the human decisions behind technology, it would be a dream come true.
The image and the story behind it is so valuable that I think the image should be in a museum such as the Smithsonian. But this might not be to your interest at all, although it would illustrate the importance of this image, and the story behind it. The beautiful fact that you needed 3 floppy disks, the fact that you have to deal with ‘photoshopping’ having become a verb, and the beautiful fact that you and that girl in the image are still together. In my eyes this story deserves much more then a brief mention in a documentary.
Sincerely,
Constant Dullaart

 

27 March, 2014

Constant to John

Dear John Knoll,
When you have decided not to answer this email I understand, especially due to the long time it took me to formulate my thoughts on the subject. But, I was suddenly afraid it got lost in a spam folder. Therefore I hope you have received the email below [see above email dated 20 February, 2014].

Sincerely,
Constant Dullaart

 

28 March, 2014

John to Constant

Constant,

Your email arrived when I was travelling, and I simply forgot to follow up.  Sorry about that.
As I had previously mentioned to Ellen, the reason my image of Jennifer is “so hard to find on the internet” is because I’ve never made it available on the internet.  It’s not public domain, and never has been.  I don’t have a problem with your exhibit, but as I mentioned to Ellen, the polite thing would have been to ask permission.  I could have provided you with a higher quality version of the image.  Your written description of the origin and history of the image were also incorrect.  I would have been happy to correct the errors.

I understand from your mail that you tried to contact Thomas and Jennifer without success.  I asked them both about this, and neither of them remember any such contact attempt.

I showed Thomas the gallery images, and he recognized many of them as having been taken from his Facebook page also without permission.

It also doesn’t appear that you made any real attempt to contact me.  I’m pretty easy to find.  If you do a google search for my name, the very first result is a Wikipedia article stating I’m CCO of ILM.  The ILM.com website has a contact address, and an inquiry there would have gotten to me.  Ellen Gamerman sent a single email inquiry to Adobe’s public relations department, and had a reply from me within four hours.  If you tried, you didn’t try very hard.

I’ll just point out It wasn’t particularly hard for me to contact you.  I’m pretty sure I spent less than 2 minutes finding a contact address for Future Gallery.

Thank you for the kind words, and good luck with the exhibition!

John

 

A few links to articles about Jennifer in Paradise

Rachel Falconer, Furtherfield, 20 July, 2014

Gordon Comstock, The Guardian, 13 June, 2014

Johnny Magdaleno, The Creators Project, 2 May, 2014

Louisa Elderton, Frieze, November-December, 2013

 

Constant Dullaart, Jennifer Liquid 6, 2014
Jennifer Liquid 6,Constant Dullaart, 2014

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