The Angel of History, which appeared in Walter BENJAMIN’s essay, sends emails with two photographs attached to friends. The photos show portraits of women that actually existed, and whose names are rarely ever mentioned even though their pictures are still seen by millions today. The emails are then responded to by so-called Leader Ladies (women appearing—for color adjustment purposes—in the countdown at the beginning of a reel of motion picture film), Lena (aka Lenna, subject of a test image for image compression algorithms) and Ariane (model for a stock photography/footage provider).
MENKMAN’s video work “Behind the White Shadows of Image Processing” is derived from a text with the same title that was published in 2018. Although standard test images that have been used in photo, film, TV and computer image processing are playing a highly important role in regard to verifying and determining specifications for the respective technology, and above that, affect the quality of the resulting (still or moving) pictures, most of the models’ identities remain unknown. Just like BENJAMIN spoke through the Angel of History, in this work MENKMAN turns the spotlight on the women that have been largely ignored and forgotten within the history of image processing, to let them tell their own stories in their own words.
The “white shadows” in the title refer to the phenomenon of white parts indicating lost data in 3-D scanning, which occur when objects aren’t properly scanned due to shades of other objects for example.