Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
January 22, 2016

It’s Gucci Meets Starbucks, by God

photo: AFP / Getty. caption: Tourists take pictures in front of a shoe-shaped church in southern Chiayi, Taiwan, on January 11, 2016. The church, which measures 55 feet tall and 36 feet wide, took two months to build. Members of the public will be able to visit the exterior of the church before it is officially opened on February 8, 2018, before the lunar new year.

Simply devine, isn’t it?

What does it mean when a particular news photo finds its way into most major “picture of the day,” or “picture of the week” galleries? In the case of this church in Taiwan, I worry the answer is mostly curiosity.

Certainly, nowhere in the caption (below) is there mention of this architecture as confusing the material with the spiritual or vanity with what’s most glorious. If the photo, like the building itself, is relevant mostly as an attraction, though, isn’t that the sermon here?

Truly, no one sees this church in the mirror?

Really, it’s the perfect modern temple — the classy pump as a devout symbol of modern liberal democracy. It goes hand-in-hand with the morphing of religious holidays into pagan rituals. Or Fashion Week as the real holy week in the international meccas. It’s Gucci meets Starbucks, by God.

And yes, pray tell — what would Jesus say, as good people flock to the slipper for amusement? Probably, “where in my robe is that iPhone?” — not something about a Golden Calf.

Still, if this photo has anything to say about contemporary culture, it’s that consumerism is as spiritual a climate crisis as the physical one. (And, that they’re not at all disconnected.)

(photo: AFP / Getty. caption: Tourists take pictures in front of a shoe-shaped church in southern Chiayi, Taiwan, on January 11, 2016. The church, which measures 55 feet tall and 36 feet wide, took two months to build. Members of the public will be able to visit the exterior of the church before it is officially opened on February 8, 2018, before the lunar new year.)

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