The Treachery of Images: Other Moments of Photographic Significance



There’s two postcards in the US Forest Service office showing Mt. Hood, one of which that repeats in the hotel kiosk, and the other of which repeats in the labyrinth kiosk. My thought is that, since the two are at the entrances of their respective structures, and since the US Forest Service could be seen as a figurative kiosk to the natural world, that that’s the connection: these “entrances” are like Russian nesting dolls of one another. The labyrinth is a simplified version of the hotel, which is a simplified version of the natural world.

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Every once in a while I throw myself into the chore of seeing if I can get a hit on where one of the Overlook photos came from just by typing in phrases like “old horse photo” or “black and white fishing photo” and seeing what happens. In a recent spree I discovered the one in the righthand red box below, which seems to be of a woman having freshly fished herself one beast of a shark while aboard a boat known as the “Wendy II” circa the 1960s. The one of the horse on the left resembles a few drawings of a few famous old horses: in particular the horse Marske (seen below) and his offspring, the legendary Eclipse. I could see either of these horses being of cultural significance to The Shining, but I’m also not certain it’s not a photo we’re looking at here, in which case it couldn’t be either. Why I think we even have a famous racehorse image is because one of the all time champion horses was a ’70s racer named Red Rum. I imagine Kubrick saw the horse as the inspiration for King’s conceit, but didn’t want to hit the mark too hard. Still, if this somehow is a Red Rum image, it’s interesting we would hear Jack throw the ball against this wall 11 times, since Tony/Danny goes on to repeat “redrum” 44 times (4 x 11) during his final scene.

Anyhow, how perfect would it be if that was the photo of the Wendy II, there? The photo closest to the spot where Wendy will crack Jack’s skull and proceed to drag him into lockup. That discovery really made me wonder how identifiable the rest of these might be, and what we might learn from those identifications. Alas, I’m not that crazy. But if any of you are that crazy, drop me a line, and let me know what you find.

Update: I recently discovered that the Stanley Kubrick Archive’s online database mentions that the photos they have in storage from these props all feature “famous” people, so I’m guessing these are largely production stills and headshots (you’ll note from that link that the photos were supposed to have come from a Warner Bros. photo archive), and if we can pin down what comes from where, we might get all kinds of cool references and connections. I’ve made a request for info about the pictures, and haven’t heard back yet.

I noticed this moment thanks to this process, where Ullman’s eagle statue appears to be perched on the roof of the hotel in the photo, like some kind of giant monstrosity. This effect is not achieved during Wendy’s visit, so perhaps it’s an intentional subtlety of Jack’s killing spree.

I’ve dubbed this the honourary “most obscure” photo double (that would mean more if you knew how hard IDing all the final 20 was). Only seen once both times, and only for a partial view the first time (Jack stalking to kill Hallorann). They also appear only 2:04 apart. Also, visually, there’s no other photo quite like this one, with so much white. I wonder if the event it captures had some kind of significance.

At the moment, my thought is that it’s meant to connect the more “photographic” parts of the hotel to the “staff wing” where Suite 3 is found, and which the blowjob well strongly resembles.

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I hate that I’m running so low on space for new photos on the site, because I don’t know how many more times something like what follows is going to happen.

One of my covid/quarantine projects was to try to see all 370 of Roger Ebert’s “Great Films”, one of which I’d half-seen many years ago, the 1974 classic Chinatown. In that film, Nicholson plays Jake Gittes, a detective who ends up swept into a complex case of family and business entanglements. While trying to ingratiate himself, he gets into the head offices of one of the seedy corporations, and in the office of the secondary man in charge, there’s a photo of men fishing that happens to be the same photo as hangs over the “heaven” photo in the F21 analysis. Maybe this is just to suggest the way that both men are out of their depth, but perhaps it also says something about how they’re doomed to fail, and perhaps if we knew what it was a photo of (beyond the obvious), we would gain a deeper insight into both films.

After a very rigid search for what photo database Kubrick was pulling from for these selections, the closest thing I could find were these photos of the Ritz hotel in the early 20th century. I’ve little doubt that the hotel in the photos in the film is not the Ritz. But these photos of the Ritz show chairs with backs that resemble the Ritz’, and frankly there are not any other hotel photos from the era that have people in them (that I could find–maybe I’m a shitty researcher).

(Again, we now know these are likely stills from the Warner Bros. archive, but that doesn’t mean that some won’t be from other sources.)

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If, however, it somehow is the Ritz (which could be underscored by the appearance of several boxes of Ritz crackers throughout the many eye-screamy pantry moments, like in the following mirrorform moment when Danny has the frosty hotel almost living inside him), this could be a reference to the fact that the Paris branch of the Ritz became Nazi HQ during the summer of 1940.

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There was also a time in September of 1921 when Charlie Chaplin visited the Ritz (2 months and 2 weeks from Jack’s 4th of July ball). He was there to promote The Kid (the second highest grossing film of 1921, which was partly inspired (visually and thematically) by Chaplin’s childhood in an orphanage in Kennington–the Torrance apartment in Boulder is called the Kensington apartments in reality). The Times said of Chaplin’s homecoming, “At Waterloo [Station, platform 14] the stage might have been set for the homecoming of Julius Caesar, Napoleon, and Lord Haig rolled into one.”

A group of 50 orphans came to serenade Chaplin during his stay, which lead to this group photo, where Chaplin looks positively like an alternate universe Jew Hunter. So I wonder if Kubrick combining these multiple notes of Chaplin and Hitler (if intentional) was meant to show the way these two men (born four days apart, in cities as far apart as New York and Chicago) lead lives of polar-opposite destinies, despite their many intersections and overlaps. Or how art/fame/fortune made a celebrity of one and a monstrosity of the other.

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Finally, I just wanted to note how different the Overlook is as we see it in photos, vs. the one we see in the film. Of course they’re not the same place in reality, but in the film they’re meant to be. Just as the giant palm in the final Jack photo is echoed by the one at the ghost ball, some effort has been made to make these appear to be the same place. They aren’t. Is that important? Or is that just a consequence of budget and logistics, etc?

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