The Flipbook Story / 9 October 1998

Roy wanted to make a flipbook but he didn’t really have the patience to sit and draw little pictures so he decided to take a bunch of photographs and then make a flipbook out of that. All he had was a Polaroid, and he needed a camera that could take a bunch of pictures all in a row, like the kind used for photographing supermodels. So Roy decided to drop in on his friend Amy S. who was sort of an artsy type and always had some kind of project going on in her studio, often involving nude photographs, so he figured:

a) he could perhaps borrow her camera, or b) even better, get Amy S. to help him with his project, or at least c) see some nude photographs, maybe even of Amy S. herself, which wouldn’t be so bad

When he got to Amy S.’s studio, she was standing in a small crowd of mannequins, hands on hips, overall-clad, evidently deep in thought. Some of the mannequins were all there, but most consisted of just free-standing legs.

“Roy,” she said, not really looking at him just yet. “Is the mannequin thing done with?”


“You see mannequins everywhere these days, right? Using them in some multimedia presentation will probably only end up being derivative, reminding people of other shows.”

“I say mannequins are always good for creating a creepy atmosphere. Displaying the vapid, soulless heart of America.”

“Yeah but I’m trying to say something about the environment this time.”


Amy S. sighed and flung herself on the paint-spotted futon. “What are you up to today?”

Roy practiced that lederhosen dance, the one where you slap the soles of your feet. “That’s the thing, I need to borrow your camera. I want to make a flipbook.”

“Oh, sweet, yeah, totally. What’s it going to be of?” She got up and started rummaging through a large wooden trunk.

“I’m not sure exactly. People walking down the street or something.”

She found it, checked the film. “I just learned how to do this new trick,” Amy S. said. “It would rule if you made a flipbook of this.”


She handed the camera to him, then took a few deep breaths. “I’m only going to do this once so get the camera ready.”

“OK. Will it take a bunch of shots all at once?”

“Yeah, it’s set to pop. Just hold down the button and let it roll. Close up on my face.”

“I’m on it.”

“OK, ready?”

“I … will be in a sec … OK, go for it.”

Five seconds later, it was over. It looked to Roy like she didn’t do anything, just sat there smiling, but he supposed he was too worried about the focus and centering and all to really see what happened, and Amy S. seemed so pleased with her performance that he didn’t want to ask her what the big deal was. Two weeks later, as he was picking up the pictures from the developer, it occurred to him that maybe this was some big joke on him, that Amy S. was making some kind of statement that he just wasn’t getting. This had happened before. When he looked in the envelope of photographs, sure enough, there was just one after another of her face, almost all identical. He put them all together, squared the edges, and then flipped the corner with his thumb. A mini-movie played before his eyes, and although Amy S. was just sitting there and smiling, it was still kind of neat because it seemed so alive, and it was like he had a little piece of Amy S. wherever he went. Just as he finished flipping the pictures, however, he glimpsed something different - a picture of him. He looked at the final photograph and sure enough, there he was, smiling away there in Amy S.’s studio, in almost the exact same position as Amy S. was in the other shots. He didn’t really remember that picture being taken, but he supposed he could’ve been drunk or something at one of her parties.

Previously / The Vein
Next / The Eyebleeders

Joshua Green Allen

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