I recently listened to an episode of This American Life about superpowers. One of the three stories in the show was about a man who began asking all his friends and acquaintances a simple question: Would you rather be able to fly, or make yourself invisible? At the end of his segment, he theorized that maybe there is a fundamental difference between people who wish for flight and those who desire invisibility. Maybe some people have more to hide, which makes flying the more noble—more honest—option. Or maybe the people who choose invisibility are more honest. They recognize that creeping, insidious, universal desire to fade slowly away. To sneak off, quietly and without a trace.
This is a very long and roundabout way of introducing the work of Japanese artist Natsumi Hayashi. In her series, “The Girl Who Loves To Levitate,” she glides above the ground, seeming to float effortlessly through the air. Of course, this is pure illusion. Every image takes multiple shots, as she runs back and forth between the camera and the pose, where she must jump into the air at exactly the right time. I imagine it’s a tricky process, but the results are lovely.
In a lot of ways, I always figured myself as the invisibility type, but Natsumi’s pictures make me reconsider. Though I never really thought of it this way before, flying could feel an awful lot like swimming. The freedom of limbs suspended, the ease of motion, the simple fluidity of body in water—if that’s not like flying, I don’t know what is. Swimming has always felt so easy to me. I don’t need to fake nonchalance or push further (I’ll leave that to the Phelps of the world), it just is.
Maybe I would choose flight, after all.