The Worth of a Pixel: A Graphic Designer’s Observations on the Sanctity of Life

I can’t remember exactly the first time I applied the “magic” of Photoshop to fabricate the impossible in an image. Anyone who has used Photoshop has no doubt tried putting a friend’s head on some contrasting body for comedic results. The average person wanting to slap their boss’ head on a dinosaur with some witty tagline underneath probably could care less if the final image actually looked convincing; they just want to get a point across. But for the Photoshop artist wanting to achieve the finest realism, a great deal of attention is paid to every detail in the highest magnification. For those not familiar with computer image manipulation, I’ll give you a real basic explanation. Photos scanned into a computer are raster images built out of millions of pixels: “the smallest element  of an image that can be individually processed in a video display system” (Dictionary.com). A computer monitor displays 72 of these per inch. Photoshop enables the user to zoom in and see 1 pixel at up to a quarter of an inch.

You might be thinking “OK, that’s cool. Go computers! But why does it matter that you can zoom in that far?”. I discovered early on when trying to achieve realism that the smallest changes in a photo make a big difference- especially when trying to work on facial features. Let’s say someone scheduled to get some great once-in-a-life-time photos done but it turns out they had a giant zit on their forehead that day. The Photoshop artist would most likely use the “rubber stamp tool”. This tool allows you to sample some surrounding skin tone and then “paint” it over the blemish. Walla! Pimple gone! Well, if you’re not careful & you sample some skin that is just a tiny shade different, place it over the zit & then zoom out, you will be surprised that the miniscule tone change is perceptible! Or let’s say you want to trim a little fat from uncle Jack’s vacation photo in Cancun for aunt Linda’s birthday card. A straight line will not do. In fact if your cut is anything unnatural, your eye will pick it up immediately. I’ve tried adjusting the gaze in someone’s eye just a couple of pixels over and if the other eye didn’t match the eye line, the personal looked like they had a lazy eye! Just one pixel, whether in position or color, makes a difference!

I think all of us go through times in life wondering why we’re here. We see inspiring stories of greatness & wonder why that never happens to us. We feel buried under the wet dirt of the mundane. We would love to change the world & make a positive difference or influence people but we so often feel like even our friends don’t even know what we desire or struggle with, little lone the world.

I was reading about the development of the embryo to a fetus and was floored by the complexity, not only in structure but in stages of development and the timing of it all. Some people think the embryo is just a mess of tissue or something, but I got to thinking –  we were ALL embryo’s at one point. Not one person in the world can’t say “I was once an embryo”. And it just hit me, that everyone who ever made you laugh or cry, everyone inspired you, who loved, who dreamed, who created….all the races, the nations, the human story…we were all embryos one day in the relatively recent past.

I thought…what if I had been aborted. Oh well, maybe? Like, my mind ran through my contributions to the world…like I guess there wouldn’t have been “Carrot & Ruf”, our church’s logo would have been designed by someone else….hmm, one less Toyota Tacoma on the road, maybe the “Bike Gang” wouldn’t have happened in 2007? I don’t know…like really I think the world would have been just fine without me. I’m not trying to be pessimistic or look for pity, I’m just being realistic: without me, someone else would have filled the void, right?

Then I turned the focus off me and thought of my family & friends. Then my whole outlook on this changed. Sure without my brother, I would have learned to be an only child. But without Wes my entire existence looks DRASTICALLY different! Wes has been the pixel next to me and you can’t ease or move one pixel without changing the entire picture. Every single person ads a flavor not just  to my own life, but as a puzzle piece in a giant jigsaw puzzle of every person on the planet! You mean so much to me and to the world. God knew exactly what He was doing when he created us: on the one hand helpless and meaningless, yet incalculably necessary to the whole picture.

I think about that with every little embryo…what flavor will they add? What ever-so-slight color will their pixel add to the picture?

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