Whether shiny or matt; spherical, alphabetical or animal; filled with helium or personal puff, the life cycle of an average balloon can be seen to represent the evolution of a party. When bobbing about, they are a visual manifestation of fulsome enjoyment, when slightly deflated, they demonstrate that perhaps you’ve stayed too long and drunk too much, and when popped, they mark the end – the moment when the lights have come on, and everyone must collect their kicked off shoes and head home. But park a balloon upon a llama and things get brilliantly, and love vote winningly, bizzare, as proven in this marvellous photograph by Gray Malin. Loved by stationary aficionado Neal of Present & Correct, this marriage of monochrome inflatables, Bolivian salt flats and South American quadrupeds is a match made in heaven.
"Park a balloon upon a llama and things get brilliantly, and love vote winningly, bizzare"
Balloons in their various permutations have been around for many centuries. Unmanned paper balloons – called Kongming lanterns – were used in China around 220 AD for military signalling and historians have suggested that manned versions may have been in use in Peru during the 4th-6th centuries, as evidenced by the Nasca Lines. The first documented manned flight by balloon took place in Paris in 1783, making hot air ballooning the oldest successful human-carrying flight technology. The more common, if less portentous, rubber balloon was invented in 1824 by Michael Faraday and now has a wide range of uses from the scientific and celebratory to the fashioning of animals and the drenching of friends and passers-by when filled with water. But the balloon is not just a piece of inexpensive ephemera, a fact which was demonstrated in November 2013, when Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog (Orange) – a giant canine rendered in stainless steel – broke all records to become the most expensive piece of art by a living artist sold at auction.
So as we get the balloons out to celebrate the impending weekend, we ask Neal where he'd take his llama on holiday and to tell us a good animal joke.
Why did you love these balloon strewn llamas?
Llamas are such funny animals as they are, it was great to see these ones accessorising.
Where would you keep the picture if you owned it?
On my desk, framed in gold.
What's your favourite animal?
That's a difficult question, I'd like to choose a favourite large one: the giraffe, and a favourite small one: the otter.
What would you most like to decorate with balloons and why?
The Thames – giant floating balloons in brilliant colours always look lovely.
Where would you like to ride your balloon covered llama?
Formentera, though the llama would need some armbands.
What is the best animal joke you know?
The Naked Mole Rat is hilarious and terrifying.
What are you looking forward to about summer?
What is the last thing you bought?
A pack of oreos and some milk.