“Yet there are moments when the walls of the mind grow thin; when nothing is unabsorbed, and I could fancy that we might blow so vast a bubble that the sun might set and rise in it and we might take the blue of midday and the black of midnight and be cast off and escape from here and now.”
― Virginia Woolf, The Waves
It took me a year of graduate school, but I finally have a desk. It is a tiny affair, one of those wobbly computer desks with a rattling keyboard drawer. My partner removed that and the foot rest and the back panel, so the desk is now two sides and a top, an upside-down-U frownie face on wheels tucked inside the corner of our none-too-big bedroom. It almost faces the window, which looks out over to the other apartment building where, I believe, a mentally ill man lives and raves about his mother.
To my right is a squat wooden bookshelf piled with my thesis books, pedagogy books, all the notebooks I’ve kept over the years, overdue library books, books I’ve been loaned and want to read, books I’ve been loaned and have no intention of reading and really should give back one of these days. Also Spot, my stuffed animal lion that I’ve had all my life, who has accompanied me on countless dentist appointments, doctor’s visits, weekends at the cousins’. He gets to sit on the top.
With redscale film, who needs an Instagram filter? (Used with permission from susieayu’s Lomography page: http://www.lomography.com/homes/susieayu)
I have a bone to pick with Instagram. It’s not the fact that Facebook is over-saturated with Instagram pictures complete with hashtag captions. It’s not the burnished, faux-vintage, slightly blurry look of them. It’s not even the fact that Instagram is apparently super-hip but I don’t have an iPhone so I can’t play along. It’s because Instagram takes all the magic out of the process.
I probably wouldn’t be bothered by Instagram if I didn’t dabble in photography myself. I don’t care if people make millions off of songs they threw together in Garage Band because I’m not a musician. I do, however, own a film camera. In fact, I own exactly the type of film camera that Instagram tries to replicate with its filters and square borders. The camera I use (a Holga 120N, for those who are interested) takes square pictures and, being a very cheap camera that’s made out of plastic, it often leaks light or results in vignettes in the corners of developed photos. Analogue cameras (especially those designed by Lomography) have recently experienced a resurgence in popularity, and it’s not just because hipsters love all things retro. It’s because these cameras are notoriously unreliable and you never know what you’re going to get when your film is developed. You might get an awesome shot like the one above, or you might get a blank square.
Herein lies the problem with Instagram. Instagram is insta-art, instant satisfaction. You see the picture you took immediately, and if you don’t like it, you take another one, or you flip through your filter options until you find one that makes it look artsy and impressive. It takes all the magic and beauty out of the process. No one using the Instagram phone app needs to know anything about photography. The “filters” Instagram uses are just copies of different effects you can achieve through film selection, exposure, or camera selection in analogue photography, where you only get one try. And Instagram can’t do cool things like double-exposure or half-frame shots. Read more »
Like Hitchcock, Yasmine Chatila may spawn a new era of voyeurism
It was night and two people stood in the street below my apartment screaming at each other. I moved near a window to watch. Suddenly the woman shhh’d and they both turned to look up at me. The three of us were silent – we all realized we’d been caught. Somewhere a dog barked.
Studies show, even at the earliest stages of development, we are fascinated by other humans. Babies are immediately intrigued by other babies, toddlers mirror each other’s behavior, and even as adults we love to eaves-drop, observe, and sometimes take notes.
I started thinking about this when I came across Yasmine Chatila’s website. I instantly fell in love with the stark black & white photography for the compositional beauty. But, more so, I fell in love with its silent capturing of intimate moments we probably are not supposed to see. It feels beautifully dirty to look through these photographs. I’m sure there is some ethical line being crossed here, but I’m glad it was crossed and we were asked to come along. The collection is properly titled Stolen Moments.
Since moving to Spokane I live in an apartment where, for the first time, I have a view of other apartments. My view isn’t wholly unlike Jimmy Stewart’s view in Hitchcock’s film Rear Window – one of my favorite films.
Of course, the question remains: Do I love watching neighbors because of Rear Window? Or do I enjoy Rear Window because I love watching neighbors? Read more »
A couple months ago, I wrote about the death of Kodachorme and what it means when new technology (in this case, digital photography) renders an older art form (print photography) obsolete. At the time, I presented this loss as a sad thing, which I still think it is. But it’s also important to acknowledge how the same new technology can revive that older, deader art form. What I mean is, just as digital photography is killing print photography, so too is it breathing new life into many old print photos.
Pretty much since the invention of the scanner, there’s been a movement to preserve (and even repair) historical prints and slides through digitization. And thanks to that there World Wide Web, millions of photos that would otherwise be collecting dust in some basement archive have instead become available to everyone everywhere.
I was reminded of this awesomeness this morning when I logged in to my student e-mail account and read a message about Eastern Washington University’s acquisition of a digital collection of roughly 400 images documenting the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam. According to the EWU archives Web site, the photos in the collection “include black and white negatives, black and white prints, and color prints. Black and white negatives include 35 mm and 120 roll film, and 4 x 5 sheet film.” So, not exactly the kind of stuff you’re going to be able to just flip through in a photo album. But here they are, digitally resurrected.
Artist Corinne Vionnet created these photographs by collaging hundreds of similar tourist pictures, aligning them to a single point. The result is an ethereal but eerie image of collective memory.
“The images made by tourists are picture imitations. They demonstrate the desire to produce a photograph of an image that already exists, one like those we have already seen. It is in fact a style of manipulating the viewer. Why do we always take the same picture, if not to interact with what already exists? The photograph proves our presence. And to be true, the picture will be perfectly consistent with the pictures in our collective memory.” -Corinne Vionnet (from an interview by Welmer Keesmaat for Yvi Magazine)
In 2009, Kodak stopped making their slide film, Kodachrome. All around the world, photo junkies scrambled for coveted last rolls and bemoaned the end of an era. Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome” likely got more airplay in a single week than it had in the entire previous decade. Kodachrome photo essays appeared in national publications of all stripes.
Last month, a second, and more final marker passed in the death of Kodachrome, although with less fan fair: The last photo lab in America to process the film ceased offering its services. This means that while Kodachrome can still be used, there is no longer any place to have those images developed. Any pictures taken with Kodachrome from here on out will, therefore, never be seen by anyone.