My 2015 Lo-Fi Love calendars have arrived. This is the second year I’ve put together a selection of the photos I take all year long using lo-fi apps like Hipstamatic on my iPhone. Why do I find the lo-fi look so appealing?
“There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” – Ansel Adams
I grew up in a Kodak moment – occasionally punctuated with a Polaroid. Those images from the ’60s and ’70s – their colors, their unlimited list of imperfections – have always resonated with me. In my office there is a shoebox full of childhood snapshots, fading more each year. And yet, when I pull them out for Throwback Thursday or some other fun Internet game, I am overcome with experiences I don’t remember. How so? That shoebox is not really filled with snapshots. It is filled with emotions.
“When we are nostalgic we take pictures.” – Susan Sontag
The endless stream of images we are bombarded with each day, taken with smartphones and then slapped on the Internet fail to give us the chance to reflect. There is rarely any delay from photo snap to share – the worst offenders are those who post-process on the spot. Trying to make that photo of the Grand Canyon you just took two minutes ago look exactly like it does two minutes later siphons the emotion from the image and then badly attempts to resuscitate it.
If the only emotion you can conjure looking at someone’s Facebook photos of a destination vacation is “meh,” then something has definitely been lost in the translation. Or, in cases of random slapping (no editing of image or sequence – not even taking the time to rotate an image to its rightful right side up) there has been no translation.
“Seeing is not enough; you have to feel what you photograph.” – Andre Kertesz
Using lo-fi apps on my iPhone (current fave is Hipstamatic, which is hard to beat, but I’ll also occasionally edit photos taken with the regular iPhone camera and run them through Camera Bag 2) allows me to create what I call more imperfect photos.
The lo-fi look takes me back to a time when what you saw when you took a picture wasn’t necessarily what you got when you drove up to the FotoMat a week later to pick up the developed film.
At which time you may have experienced a feeling called “disappointment”.
Years later, though, you look back on that disappointment as any number of emotions: lessons learned (i.e., confidence), what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (i.e., survivability), and my favorite, it didn’t really matter after all (i.e., nostalgia).
Lo-fi apps on your iPhone can regenerate all that with a color scheme that reminds you of your grandparents’ Naugahyde seating arrangements and the way the lake looked that day you got caught skipping school.
Or, maybe you want to pretend what life was like that time you accidentally bought a roll of black and white film, or loaded film back-ass-wards (twice) and got a range of multi-exposures that horrified all concerned back in the day, but in shuffling through the shoebox turn out to be the coolest pieces of art you could ever possibly own.
“Industry is best at the intersection of art and science.” Edwin Land
Photography in all its forms has always been the blending of art and science, and over the past 10 to 15 years that pure science has given way to technology. It’s no surprise that Steve Jobs was greatly influenced by Edwin Land. The guy behind the iPhone + the guy who invented the Polaroid = why we all have “instant” cameras in our pockets today.
All digitally competent photographers now have the power at our fingertips to make perfect photos. But some of us choose not to.