A More Imperfect Photo

lofi calendar cover 2015My 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.

Buy my 2015 Lo-Fi Love desktop calendar for just $12 USD. Click here.

Leslie Feinberg’s Screened-In Series

6151364693_dddd21aa12_oLeslie Feinberg was a writer, most famous for a book called Stone Butch Blues, which I never read. But I was aware of Feinberg’s transgenderism and all-around activism from my own many years in “that life” I call writing for LGBT publications. You could not call yourself a person who wrote about LGBT issues and not know about Leslie Feinberg and Stone Butch Blues. But I suppose you could drift away from that work and receive the news of Feinberg’s passing on Twitter and be jolted back to a time and place when AIDS was devastating a community, gays and lesbians had few – if any – rights, and a lot of folks in “that life” had major problems with the “T” (and heck, even the “B”) being tagged onto the “L” and “G”.

Enter Leslie Feinberg, competing for space in the Advocate alongside lipstick lesbians and Elton John. Feinberg, whose wife Minnie Bruce Pratt, submitted her obituary using the pronoun “her” (so, I will, too), described herself as “an anti-racist white, working-class, secular Jewish, transgender, lesbian, female, revolutionary communist.” Notably she left out “writer”, less notably, she left out “photographer”.
For those who wondered “Whatever happened to Leslie Feinberg?” or, those who didn’t, in reading the Advocate obit, we’d learn that she suffered from decades of illness related to “multiple tick-borne co-infections, including Lyme disease, babeisiosis, and protomyxzoa rheumatica.” Further,

During a period when diseases would not allow her to read, write, or talk, Feinberg continued to communicate through art. Picking up a camera for the first time, she posted thousands of pictures on Flickr, including “The Screened-In Series,” a disability-art class-conscious documentary of her Hawley-Green [Syracuse, NY] neighborhood photographed entirely from behind the windows of her apartment.

The Screened-In series is a remarkable look at life from the point-of-view of a confining illness. Life goes on, outside your windows, mundane as it may seem. Yet imagine not having the strength to go beyond that window and participate. View the Screened-In series here.

And then, remember Leslie Feinberg not as a writer, activist and/or photographer, but as she requested in her last words, “Remember me as a revolutionary communist.” Done.

Photo by Leslie Feinberg via Flickr.

Source: The Advocate: “Transgender Pioneer and Stone Butch Blues Author Leslie Feinberg Has Died”.

Break the Internet

kim-kardashian-paper-coverIf it was broken, it was repaired quickly.

Although Kim Kardashian, her siblings, her mom, her stepdad and of course, her husband, have been doing their damnedest to break the thing for the past half decade (maybe more, maybe less – in Internet time the amount of it is always too much).

Earlier this week “butt”-ery photos like the one to your left of Ms. Kardashian may not have broken anything, but they did at least temporarily do a hurting on the social media front with the accompanying hashtag #BreaktheInternet.

It’s long been an easy opt out for people who write tongue-in-cheekily about communications overload to toss in the phrase “Internet explodes” or “breaking the Internet”, typically when something suddenly swells and creates that perfect social media storm – an Instagram of President Obama, an arrest of Justin Beiber, or something to do with the Kardashians. I refrain from calling the Kardashians a talentless lot here, because, they do indeed have a talent. The talent to overexpose themselves (um…see photo to your left again) and get significant attention for that beyond the E! channel. Fleeting attention, at best, but attention for those who crave it is attention, nevertheless.

Good news, though. The Internet is not only apparently unbreakable, print journalism showed a heroic gasp for life in scoring the coup that was a naked photo shoot with the most famous-for-nothing person of the early 21st century. Published by Paper, for $10 you can hold these photos of Kim Kardashian in your hands and own your own little piece of print, which the Internet still hasn’t finished off completely, as long as it is supplemented by a full-blown online operation.

And by the way, the photos by Jean-Paul Goude are indeed quite fascinating. They’ve got an ’80-esque New York City-style appeal, if the 1980s been infiltrated by either Kim Kardashian or Twitter.

Photo by Jean-Paul Goude, for Paper.