Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Interbeing and Instagram

One of the powerful things about Instagram is how its simple, stripped down design facilitates keeping up with a group of photographers and seeing their work over time. You see the way different interests and approaches come and go from someone’s stream, and you see how some people are self-assured and comfortable with a particular style of work, while others are constantly trying to find their own voice. You also see certain trends rippling through everyone’s work as new apps (like Water My Photo) are discovered and played with, and as people try new things and influence others to try new things. My current fascination with using layers and symmetry was influenced by seeing the work of @deekayem, @dopez., @moonangle, and many others, who have all played with layering and editing in different ways.

And sometimes the influences are more direct. @ponxerella posted a photo yesterday of a statue undergoing renovations, surrounded by scaffolding. A few comment exchanges later, @ponxerella had come up with an alternate universe of sorts. She said that she had used a Scaffolding App that inserted scaffolding into any work. Then she admitted that actually, she had used a Statue App that inserted statues of literary figures into any work. The ideas were so appealing to me—special little apps doing such particular and niche-y things. It was clearly not true, but in some other world, it could be true. It was such a magical realist thing. And I immediately remembered that right next to the Metro Rail station I go to each morning is an Abraham Lincoln statue. So I had to get some pics on the way to the train this morning, and then experimented on the train… I had no idea what I was going to do, but when I started to play, I quickly came upon a great x-axis symmetry result in PhotoWizard that took me aback, it was so cool. Then the rest of the hour trainride was spent happily editing away. When I posted the finished work, I tagged @Ponxerella to let her know that I had found the Statue App!

The neatest thing about this process for me was how random it was. If @Poxerella had been less silly and not replied to my comment about the scaffolding in the way she did, things would have been Different, and I would be thinking about something else entirely, and would not have been able to create this really cool work. All of our lives are filled with these happenstance connections, but they’re not often this obvious and neat. In this way, Instagram is an opportunity for daily meditative practice on Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings of Interbeing. The work of people I don’t follow ripples through to people I do follow, and my work influences others who follow me, who then influence others who don’t follow me… in a way, when we see anyone’s IG stream, we are seeing bits of EVERYONE’s stream, fractured and fragmented and refracted a million times over, but there, nonetheless.


Friday, August 26, 2011

New work thoughts.

Recently, I have been posting work that’s different from most of what I have been doing. Although I have played with image layering before, at this time I find myself drawn not only to take photos from the day and rotate and layer, but also to take photos with the specific intent to rotate and layer. The results are often kaleidoscopic, with little or no evidence of the original image or images in the final work. Or the original images are there, but layered in such as way as to create a new apparently shape or structure, so that the eye sees an image of one thing, and then has to work to tease out the original images.

This is definitely interesting work to me, and I intend to continue doing it. I actually did similar things using copy machines when I was in college… I’d copy an image, and then blow it up or shrink it, make multiple copies, cut and paste with other images, and keep manipulating and copying, cutting and pasting, until I had something that bore little resemblance to what I started with.

I have some deeply felt ideas about creating these works that I have always had with any creative endeavor. I don’t agree with these ideas, really – they aren’t thought out on my part. I find them set up, rules set up by some part of me beyond my influence, and while I can try to work against them, it’s a futile effort. I have to follow their dictates. The one that’s clearest to me is this:

Source material is a Perishable Good.

Photographs when freshly taken are crisp and wholesome and good. Over time, they lose their freshness and their taste. The minerals and vitamins lose their potency. The creative process involves some sort of alchemy so that the finished work takes the power of the ingredient photo(s), magnifies it, and preserves it. But this process only works when the source material is fresh. So I can’t create work with photographs not taken that very day.

This applies to my work only. Other people can take a roll of photos and edit them over days or months, even, and I appreciate their work and don’t judge it or find the photos stale or tasteless. Which is very weird. But there you go. I never said this made sense.

As you can imagine, making images that involve a lot of editing is made more interesting when you can only use images taken that day. It means that every morning is fresh, unhindered by what happened yesterday. But it also means that I am more limited in what I can incorporate in my work. And it means that if I don’t have a lot of time that day, there’s not going to be any creation that day. Which will have to do.

Monday, August 1, 2011

My Instagram Manifesto

My Instagram rules (in progress and being revised):

1. iPhone only.

2. Photos must be posted on IG same day as taken.

3. No more than 5 posts in one day.

4. Don't follow people if you don't like their work.

5. Make a point to comment when work makes you say 'wow', catches your eye, etc.

6. Be kind.

7. Follow. Don't have more followings than you can actually keep up with.