The sky was falling that day – yet sparse little groups were coming for the refuge of the Atlantic.
on the other side of the city, perched on granite
millions make their daily marks
More photos here: www.flickr.com/photos/mattron
HAPPY NEW YEAR! All best wishes to thee and thine.
This is a re-run of an article I wrote for onefive4gallery.com, a collective of artists from a multitude of disciplines. Check them out!
In recent years, vintage toy cameras have been gaining artistic appeal. Why?….
The Holga, the Diana, and others… they were among the lamest cameras of the ’60’s and ’80’s – cheap plastic give-aways that kids would save cereal box-tops for. The bottom pile of an increasingly sophisticated artform, when photography was becoming precise and razor sharp in its aesthetic and production. In their time, a camera with a plastic lens, dubious aperture settings and a vague focusing system, was definitely not to be taken seriously.
Whether it likes it or not, the present always looks towards the past. So in our digital world, with our digital aesthetics, it is inevitable that we begin to see nostalgia, and even to seek nostalgia, in what we look at and listen to. This is why music, trends, and art tend to repeat themselves every few generations or so.
These weak pieces of plastic have, for the first time, begun to mean something to the art of photography. We have come to expect perfection in our pictures, but the hearts of many of us still hold dear the imperfect images of our memories.
This is one of the basic appeals of a camera like the Holga or Diana. Pop in a roll of old-school 120 film and shoot the best you can without the benefit of a re-do. Then rush the roll to a lab and wait a small eternity for the turn-around- At first, all this ends in frustration- casting off precious dollars for 12 frames of failure. Eventually you get it right though, and begin to get pictures that many would say were shot decades ago – back in that world of memory.
But this effect is now possible digitally- with apps like instagram, hipstamatic, etc. For now, the eye can still tell the difference between digital effect and real analog, but very soon, the two will be indistinguishable.Digital has far outpaced what film can do. So it goes- there’s no purist indignation here.
Then – what’s the point of having a love affair with analog film, and especially for cheapie plastic cameras?
Two reasons that come to mind:
1) There are no re-do’s. You have to get it right the first time. This frees the instinct to have full sway, and often, instinct is the best force we have. There are no fancy knobs and settings, no science. Just you and the light.
2) Also, the chemical properties of film are totally integral to the image produced. Each make of film has its own basic character that can’t be circumvented. Choosing the right film for your vision is like finding the right spice for a meal- once you start with it, it’s there to stay. And- analog processing is subject to temperature, time, and density- functions of the physical world. It’s a more dynamic, organic, process.
Careful re-makes of vintage toy cameras are sold all over the place now, and analog is definitely in fashion lately. It has all the trappings of a fad. Who knows if it will stick. Who cares?… It’s an endlessly fun art, and that’s all it really needs to be.
For more of my analog, toy camera pics:
In two days, on December 13, it will be St. Lucia’s Day- the patron saint of light, which I mentioned in a post from about this time last year.
As the Northern Hemisphere plunges into its darkest time of year, I’m once again thinking lightward, but this time in visions of this past summer:
These were taken throughout the Adirondacks and Hudson Valley of New York during the summer of 2012 – Velvia 100 (water-damaged) in a Holga.
Here are a couple of related posts:
Check it out:
– A feature I wrote. Cool site too…
In 1939 and 1964, at two great turning points of the 20th century, Flushing Meadows hosted the World’s Fair. The fairs were visited by hundreds of thousands- my grandparents saw both of them, and my father and wife’s mother were at the 1964 fair as little kids. I wish I could have seen them.
All that remains now is scattered in ruins throughout the park– Ruins of structures that represented the deepest ideals of their time and that expressed an imagined future of hope and progress. It is interesting and sad that many of the promises presented by both Fairs were completely trampled in the years immediately following them.
The park is woefully neglected and fantastically hard to access- finding open access points is abnormally difficult. Ironically, the highways built in the 1930’s to bring visitors to the World’s Fair now bind the park in such a way that keeps most people out.
But actually, all this is a blessing, as, once in the park, you can be nearly alone amongst the relics of 20th century idealism. There is a strange surreal serenity here- like the landscape of a 1960’s post-apocalyptic, failed-utopia science fiction movie.
Also, the park’s neglect means you can approach a lot of the structures un-bothered. There’s no other place in the city where you can skateboard around and even CLIMB on such internationally iconic structures as the Unisphere.
This is an excellent site about the ’64 Fair – the maps are especially superb: http://www.westland.net/ny64fair/
These are some pictures of the 1939 Fair: http://www.life.com/image/first/in-gallery/41782/future-vision-ny-worlds-fair-1939
Dating from around the 1300’s, The Carnival of Binche is one of the strangest spectacles out there.
The festivities begin weeks before, in January, but on the three days leading up to Ash Wednesday, it escalates to a fever pitch, climaxing on Mardi-Gras. There is an intricate ritual to the whole affair- The main participants are the “Gilles”, local men chosen to be the focal point of the festivities, which on Shrove Tuesday, begin at 4 or 5am after a breakfast of oysters and champagne.
The Gilles process through the streets to the Town Hall wearing wax masks and special costumes. Upon reaching Town Hall, they remove their masks and later in the day process again in small groups, stamping the pavement with clogs, beating drums, and shaking rattles made of bundles of sticks. This is supposedly to drive off evil spirits.
Around 3 in the afternoon, the Gilles don ostrich plumed hats, and in a huge parade, THROW ORANGES at the crowd. At night there are bonfires and fireworks.
In addition to the Gilles, a lot of kids dress up as well. It seems that all of Francophone Belgium SWAMPS the relatively small town of Binche on this day. The one hour train ride from Brussels deep into Wallonia is incredibly packed- passengers squished, some sitting on the floor next to the toilet. Upon finally arriving, all hell breaks loose. Little kids in costume skip down the hill from the beautiful old train station, singing “Binche, Binche, Binche…”
Everyone else follows into town, and suddenly there are people everywhere, confetti all over the ground, drunk teenagers throwing cans, bars packed, and drum-beating clog-stomping Gilles as far as the eye can see.