Nick Gentry – social art from the obsolete

Sometimes you come across creative work that is so simple but still so innovative, and with a visual impact that strikes your gut.

Recently, I came across Nick Gentry, whose work includes these portraits that utilize old negatives, photographs and floppy disc drives.

It’s remix at its best.

Floppy disc reused

Nick Gentry | Social art from the obsolete.

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Old and new media: photography and hashtag projects

Media_httpmediatumblr_ixqlg

There are so many of these photo hashtag projects or challenges emerging with the increase in the number of networked photography apps. I take real delight in seeing the results of such a project, and even more in sometimes contributing to one.

The invention of the #hashtag has influenced and made easier the task of crowd-sourcing. It’s funny how one tiny symbol can make such a difference.

Instagram posts a photo challenge every weekend and this past one was #somethingoldsomethingnew. The app blog always posts a few selected photos and one of this week’s submissions totally caught my attention.

The photo above by user markweaver represents so many of my research interests:

  • new media
  • old media
  • music
  • photography
  • representation
  • the visual

Love it.

Seeing & cameras


landscape, photography, iphoneography

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” – Dorothea Lange

via minimalmac.com

True that.

Now when I walk anywhere, I look. I LOOK. Things look differently to me than before the era of our smartphone. Now, particular angles and objects leap into view and get mentally reframed in a rectangular or square outline. If it’s handy, I’ll grab my smartphone or iPod Touch and snap.

Kudos to le Mari for having patience for regular interruptions on our way to places while I stop and shoot.

For the love of pen and paper

A neat irony has recently sprung up in my life. It is that just as my commitment to blogging more on hopefully one (of 3) internet blogging platforms has been revitalized, so has an obsession in analog tools been stirred up anew. (What I’ve written below is taken word-for-word from another post of mine.)

I don’t know if it’s because I’m in the “going back to school” mindset (it’s only been, what, 11 years…) but lately I’ve been fascinated by old-fashioned pen-and-paper notetaking. I was in Invermere, BC last week and stumbled into a store that had Rhodia notebooks, and Chapters recently restocked the Moleskine line of 18-month calendar agendas with their classic hardbound, gorgeous black covers and elastic – just the feel of these quality notebooks in my hands has revived an old feeling in me.

Although most of my journalling and notetaking over the past 2 years has been electronic (MacJournal, Evernote, and prior to that on a PC, in MS OneNote), a recent search for old university papers uncovered boxes, literally 3 boxes, of my collected journals/writings/scribbles/doodles.

I had forgotten how colourful journalling could be. The freedom of lined/unlined/graph paper, to doodle here or sketch something there, the power of freehand writing and a thousand other things I was able to do by hand that I haven’t really done on my laptop – these things I’ve missed over the past few years.

So I was pleased to stumble upon this post in the Telegraph from last year about a mini-revival of “analog” note-taking that has emerged recently. Angela Webb of the National Handwriting Association is quoted:

We’ve seen a reverse of the trend in the last two to three years, and people are much more keen to handwrite now. Research is coming though from skilled authors who use handwriting to get ideas flowing and then move to the keyboard to develop them.

This jibes with what readers and writers from a couple of my favorite websites, Lifehacker and GearFire Productivity, have mentioned over and over: brainstorm and jot by hand, shape and finalize by type.

Anyway, it’s been a neglected art in my house, and I think it’s something I look forward to bringing back over the next year.

Now: I’m going to go out and hunt out a fresh, pristine, empty notebook that will be my companion for the next few months.

(Yesterday, I think I found a potential candidate: this Japanese import, Maruman Mnemosyne notebook from Jetpens.com.)

Maruman Mnemosyne Special Memo Notepad - A5 (5.8" X 8.3") - 7 mm Rule + Divisions - 24 Lines X 80 Sheets - MARUMAN N195

Long time no post and blogging platforms

Well, I mean “no post” in that I haven’t posted something seriously, with intent and deliberateness, in a good while.

It’s just that juggling 2 photo blogs, one media studies site, one grad studies journal site, one random tumblog and one random posterous site takes a lot of work. A bit MUCH? Yah, I’d say so.

I’ve decided that come September I will cull, cut and merge these sites. It’s just NUTS and I’ve left off writing HERE on WordPress, to maintain the other ones. Mind you, the other ones are easier, in a way, because it’s one click to post a photo or link or quote and add commentary or write a response on Tumblr and Posterous. I find their ways of managing posting eaiser than the WordPress version of the “press” bookmarklet.

However, I do think WordPress is the more….. “serious” platform, among the three. That is, great writing and content is peppered throughout WordPress blogs, which have been around longer, and I’ve found that sharing something on Tumblr or Posterous takes a lot less creative output except in the curation part, and that doesn’t take THAT much creativity. (That’s not to say there aren’t great tumblogs and posterous sites out there – there are, for example The Political Notebook, an awesome news commentary blog, a new favorite of mine ).

If my goal is to keeping writing and to share WORDS, then is WordPress better for me? It’s a moot point, I think, for anyone: platform doesn’t matter as much as the ACT of writing.

But for me, the clutter and busy-ness of maintaining different sites is distracting me from the simple act and intention to just write more, rather than spending time re-posting and re-blogging.  It’s become an excuse NOT to keep writing. Thus, I want to narrow it down and CHOOSE (another act that is sometimes hard to follow up on).

And I don’t want to become one of the thousands (100s of thousands?) of people who have started a blog that fizzled out because they were not able to make time for it or to because it became one of those projects that fell on the wayside.

I’ve had people encourage me to keep up writing, because I actually do have a voice that can be clear and can share interesting things. I think the appropriate response to that is that then, 1) I need to keep up the practice and 2) I need to read and see and notice better, carefully, so that my voice will have worthwhile things to say.

“Software To Make Photos Artfully Worse” in the NY Times

If your photos don’t look as crummy as you’d like, there is new software that will wreck them for you.

That’s not a bad thing if you are a devotee of the “lo-fi” photography movement, which considers the effects achieved by toy cameraspinhole cameras and other crude photo devices to be artful. There are even contests dedicated to lo-fi work.

via gadgetwise.blogs.nytimes.com

I do like to make my pictures look “crummy” and enjoy it a lot, in fact. It’s my latest obsession and I have added 100s of photos to my collection (of which I’ve posted a small fraction here) since getting a smart phone late last fall. Smartphone apps that mimic the pinhole, lomo, lo-fi, holga, and a host of other such effects are so easy to use and so versatile that a lot of users out there will probably find it hard to be satisfied with “just regular” pictures after using the apps on good mobile phones. But you’ve gotta have a good smartphone or your photos will turn out crummy, good app or not.

The alternative is using desktop apps, as mentioned in the article, but having used Piknk and Picasa and some other applications for photo manipulation, I have to say it is way easier to just select a setting a point and shoot then have to manipulate the images afterwards.

The invention of smartphone camera apps has totally revolutionized the way visual information is recorded and stored. Just hang out on instagram or picplz or search for “mobile” “android” “iphone” of “hipstamatic” tags in Flickr. My eyes were majorly opened and I’ve never shut them since.

An online journal that made me go back on my word

So, last week I wrote this post on my posterous mini-blog:

via 280daily.com

I love the visuals, UI, and concept behind this application.

Too bad I’ve already set up a tumblog exactly for this – a daily log. The only features right now that Tumblr doesn’t provide me with are:

– the ability to print to PDF
– the very attractive, minimal input panel
– reminders to post

The last I can live without, the first has a workaround (not pretty, but can do it) and the second…. well, at least Tumblr has an Android app right now. It’s not rockingly beautiful, but it’s still pretty simple.

I’ve been uploading a daily photo, some with entries, for just over 2 months now into my tumblog, and because I’ve gotten into the habit, I don’t really want to switch at this moment. If I hadn’t already started a 365 photo journal, I would sign up right now.

And then, this weekend I go and sign up for 280daily.

Now, why would I do that?

Well, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try a new writing tool/record keeper that, most importantly (in this case), looked SO beautiful. Really simple, really minimal, and very attractive. The application actually came to mind a few times after I had first looked at it and I kept thinking about the UI.

So much for sticking to my wish to keeping things simple.

But right now, I don’t regret it, at least not at this moment. I’ve tried different journalling applications, and truly, simplicity is a feature I really value: I want to just write and then be able to flip through and easily see those entries. To this day, I think pen and paper was the best way I’ve ever journalled. It’s just that I find the electronic medium much more efficient and accessible, since I always have a smartphone on me, but not necessarily a notebook and pen.  But I haven’t found a digital journalling application that was as easy to browse and print out as it was to write the entries (with the exception of SkoobySoft’s viJournal, which I really liked, but didn’t want to pay $29 CDN for, at the time).

The fact that 280daily is on the web means it’s accessible anywhere with internet. I have mobile access to it. I can backup and download a pdf version, neatly formatted with the photos as well as text entries. The fact that it’s limited to 280 characters does something to my psyche: instead of being a challenge to write everyday (I love love love the concept behind 750words but found it too long in practice for a daily writing tool at this point in my life) it’s like “ha – you only have double one tweet length to fill in for today,” which, really, is a cinch. If I really want to write longer, I have this wordpress blog to fill in the rest of the day.

What I do look forward to is an Android app where I can snap a picture and easily upload it to the main entry with some text. The web version is very slick, but it takes a few extra clicks than I would prefer to add one photo to the current entry.

I’m excited to test out my quick writing chops with this journal. Here’s to conscientious daily reflection.