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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Turn of the season

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There are signs of the turn of the season everywhere. Summer to autumn. It’s lovely and brings anticipation of the sight of glorious fiery foliage, of warm cinnamony baking smells and rich harvest meals together with friends.

This is also my first post using WordPress on the iPhone since the iOS 8 update, and a new photo app, Pomelo.

It’s always a bit nerve-wracking committing to an update, especially on a 3-year-old phone that is practically ancient in technology time.

Happily, I can say that it’s been fine so far on my 4s, contrary to many online writers bemoaning the hit to speed and productivity and usefulness of iOS 8.

The feature set I wanted the most was the ability to edit photos using app features, directly from the stock photo collection without having to open an app to do so.

Lucky me, this works – but with limitations. Newer apps, Fotograf and Pomelo, for example, work fine with the “open in…” function. Alas, my favorite app, Afterlight, does not probably due to hardware limitations of my older gadget. I still use Afterlight the “old” way: open app, import and then edit and save back to Camera Roll.

Which brings me to: the new absence of Camera Roll in favor of photo Collections. To see all my photos, I can only view them in groupings organized, inconveniently, by location/date, rather than one massive collection ordered chronologically. I much prefer the old way, as do scores of other iPhone users, according to Internet forums and posts. Errrrrrr. This is a gripe, and one I fear I will have to come to terms with as Apple steamrolls user options in favor of whatever new features they are attempting to integrate.

(There is a whole other discussion here about how users are conditioned or trained to use technology in particular, prescribed ways, but let’s save it for another time, or for my other blog.)

But regardless of this one rather big downside, in general I am very pleased that my (old) iPhone is not functioning any less efficiently or smoothly since the iOS 8 update.

Recapping a first-time American road trip

Yellowstone Norris

I am so bummed out that I haven’t posted since June! But at least we had a summer full of interesting and time-consuming activities, if not all productively undertaken.

Certainly, the highlight of our summer was our long-planned trip through the American northwest to Yellowstone, something we’d envisioned for over a year, that at last became reality at the end of July. Eleven days on the road, then a few days resting at our friend’s place in Vancouver, was a totally do-able trip that wasn’t exhausting (like some camping outings are).

We had pre-planned some camp sites and motel nights in Yellowstone Park, and then winged the rest of our itinerary, other than a general idea that we would drive through Washington towards Yellowstone and meander our way back to Canada somehow. We had couple days where we didn’t move – just stayed longer in one spot, no driving, no into-town visits, just reading, resting and playing in the water – and I think that was crucial to helping foster a sense of vacation, versus the pressure to get somewhere, to see something.

The best part of the trip, aside from the wonder of discovering the varied and rich geography and history of certain parts of the USA with le Mari and le petit, was the visual feast that the different, sometimes surreal landscapes provided. Yellowstone Park especially blew us away – it was much more interesting and beautiful than we had expected. We stayed 5 days here, but if we go again, we would stay longer to explore the various corners and less-travelled quiet places all over the park that we didn’t have a chance to visit this time.

In addition to the fascinating geological features of the hydrothermal basins of Yellowstone, I loved seeing: rippling wheat fields, dry hoodoos and red rocks, flat plains, and rolling dry hills, and this all in just one tiny northwest/central region of the vast US. We are planning for another trip further south in another couple of years next time.

Idaho Plains Grand Canyon of Yellowstone Yellowstone Lake Grand Prismatic West Yellowstone Norris Hills of Montana Larrabee Park

Practicing flight

It’s been an overwhelmingly wonderful, fast and exhausting two months. I clearly recall moments of joy, success and productivity, but I also remember a kind of stasis, lethargy and a sense of just SO much going on that it made me want to cry.

Some of the lows:

  • Le Mari got the mumps. Yes, MUMPS. As if any grown person who has already received the vaccine in this new century in the western world would get that. Well apparently there are some cases in Canada and it looks like he was one, according to all the symptoms. Fortunately, like chicken pox, he just had to ride it out and after 5 days of being quarantined, it passed and he was fine, and we in the household were all fine.  But it threw a week off its normal track and made for serious discomfort and misshapen-ness around the house.
  • Projects at the office sometimes just…stalled. I think I felt discouraged because the obstacles seemed bureaucratic, unnecessarily existing because of practices implemented 25 years ago that CLEARLY need updating for the current day. Yeah, there were a couple of moments like this in the recent weeks.
  • Oh, the state of the house. Enough said.
  • Oh, the state of my thesis. I was on a roll, on a roll, then hit a bump, wrestled a bit, then a while, then opened that darn Archive of Our Own fanfiction Avengers Marvel universe fandom, and then got sucked in and…KAPUT. Days of engaging in an incredibly articulated fictional world of  superheroes, alternative plots and some very great writing.
  • The actual, dumb struggle of feeling like a suck in not being the kind of mom that engages her son in the activities that 5-year old boys are clearly supposed to be doing, if a glance around me was any indication – i.e. ALL of le Petit’s peers in soccer or baseball – and I, being so caught up in our tasks and daily life completely MISSED ALL DEADLINES for the entire year for these team activities. I never thought I’d see the day that I would rue NOT being a soccer mom, but I felt like I had missed out on providing him with something very key for his age group and development.

Some of the highs:

  • Got over the soccer mom struggle fairly quick. A second glance around me showed that families could choose to put their kids in the kind of activities that engage their sons and daughters in healthy, socially encouraging and developmental play – like team sports. Yes, I would LOVE le Petit to play. Yes, I would love him to learn to engage in team activities. But at the same time, WE were and are not ready for the commitment that sports leagues in Kamloops, and everywhere else in North American suburbia I imagine, requires – practice + games twice, sometimes thrice weekly, special events, weekends devoted to league activities, and if your child is good, away games, not to mention the equipment, the drives, the fundraisers and the precise scheduling that is needed to manage this lifestyle. Well, GREAT for people who can manage this, but at this time, we cannot. When I realized this, my sense of not quite achieving what I thought I should be doing as a mom vanished. (We decided to encourage le Petit to try out karate next month).
  • SPRING. At looooong last.
  • Some, if very sparse, practice with the Sony NEX camera (I remembered my promise to Le Mari)
  • A beautiful Easter choir and performance of A Tale of Three Trees by 15 or so children, ages 5-12, at Summit Drive Church, in which le Petit took part. One dedicated, super-loving lady took on this project out of love of music and teaching, and she lead, encouraged, and spurred these kids on to bravery and performance in a musical that had a wonderful message.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Need I say more?
  • Serious progress on my thesis: the section on mobility and the research method has been fleshed out, the literature been covered. Very happy to cover these sections, and also IMPRESSED with the scholars and the research happening in the cross-disciplinary field of mobility.

Well, last night, I went for a quick after dinner walk with le Petit in our neighbourhood. Ironically, we went for a walk in a field that was beside school ground where 2 soccer teams were practicing. It was a gorgeous evening, my first one out with just a short-sleeve T, though I brought as sweater. I didn’t need it in the warm evening air, but oh, did we make good use of it.

Le Petit took my sweater and ran with it. Then he flew. And soared. And then landed back to earth. What a GLORIOUS reminder of how things are.

vsco instant vscocam instant vscocam flight play instant vscocam flight instant Processed with VSCOcam with p2 preset vscocam flight play vscocam flight playvscocam flight vscocam flight

A beginning hobbyist’s camera, at long last

Oh I am SO stoked. And yet so screwed.

Stoked because I got my first true beginner’s mirrorless micro 4/3 camera, the lauded Sony NEX-3N just recently, on sale from Costco, of all places. It’s not the best nor the latest of the NEX line (now dubbed Alpha, dropping the NEX moniker) – that belongs to the incredibly decked out Sony Alpha 7R. But for someone who has never had to work with F-stops and manual aperture and shutter controls before, this little gadget with its automatic AND some manual settings sounds like it will be just perfect.

Screwed because I made a promise to Le Mari that I wouldn’t engage all my interest/time/practice on this long-shelved desire UNTIL my graduate thesis is done, and I intend to keep this promise. But it’s hard, it’s really hard to restrain myself, as the little-but-powerful-image-capture device beckons.

In the meantime, here are two shots from my ONE day of practice and testing it out:

vsco mytru

NEX (1 of 1)-7Oh, I can’t wait to try my hand at snapping shots with something other than an iPhone.

If anyone in the community has tried out or currently shoots with the NEX-3N, I’d love to hear about your experience with this camera.

Shadows and light

Now that I’ve been thinking about photographic communities and thinking about themes, when I went back to look over some of the pictures for the month of April, I noticed that some of them were linked by a common thread: that is, shadows and light. I think when I was snapping away, in the back of my mind I was influenced by a group I saw on EyeEm, called Shadows and Light.

Here is my first recap in a long long time, then:

Being an intentional member of virtual communities

telephone booth, analog

I’ve started so many posts for the month of April that I never got around to posting.  As someone who wants to take blogging more seriously, I need to work on FINISHING WHAT I START (…WRITING, in this case).

Something that’s been a lot on my mind this past month especially, but for a while now, is how to organize and share my photos in more meaningful ways – that is, that takes part in a community of people/gazers/observers and noticers – instead of just posting them into the ether (what’s the point, then beyond the creation of our personal archive, which as important goal but not enough for me).

That’s why I’m more active on Instagram now, and that’s what had motivated me to start participating more on Flickr. It’s also why I signed up for EyeEm, and Juxt, and AMPt – all very active, rich communities centred around photography, phone photography specifically…. and I ended up in this complicated social web of all these places, all these sites, all these sign-ups, and SO LITTLE TIME. Just keeping up with the emails and feed updates from these communities took real chunks out of the hours of the day.

So I’ve shifted my thinking to treat virtual communities like physical communities, at least in some ways: we can only commit to so much in real life activities before we burn out or fail at our commitments. I hear things, and sometimes have said things, like “stretched too thin” or “bit off more than I can chew” at work and from friends and so why wouldn’t the same apply to online commitments?  I think that’s how I want to treat my online community participation from now on – like commitments that need serious intention and consideration and yes, some investment of time, if I am to be a TRUE participating member of the community.

Which led me to think long and hard, without yet a truly satisfactory conclusion about Instagram. Even with all the hoopla over Instagram and its terms of service and the way they supposedly treat the photographic works of people, I can’t quit it, I can’t (“I can’t quit you…” rings in my head). There are SO MANY amazing photographers and creative people participating in the network that I would not have otherwise discovered without a serious amount of net-surfing and searching. I’ve had to justify to myself why I’m staying with Instagram and the biggest part is discovery, and subsequently, the ease in connecting and communicating with those you discover.

(I really did try to like EyeEm, another rich community that opened the door to Android users way before Instagram did. But the UI is clunky for me, and I can’t filter out the hundreds of ordinary and some really junky shots against the few really really good ones. And it always takes a long long time to load. But I still recommend it for people looking for an Instagram alternative – tons of terrific iPhoneography fans are part of that community. It’s just not for me, after trying three times to like it.)

So I’ve taken 2 steps recently to firm up my commitment to photographic communities, in a small, intentional way that works for my life:

  1. I’ve joined ProjectLife365 and am posting daily to the project hashtag whereever I might post (though I’ve committed to posting these pics in Instagram). In the 3 weeks since I’ve started, I’ve come across about 15 other project members with whom some kind of dialogue has started, and stumbled across some amazing women (it’s mostly been women) who are moms, business women, artists, students just sharing snippets of their lives or their perpectives on life through #projectlife365. It’s the neatest thing. I’m so so glad I joined up.
  2. I backed a Kickstarter project called Pressgram, the brainchild of John Saddington. When I first heard about it, my mind gave a tiny little groan, “Not another photo app.” But then the developer’s TRULY open attitude, perpective and sincerity about what an open community that values and respects the individual’s creative works caught my attention, and then my respect. The initial project blurb, and subsequent project update posts, are really worth reading. Ironically, it’s really different in terms and intention of what Instagram is about, but there it is: we are all paradoxical creatures.

I look forward to seeing how the Pressgram app and its resulting community shakes out. It’s particularly of interest because the plan is to be integrated into the WordPress community so it will be neat to see how that network and this blogging platform connect.

So, here’s to meaningful interactions in virtual spaces out of mutual respect and interest in photography and capturing life!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Up

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I know, it’s so cliche, this ground-up perspective at an amusement park.

But seriously, this ride at the weekend ride fair (the kind that goes up in a mall parking lot on Thursday and is gone by Monday), called “Vertigo,” was really really high. From the safety of cement under our feet, we watched the brave riders rise and rise and rise and then spin with such speed, and then we gasped.

The other marvellous thing about today’s visit to the fair was that it was bloody cold and snowing. Snowing. In mid-April. It made the riders seem even braver.