Archive for April, 2010

image making

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

Over the past couple of weeks, I finally got around to adding a couple of ridiculous new image galleries to Wofflehouse, in the PHOTOS section. It’s a section of the website that I’ve semi-neglected, largely because it’s more for personal amusement, less for professional advancement. Also, I’ve increasingly used this blog, as well as my Facebook account, for sharing photos instead.

The galleries are both pretty deadpan:



Anyway, I got more pleasure than anticipated out of putting together these 2 series of photos, and plan on doing much more of this soon. I’ve been reflecting on  a few things, due to this.

First, I take for granted how integrated photography is into my life, and often forget that it is its own creative endeavor due to this. I took my first photography class at an art college in San Francisco when I was 15, and continued taking photo courses and educating myself about the history of photography throughout high school and college. I also worked in one-hour photo labs for ten years of my life. While I’ve rarely exhibited my photos, every Mail Order Brides/M.O.B. project was dependent on both Eliza’s and my photographic expertise. And somehow, I’ve still never taken my relationship to photographic image-making too seriously.

Second, something happened during the shift from film to digital. I stopped working at the photolab in 2000, which ended my many years of getting to purchase and print 35 mm film cheaply and easily. Also, this era was the beginning of the demise of many photolabs, due to increased consumer interest in digital. I had a beautiful Nikon SLR that suddenly stopped getting employed as regularly due to this. While I continued taking it on trips, it was far too bulky to justify carrying around for casual daily use. Also, I was unenthusiastic about compact snapshot cameras, disdaining them as something for amateurs. It wasn’t until I got my first little digital camera in 2005 that I could tote something with ease anywhere and everywhere, but this was still basically just a digital version of aforementioned-disdained-snappy cam. Given my latent photo-snob tendencies, I fell into my own trap for a little bit of not taking my own use of them as anything other than amateur, despite how many more images I was actually making. (And what’s wrong with amateur, anyway?)

Third, the digital camera thing has done a couple of things to image-making by both liberating it and cheapening it. Making a pile of photographic images is now next to free (unless you print it, which is done less and less): you’re only limited by the amount of memory your camera/card has. It also comes with the instant gratification of reviewing images on the display immediately after taking them. This is great, but has also led to a sort of bloated, un-edited glut of images. And it has removed the mystery, and delicious anticipation of what might lie on a roll of film. Anything truly special often gets lost in the shuffle, or not appreciated as much, as it once might have. (This is, of course, both good and bad, as it’s also weeded out the over-fetishization of actually-kind-of-mundane images.)

Fourth, I’ve had an often-difficult year creatively since the move, insofar as making other kinds of art (painting, drawing, video–the things I usually exhibit), and even blogging, at times. I’ve struggled with what to express, at times. But what I’ve only just realized is that I’ve been doing an extraordinary amount of photography instead, and its function has subtly shifted to become more diaristic and expressive. Also self-entertaining. It’s also very much used for “note-taking”: for quickly recording something that I may want to address in a different medium, later down the line. For the many moments where I’ve been at a loss for words, or been unable to figure out how to make a drawing of something I’ve been feeling, the camera has been my immediate, often taken-for-granted companion, instead.

In Bogliasco, I think I figured a bit of this out. My shutter-bugging got truly excessive there, given the circumstances. And the other Fellows trusted/tolerated the presence of my camera at every meal and outing: I became the de-facto embedded photojournalist for our group, and put together a big Flickr archiv of images- sort of a collective visual diary of our time there. In the prior couple of entries here on Wofflings, I also realized I was using the camera differently: not so much documenting the world-at-large, more using it to give a different visual voice to things I’d been really thinking about.

I woke up this morning, thinking about it, so I thought I’d write out a few thoughts before they evaporated. It’s not all so serious, of course: I think any woman driven to compulsively document porta-potties can’t really get too Susan Sontag about her photographic endeavors.

from kamuning to london

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Support Green Papaya Art Projects!
Buy one of these two amazing sets for a mere $30 USD, and send the crew from one of the best independent art spaces in the world from the PI to the UK!

(How genius is this design, BTW? The Philippine flag mash-up with the the Union Jack? FRESH.)

This, from the GPAP gang:




GHOTCZ 7: buried treasure

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Old book stores in the Ceezy are really pretty remarkable. Partly because I’m completely illiterate in them.

Since I can barely read the language at hand, however, it tends to make me notice different things.  Last week, the P and I were just nosing around in one near our apartment when we discovered an amazing little group of  home-made scrapbooks, one of which I had to have, immediately.

Each one was just a simple collection of photos cut out of magazines, but organized thematically: one book was pictures of European cinema stars, one of Hollywood stars, another, photos of the Kennedy family. What made them so special for me was the context: it was clear that each book was collaged together by some young woman, growing up in post WWII Czechoslovakia, well into the Communist era.

None of the images in the book I chose were any later than the mid-50′s, many being of movie stars and pictures from the 40′s. Each page was carefully noted with the stars’ names: Cary Grant, Claudette Colbert, Ida Lupino, Lucille Ball, Orson Welles…I’ve been on a classic film kick ever since Bogliasco (renting movies on iTunes), and so I’ve been falling in love with a lot of these stars for the first time, myself.

But there’s something implicit in the Czech history of this  book that I found really fascinating: the sense that this was created by a girl growing up under state control, but still dreaming of the glamorous, fantastic worlds she saw in fan magazines and movies (perhaps imported well-past their show-dates in the US). And the creation of the book was so tender: the perfect script employed to write out the stars’ names, the care in organizing and gluing the pictures down, enclosing all of these treasures in a simple little book. I imagined it tucked under her bed, or on her bedroom shelf.

There was one Czech actress in the book (Libuše Zemková), whose picture on the page below was so lovely, it made me immediately curious about the Czech film industry post WWII and about the lives of, and opportunities for, actors and actresses in that era. Given how many theatres Prague still has, and what a thriving performance culture there still seems to be, it made me realize how little I know about something so vital. It made me want to know more.

Growing up in Malaysia, I absolutely fetishized American culture, and collected little scraps and images from magazines in similar ways. Later, going to community college in suburban California, aspiring to be an artist but not knowing anything about the larger world of art yet, I kept my own nerdy little scrapbooks of art I liked and cut out of magazines, too.

These days when I’m saving images, I just drag them off the internet and put them into folders inside of folders on my computer. It’s definitely still a continuation of my magpie-esque image-hoarding practice, but books like this one remind me how much more special, and enduring, a scrapbook is over a laptop.

end of an era

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Sigh. There’s something about getting a new passport that makes me a little sad. A decade, in border stamps and short-term visas, now invalid. A photo that’s me, ten years younger. I just got mine processed at the U.S. Embassy here in Prague, which was decidedly more pleasant and painless than getting it done in SF.

At least they let you keep the old one as a memento, albeit with holes punched through it.

It seems that in any passport I’m issued, however,  my photo will always make me look like a little kid who just farted.
The new passport photo is still dumb, but looks less…caffeinated, at least. And passport control officers won’t laugh at me as much.