Changing Beauty – The Changing Face of Beauty
© Caroline de Bertodano
For centuries beauty was represented by natural beauties. Salome, Guinevere and Nefertiti to name but a few. Later beauty was portrayed in artworks such as Botticelli’s Spring, Rossetti’s Other Woman, da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and many Impressionist works. All evocative of something more than appearance. The Greek male nude sculptures and the female nude deities of Eastern Ishtar to the later Western art such as Donatello’s “David”, Titian’s “Venus of Urbino”, celebrated the natural human body. All to stir the mind as well as the sensual passions. Very recent depictions of beauty in art are dormant and beg the question as to why? A backlash to society’s ‘meat market’ and physical fabrications?
© Caroline de Bertodano
Through the ages, the size and shape of beauty have come and gone but natural was ever present. Different body types and features went in and out of fashion aided by the armoury of clothes and makeup but ‘natural’ was the foundation. People simply got on and appreciated more what they had been born with. In recent times, celebrity has replaced almost everything and as the avarice consumers we have become, we follow like sheep.
© Caroline de Bertodano
The reality of beauty, either male or female, is that almost every person is not happy in their own skin and has a list of what they feel disdain for about themselves, if not pure self-loathing by many women. An agenda of what they would change if they had the money. Massively increased depression & eating disorder numbers have the psychiatrists rewriting the psychology books. If we add ageing to the equation, what was ’50 is the new 30’ and now ’50 is the new 70′ based on looks alone. Media role models advocate nothing but shallow appearance, they negate the actual being, of being human, born natural and undoubtedly will die as bare to living as death intends. Time will always transcend the superficial.
Every age has issues of imperfection but never before to such extremes and even the 20 somethings have joined the mass hysteria in the quest for perfection and elusive eternal youth, where beauty is considered to reside. Exaggerated ideas of imperfection and the ‘fixing myself’ phrase is often heard. With the explosion of social media and its consequential hunting grounds, the idea of perfection is now so media influenced by pretense, false impressions of image, persona and of course the eternal super skinny body form…. no surprise there! Many men are taken in by these falsehoods. But in this age of ’swipe right’, they just move on to the next idea on their perfection list, wondering why they cannot find true and lasting love. Women have become competitive instead of supportive, putting good images of themselves to annoy other women or for attention that they lack in reality.
© Caroline de Bertodano
“I’d like to say that I would be happier in my natural skin but given the opportunity, I would enhance myself. It would seem silly not to. When we live in a world where celebrities and superstars are always looking amazing and we are exposed to the ideal woman and figure all the time, why wouldn’t you want to keep up? There seems to be a much higher standard of beauty… not a natural beauty but a beauty that can be made through cosmetic surgery. You only need to look at the ‘IT’ girls of now and look at a ‘before and after photo’ to realise they are doing it. It eventually just comes down to money. Money can buy physical beauty essentially and if I had the money I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t make changes to myself. Every girl has something they hate about themselves or feels self-conscious about and if it somewhat bothers you, of course, you are going to want to change that. It is not like there are any female role models advocating natural of ‘inner’ beauty but quite the opposite really; young girls are bombarded and almost brainwashed by social media about what is a normal young girl should or does actually look like”
Eva 21 years.
© Caroline de Bertodano
There is a chasm of difference between plastic and cosmetic surgery.
Plastic surgery is ‘reconstructive’ for medical reasons and includes, burns, limb loss, birth defects, trauma and disease and is vital, both externally & internally life-saving.
Cosmetic surgery is elective, ‘a choice’ by an individual to enhance appearance only.
© Caroline de Bertodano
With endless procedures, media & social influence, the idea of beauty means many are starting to look alike. Some so alien from their original self they become modern day monsters as procedures ‘fall’ and they lack the money to redo them. Expressiveness and uniqueness are being lost. The expressiveness of a child’s face in laughter, the look of love, is the beauty & emotion within that is expressed externally.
© Caroline de Bertodano
However, in some adults, they can no longer show emotion on over engineered faces, which in turn affects the emotional communication in relationships. First impressions aside, if we are all impressed by certain looks alone, the character, mind and soul; the internal self, go unconsidered and disappointment and failed relationships surely follow. Is Audrey Hepburn, one of the iconic beauty’s of our time, now ‘imperfect’? Her beauty came from what was inside as well as outside and many talk of her internal light.
© Caroline de Bertodano
The greatest beauty is the true natural beauty requiring three vital ingredients. Looks, mind and soul. Ever fallen in love with someone you least expected to and been surprised because they are not your ‘normal type’ but because of ‘who’ they are, not just what they looked like? Imperfections pale into insignificance on realizing emotional depth, mindful heights and the confidence they generate. True beauty is the combination and what artists for centuries before us tried to depict.
© Caroline de Bertodano
I would rather see the truth in someone’s eyes and the micro expressions that connect to the soul’s windows than an empty one-dimensional being that simply ‘looks good’. Beauty will always change but not at its core. My Mother used to say, ‘feed the brain and soul as well as the body’ and true beauty is those three things that make up the internal natural light, ‘the natural beauty’ and the only thing that will sustain relationships and transcend the chattels of time.
© Caroline de Bertodano
© Caroline de Bertodano
© Caroline de Bertodano 2017
What does Christmas mean to you? Do you look forward to this season earnestly or is it a mere family ritual and gathering that you do every year?… Here at Grryo, all of us in the team, come from different countries across the globe with distinct backgrounds. In this post, we will all share what Christmas means to us and how some of us Celebrate it.
Christmas for me is deeply rooted in my faith in Jesus Christ. This holiday is to be a reflection of everything he is and I find it summed up in the word giving. I’m talking about giving without any expectation of a return. This year I have found a couple of actions that demonstrate the type of giving I mean.
John and his wife Shayla started helping a couple of weeks ago at Soul Food Cafe, a local food ministry to the hungry. John’s heart was touched by the need he found all around him. Putting his photography talent to use he had the idea of doing free portraits for anyone who wanted one. On the particular day I visited John there, he took over 50 portraits in front of this tree as Shayla, with infant son “Cotton” in tow, gathered information. This week they are taking photos with Santa. In the meantime he made a video on Facebook about what was happening that generated 1500 views and gained help from several local photography clubs.
This past weekend I helped a group of teens that joined with several hundred other local Arkansans to fill food packs to send to hungry children in Haiti. A local restaurant, Tacos 4 Life, gives enough from their profits to feed one child for every meal they serve. They do this by teaming with Feed My Starving Children® which is a non-profit organization committed to feeding hungry children. They organize volunteers to hand-pack meals specifically formulated for malnourished children, and then ship these meals to distribution partners. These kids gave a couple of hours of their time on a Saturday to pack 492 boxes of food packs. That’s enough to feed 291 kids each day for a year.
Christmas has always been a favorite holiday for me. Despite living in Indonesia with the largest Muslim population, this festive season has always brought me a feeling of joy, warmth and excitement. For many Indonesians, Eid/Idul Fitri is the main holiday season that is celebrated extensively. The Christmas decorations and carols around Jakarta are mainly found in every mall across the city. The roads and streets are not light up with lights or decor as it is regarded as a normal public holiday. It is being recognized and celebrated more now by people in Indonesia. For me, during this festive end of the year season, it is more of winding down and enjoying the break from a well-spent hectic year.
Pictures of Christmas decorations in various places I found, that captured my attention.
Colourful Christmas ball ornaments on a huge Christmas tree at a nearby mall. The popping colours and lights was a lovely sight to capture.
A beautiful framed setting done by TWG Tea at a nearby mall. As i was walking past, I noticed a girl sitting next to the teddy bear and her friend taking a picture of her. The colours and moment itself intrigued me to capture it as it is.
Although, Christmas doesn’t hold a special meaning to me, someday, I would love to experience this festive season in countries that celebrate it. So, I can also experience the spirit of joy and bliss.
A huge part of Christmas for me is being thankful for, and spending quality time with, my family and friends – particularly my husband and our two boys. Our lives are pretty hectic; we’re always rushing from one thing to the next, Monday – Sunday. It’s all good and enjoyable, but hectic. So the few days we have over the Christmas period, where deadlines and school runs are thrown out of the window, are very special.
Playing board games and watching films together. Catching up with friends. Having late night adventures in the woods with our boys and their torches. Watching my kids playing and running free, without a care in the world. Like children should. Watching the adults behaving like kids again too. Enjoying the magic of school nativities and music concerts. Eating mince pies that we don’t even like. Wearing silly jumpers and daft Christmas accessories.
Enjoying long walks in the cold.
Not setting the alarm clock.
Decorating the tree together.
Remembering dear loved ones.
Enjoying the little things.
Because I work for a non-denominational church a lot of my time revolves around special events around the church. My wife and I have to get creative with our time to enjoy the holiday with our kids. We have our usual family traditions like decorating our house and listening to Christmas songs by Louis Armstrong. We also drive to neighborhoods and marketplaces adorned with a lot of Christmas lights and if when we can afford it, we will go to Disneyland to enjoy fake snow and watch people play at the skating rink.
The weather folks say that it snows in my region along the coast of Southern California only once for every hundred years, so unless we drive 2 hours up to the local mountains, any expression of “White Christmas” is man-made.
My family wanted to focus more of our attention on people in need this year. Our kids participated in Operation Shoe Box and filled a shoe box with gifts and a note to be given to a child on the other side of our world. Locally, I went with our church group to deliver groceries we put together to families nearby, so they could have a Christmas dinner.
It’s a special time of year for us. We could go insane trying to keep up with all of the traditions that go along with this season. Plus, it is too exhausting to get swept up in the shopping frenzy that happens from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. At my home, we try to simplify how we the celebrate birth of our Savior Jesus Christ by helping folks in need and getting together with family and friends.
December, the darkest of the months. I feel the lack of shadows, I feel in me the lack of light.
Yet Christmas gives me hope. It brings light, all sorts of lights: tiny little ones, bright ones, yellow, red and green, the white paper stars we set up on our window sills early in December. Christmas celebrates light and reminds me that nothing lasts forever, not even the darkest days. That light remains. That I’ll have the shadows back soon again.
I’ve always loved Christmas, how it changes us, the magic of it, and I spend the Christmas days together with my loved ones.
Hope you enjoyed our little contributions from the Grryo Family to spread the joy and spirit with you all.
Thank you to each and every one of you for your participation and contributions throughout the year. We deeply appreciate it.
We would like to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Blessed 2017!
Enjoy the holiday season with your loved ones and we look forward to another exciting new year with you!
“If you wish for light, be ready to receive light.” Rumi
As the season of gift-giving fast approaches, I’ve been thinking about the gifts I’ve received this year – images graciously given to me by my trusty old camera.
I’ve been interested in the practice of contemplative photography for a while now, and through it, continue to discover new and surprising things about this craft. A few years ago I came across The Little Book of Contemplative Photography by Howard Zehr, a book I have come back to again and again, not only because it is a quick and easy read, but because of the wisdom contained in its pages.
There is a particular chapter in this book that continually challenges me and makes me rethink my approach to photography. In this chapter, Zehr discusses the language and metaphors of photography and how aggressive and predatory they are. History shows that photography was once considered a gentle and respectful art, but its image as an art form became much more aggressive when small handheld cameras were introduced in the 1880s. It was around this time that people started going on photo shoots, carrying their arsenal of equipment, aiming their camera, taking their pictures and capturing their subject…metaphors that gradually became deeply embedded in our culture and consciousness. Before long, advertisers were marketing camera products that would ‘shoot to kill’ and camera store services that would ‘blow you away’. We began to use telephoto lenses and, more recently, smart phones to covertly photograph people. This shift, where the act of photographing became something of a hunt, has had a massive impact on the way we practise photography today.
When I first read about this idea, I’d been learning photography for a couple of years, so naturally I began to consider this in relation to my work and my process. I’d certainly been striving to ‘capture’ my children with my camera and getting frustrated when I didn’t get what I wanted or when I got something ‘wrong’. This put me in the position of taker, not receiver, and of triumphant predator when I did get something ‘good’.
But, the reality is, as Zehr quite simply points out, that when we photograph, we do not actually reach out and take anything. Light is reflected off our subject and enters through our camera’s lens, projecting a picture. So, essentially, the image is being received, not taken. And for me, here lay a secret to experiencing photography in a new and more profound way: I could open myself up to receiving images; I could change my perspective so that I no longer viewed images as trophies, but as gifts.
So where did this leave planning a conceptual photo session or the discipline of hunting out and capturing an image? Exactly where they belong, in their perfect time and place. Because whatever the situation, as we stand behind our camera we have an opportunity to experience new possibilities. We can do that by recognising that there is so much more to photography than our skill and our equipment – or, as Zehr so aptly puts it, we can shift our perspective so that we approach our art making with ‘wonder, respect and humility’. In other words, instead of seeing photography as a conquest, we can see it as contemplation; instead of seeing it as an exposé, we can see it as a revelation; instead of being concerned with control, we can embrace surprise.
No doubt, we’ve all experienced photographic surprises – sometimes by sheer accident (like when we unintentionally press the shutter) or sometimes simply because an image was unexpected (like when we think we didn’t ‘get’ anything good, but are later surprised to find that we did). But what interests me most is not this lack of control; rather, this concept of awe and humility, as a mindset and approach towards art making in general. By visualising myself receiving rather than taking images, I have been continually taken aback by what light has revealed inside my camera. I’ve relaxed. I’ve opened myself up to mystery. I’ve not always been given what I wanted, but what needed to be expressed was expressed in a new and surprising way. This surrender has become a very sweet part of my practice. Because it’s not only the unexpected images that are gifts – they are all gifts.
Of course, this change in attitude is easier said than done. Ironically, it takes a form of conscious effort to remember to let go, and even now, though I’ve intellectually understood the concept, I sometimes fall back into rigid ways of thinking. But whatever happens, the intention is set: to place myself in a position of receptivity and be surprised by what’s out there. As Jay Maisel once said, ‘The pictures are everywhere. If you’re open, they will find you.’ I try to be aware but not anxious because, at the end of the day, I am just a tiny part of the equation. There is something bigger, more magical and mysterious that takes place when my hands get a hold of the camera – something I can’t actually control.
I was recently amazed to discover that one of my favourite photographers, Sally Mann, had made references to this mystery and magic, and that she herself viewed photography as a humble act of receiving. In Immediate Family, she wrote, ‘At times, it is difficult to say exactly who makes the pictures. Some are gifts to me from my children: gifts that come in a moment as fleeting as the touch of an angel’s wing. I pray for that angel to come to us when I set the camera up, knowing that there is not one good picture in five hot acres. We put ourselves into a state of grace we hope is deserving of reward, and it is a state of grace with the Angel of Chance.’
And so, as the year draws to a close and a new one begins…whether you are a street photographer or a still life photographer, whether you photograph landscapes or your own family, and no matter what camera you use…there are gifts waiting for you. Be open to receiving them, and they will find you.
For 6 months trip by the Otomi – Tepehua,
Indian zone of the state of Hidalgo, Mexico area.
Most people who allowed me to portray their faces do not speak Spanish.
They have their own native language. They harvest coffee,corn,
peas, beans etc …
The small stories that accompany each portrait are words, thoughts and
ideas from both sides.
Just as the photographs were taken, a translator told me what they thought.
This is a sign of the profound strength of our state, Hidalgo.
The sun, the only witness who saw the afternoon’s work, marked my face more than my husband. The night came only to ask “What did you do? What’s to eat?” No one more than the sun, insolent, asked: “How much do you have to work today, so anyone will notice?”
“Above, always above.”
We see the light. We prefer because we care for others, because we do something eternal day to day. Above, the place we come from and where we are going. Where the routine is forever and always the same. Here in this heaven, it helps us all to be one. The light comes and enlightens us; leaves us at night, because the next morning we will know that this, too, is the afterlife.
My eyes see nothing, always the same, always the field, always the rain. I am a survivor of my office, rain flooded fields. Hope fills my hands with mud every morning.
You see my face marked? You’re looking at all the lines on my face?
I do not understand what you say. I want to know who you are and why you came to my home to see me.
Wood has struck me with oils and textures. He did not return and could not stop to wait; wood waits for no one.
I had no chance to dream.
I’ve been in the field since the beginning of my memory. I know no change. In the field there are no options. The field is routine, very noble and very beautiful. But without options, they believed that the earth would not hold, and showed them the power the land gives me when I’m in the harvest.
They need to know their opportunities out of the field, but someone has to show them that they cannot be afraid to leave the place where they were born. So I’m here in front of you. I know my chances.
Road over the streets:
pavement, dirt, dust…
I hope for someone, just hope. Road and wait.
I am what you have forgotten: the street pavement, dirt and dust.
The field has always been my way of life. Water, wind and poverty have always gone ahead. My happiness does not survive with corn and coffee. Flying with the annual harvest where happiness flooded every home. Buyers come quickly to see us. We cannot always sell at our discretion. We are not always happy.
I cannot look at you.
You are a foreigner and nobody knows where you come from.
Who buys from you?
I have stove ash all over my mind and you do not stop using that thing to steal my face…
Raided under my cheeks, under my cheekbones, survives a smile that stands forged by fire brick. The lips that support it have been sullied, wasted and returned to sully the river. Angry eyes that hide more than joys.
Steal my soul because you cannot steal anything else.
My body is dust.
The illusion age.
I was born in a world full of neglect and violence. Rob my soul because men want my body. Rob my soul because it has no economic value; it is useless here. Take her. Transform her into hope and light.
With special thanks for your participation in this project:
This article has been compiled by Jeff Kelley (@postaljeff) and Susanne Maude (@masusanne).
If you’ve been Vimpted, you know the feeling of holding a precious print in your hand, of experiencing this kind act from a fellow Instagrammer, a stranger. And if you haven’t been Vimpted yet, you’d sure love to be. Vimpt is a beautiful proof that art connects and that collaboration creates something unique.
The man behind Vimpt is Craig Austin from the UK. Every week Craig chooses nine Instagram images submitted to #vimptfreeprint, turns them into fine art prints in his dark room and sends them to the photographers. He does this all for free.
Not just thumbnails
Vimpt equals Very Important. “The name signals the importance of the images people are submitting and the importance of the print, that we should not forget the role of materiality within the digital.” Craig wants us to look at the images as physical objects and not just as thumbnails on our phones.
The idea for the project came after Craig taught Alternative Processes at the University of Westminster and collaborated with Jonathan Worth on Phonar Nation. Phonar Nation was a free online photography class, open to anyone in the world and run as a part of the Cities of Learning Initiative in the US. Craig produced free salt prints from smartphone pictures for the students to connect them to the historical, cultural and material contexts that are so often removed from the digital world.
The success of Phonar Nation led Craig to drop the same process into Instagram. He started the Vimpt account in November 2015 and has so far sent out 400 free prints. The project is growing fast; people from all over the world have submitted almost 20,000 images to Vimpt’s hastag.
“I have become part of a vast, engaged and creative photographic community that I didn’t know existed! The communities and individuals I’ve met through Vimpt are incredibly knowledgeable, driven, generous and gifted. I’m excited about where the project is going.”
Old school meets new technology
Craig uses historic processes such as Salt Print and Cyanotype, and combines them with digital technology and handmade paper to produce fine art interpretation of chosen images. “I use the title Alternative Processes for what I do as it helps to describe and give a broad context to this hybrid approach. The term itself is a subject of considerable debate, and there are a lot of different opinions about its meaning and what it covers.”
What interests Craig is how modern technology has made the historic processes more accessible. “A love of the physical print produced by these wonderful old processes and an excitement about how digital technology and social media are reinventing the cultural meaning of photography is one of the reasons I started Vimpt.”
What makes a good image
“There are a couple of things I look for when choosing an image”, Craig explains. If the image relies on a particular colour or if the image’s narrative is about colour, it won’t work as a monotone print. “It can become flat.” The same goes with images that are overly complicated or overworked with apps. “What a salt print adds can become a little lost.”
Craig looks for sharpness and details. “If it’s not sharp but looks like it should be sharp, or if the shot is a portrait and the face is in shadows without enough details, then it won’t work well as a monotone print.”
Yet there are exceptions. “Some images do fall outside this rough guide, and I know they will be difficult to print, but I do them anyway as they are such great shots.”
Craig tries to vary the style of chosen images, and he does not usually print images of drawings or paintings.
The Future of Vimpt
Vimpt is a self- funded project and free of charge for photographers. That makes it unique. Craig tells that photographers have requested purchasing prints, and he’s trying to set up a service that could at least supply prints for exhibitions, but Vimpt as such will always continue to give away free prints. Selling prints was never its goal.
However, Craig, who sometimes produces same images twice in order to replace the ones lost in the postal service, admits that Vimpt is approaching a time when he needs to raise funds to be able to keep making and giving away prints for free. He is planning to establish a donation page on the website. “But it’s difficult to know how to ask for money to continue something that is free.”
Craig himself takes mostly pictures of his loved ones. And no, he does not have any personal account other than Vimpt. “I don’t have much time outside Vimpt and my family, and I much prefer collaborating with other people, it’s more inspirational. For me, photography on social media is about conversations, collaborations and sharing information but in a beautiful and unique way.”
Because of Vimpt, Craig spends a lot of time online, and he is a huge fan of digital art. Yet he is an even bigger fan of physical print.
“Seeing Hiroshi Sugimoto’s prints or the work of Stephen Gill or Masao Yamamoto, or even leafing through a great photo book makes far more of an impression on me than seeing work on a screen.”
You can find out more about Vimpt, the photos of the chosen prints and videos by the happy recipients at www.vimpt.com and you can check out Vimpt on Instagram.
When it comes to light boxes for photography, there’s no shortage of options. They come in a wide range of prices, sizes, and materials. You can spend anywhere from thousands to tens of dollars. I hadn’t had much experience with trying one out, so when the folks at SHOTBOX offered to send me one to play with, I was happy to give it a shot (pun intended).
Given my aforementioned inexperience with using light boxes, I asked my friend Dave to come help me test it out, as he regularly uses them. Dave has a rather unique use for light boxes- he shoots miniatures, often pairing them with food items. Having used a few different light box setups, and having heard of this one, he was happy to help me put it to the test. He brought over some of his gear and we had some fun trying it out.
The first draw for us was the portability factor: the entire kit folds up and fits into a flat tote, which can easily slide into the corner of your car trunk. Part of the reason for this is that there are LED lights built right into the frame; there’s no additional lighting required, unless you use the SideShot, which is a small arm with additional lighting that can be aimed at the front opening of the box.
The LED lighting in particular was another attractive feature: the box has a switch on the front which allows you to toggle between the left or right light strip, or, have them both on simultaneously. Better yet, there is a dimming switch which allows you to experiment with different levels of brightness. If glare or other lighting issues are a problem, there is a Shield Kit included, and the website has a FAQ section which includes tips and a video on ways to reduce glare.
While the design of the box is geared towards mobile photographers, we found that, for the most part, it also works just fine with a DSLR camera. The box has a set of openings at the top which allow for aerial views, which most ‘big’ cameras can shoot through also. If you’re using the SideShot, you’re going to need to use a mobile phone to get a straight on picture. It’s designed so a phone can lay on it (upside down) and shoot through the opening.
While we didn’t try inserting our own backdrops, the set of four that came with the Deluxe Bundle worked nicely. They come in green, blue, black and white; we stuck with the white as it suited our purposes. The backdrop kit is made specifically to work with the base kit, with a small rod which hangs nicely on the back of the interior. For those looking for an easy way to provide a wider range of background colors, some colored poster board will do the trick.
One thing to keep in mind is the size of the box: depending on what you’re planning to shoot, the area inside might be a little tight. Of course with Dave’s miniature figurines, this wasn’t an issue. The inside measures 14 1/4″ wide, 15″ deep, and 15″ tall, and then, depending on what you’re shooting with, you’ll need to figure out what type of crop will work best for your photo.
A top professional light box model can cost upwards of $10,000, whereas the cheapest kits can be found for around $20 on eBay and other similar sites. The SHOTBOX base unit falls on the lower end of this spectrum, at $149 (currently on sale for $129), while the Deluxe Bundle — which includes a tote, a backdrop set, and the SideShot — rings in at $219 (currently on sale for $199). If you’re someone who is looking for a solid light box, with mobility and ease of use as top factors, then SHOTBOX is for you.
Finished shots by Dave:
You’ve heard it before: “omigosh you have to check out this new app, it’s so cool!” So you install it, but within a week, it’s just wasting precious megabytes, sitting unused on your iPhone.
With this in mind, I was a bit skeptical about trying out Polaroid Swing; I’m already an avid Instagram/ Snapchat user and I wasn’t looking for another distraction or creative outlet to take up my time. However, after a week of trying out the app, I’ve been won over.
To call it a photo sharing app is a bit of a misnomer, because in reality what you are sharing is something like a one second GIF, which then has an added dimension of interaction to it. That added dimension is this: when you tilt your device, or swipe across the screen, you see the GIF move or come alive, in a way. It’s ideally experienced on a mobile device, but for those viewing this on a regular computer, you can swipe your cursor across the image to get the effect. Go ahead, try it on some of the examples shown in this article.
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with some of the folks behind the app, and there were several things in our conversation that stood out to me.
For one, the very birth of the idea started with a different process than most. Rather than starting with a concept, such as coming up with ‘the next Instagram’ or some similar theory, co-founders Tommy and Freds’ vision was focused on the Polaroid brand, and what it might look like were it to have continued its legacy of innovation into the modern age. The result was this app, which captures the same ‘instant’ magic of its namesake, while adding an element of hands-on interaction. In some ways, when you’re holding your device in your hand and seeing the photo move, you’re actually emulating the emotion produced when a piece of Polaroid film comes out of a physical camera and develops before your eyes. It’s like seeing a Polaroid come to life: a kind of before and after.
The second thing that I was impressed by was the preparation behind the product. As an example, they had two hundred hand-selected beta testers spend an entire year working on developing and polishing the end result. One of those people is Cole Rise, who was influential in Instagram’s beginning stages. The two guys behind the app are no slouches either. Co-founder Tommy worked for Barack Obama on his first presidential campaign, and both he and his partner Fred have extensive business experience while holding degrees from the London School of Economics. These two aren’t just a couple of friends working out of someone’s garage; they know what they’re doing.
I should probably talk a little bit about what I love about the actual app, as well. Visually, the design is sleek and extremely appealing. Each creation is meant to look like a classic Polaroid photo, with the easily recognizable white rectangular border. On my iPhone 6, the feed runs super smoothly and the image quality is amazing: it’s sometimes hard to believe that these one-second images were all created on iPhones. Enabling a high frame-per-second ability was one of the primary goals when creating the app. And for those of you who are wondering, yes, the app will soon support Android devices.
by @lola I’m also a big fan of the simplicity of the app: everything is done in-app (i.e. no uploading fancy DSLR videos), with just a handful of filters to choose from and a 48 character caption limit (make them count!). For me, the allure of this simplicity is that it really encourages me to be creative within the simple confines of capturing a moment. Photographers may be used to framing a scene in their mind’s eye, but framing a one second video scene becomes a completely different adventure.
by @molly Currently users are only able to ‘swipe’ or ‘like’ someone’s Swing, but plans to add the ability to comment will very likely roll out in the future. If there’s one thing I’d love to see more of on the app, it would be the ability to interact and be social with other users. Given the attention to detail and user input that they have demonstrated thus far, I’m confident that it’s only a matter of time before these things become part of the app. So, let me just say: omigosh you have to check out this new app, it’s so cool!
You can find Polaroid Swing on the App Store.
In Spirit and Truth: An Interview with Laura Valenti by Romina Mandrini
A couple of years ago I enrolled in a six-week online photography course that would impact me – both as a person and as an artist – in ways I never could have imagined. This workshop not only challenged a lot of the pre-conceived ideas I had about photography and art making, but was also the impetus behind a profound journey of self-discovery.
The course was Candela: Finding Inspiration Through Photography, and it was taught by Laura Valenti. Laura is a photographer, curator and educator from Portland, Oregon. She is also the Outreach Director for Photolucida, a non-profit organization that aims to build connections between photographers and the gallery and publishing worlds.
Recently, I had the pleasure of asking Laura a little more about herself, her work and her philosophy.
Image by Fritz Liedtke
As a child you lived in Asia. Tell us a bit about your cultural background and how you grew up.
I spent my first fifteen years in Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong. Because I had such a transient childhood, it took me a long time to develop a sense of place like many other people have. I didn’t have roots in any particular place. My family used to say, “Home is where the furniture is!” It wasn’t uncommon for us to wake up in the middle of the night and not remember what country we were in, or what the house around us looked like. Over time, I learned that I do have a sense of place – I just carry it with me wherever I go. This concept has made its way into my photographic work, actually. I often photograph scenes that express a sense of home, comfort, and belonging.
What attracted you to photography in particular, as opposed to other forms of art making?
I really don’t know what drew me to photography, though I’ve always had a penchant for artsy, crafty endeavours. My father had a darkroom in the basement, so I was lucky to see the magic of the process at an early age. I know I desperately wanted my parents’ camera when I was very small. I keenly remember my mother allowing me to use it one day when I was five years old, and I remember taking my very first picture. I took pictures when we were out and about in Seoul, I photographed friends at birthday parties, and I set up my stuffed animals in silly little tableaus. The camera shot square images and came equipped with exciting flashcubes. Today I still shoot square format, so you could say I’ve stayed true to my original vision.
You have a deep interest in the intersection of mindfulness and the creative practice, and your focus is very much on the process itself rather than the end product. What are some of the ways in which you apply mindfulness when you are photographing?
Mindfulness and the creative practice are interrelated in so many ways. It’s been said that mindfulness is about deepening the quality of our attention, and photography definitely does that. As a practice, photography can help us to be present. When we look around the world for interesting subjects, hone in on particular compositions, and thoughtfully set our cameras – that can all be an opportunity to slow down and practice mindfulness. Photography can be a meditation, in a way. So yes, process feels very important to me. I also like to use joy as a metric when photographing. Are your process, technique, and subject making you joyful? If so, you’re doing it right. A joyful, enriching process leads to stronger images.
How does your spiritual practice influence your work?
A lot of my images are an investigation of the idea of impermanence – a core Buddhist concept. When I recognize how fragile life is, it makes me appreciate it so much more. So, I make images to celebrate my body as it changes, to celebrate the beauty of changing light, to honor transient, transformative moments, and also to mark times when I feel particularly connected to my experience. I like images that are underpinned with depth of meaning like this.
Through my images, I’m also exploring how exquisitely beautiful, painful and joyous life can be – often all at the same time. Even awful experiences are occasions for insight and growth – and the creative process can be a cathartic way to come to terms with challenging life experiences.
One of the concepts that impacted me the most when I took your course was the idea that all photography is essentially an exploration of self. Was there a particular moment in your life when you distinctly realised this?
When I was nineteen I taught darkroom one summer to a group of “at-risk” teens through a great program called Youth In Focus. The kids photographed their home lives, and I remember seeing some pretty edgy pictures. But, the pictures were much more emotionally powerful than they would have been if they had photographed scenes they had no personal connection to.
When I curate exhibitions, I’m always most drawn to images that show the personality of the artist. I want to see artists really put themselves on the line to make their work. I want to see images that are vulnerable, open, emotional. When people make photographs that are deeply informed by their immediate life experience and emotions, they’re almost always stronger. That’s not to say that all photography should be explicitly autobiographical, but I do think images should reflect the passions and personality of each artist. Who you are matters.
Writers are often told to “write what you know”. It’s good advice for visual artists, too. We have backstage passes to our own lives, essentially. Of course, it can be scary to photograph from a place like this, but when photographers realize their photographs are less about the external world and more about their internal climate (and how they relate to the world), their work gets much more interesting.
A very good example of this, of course, is your series “The Family Home”, in which you pay homage to the house your father grew up in. Can you tell us a bit about this body of work and how it came about?
My grandfather died and his wife was preparing to sell the home. I went back, knowing it would be my last visit. It was a special place for me. I moved every couple years as a child, but visited that house almost every summer. So, it was a nostalgic, significant spot. I wanted to make images that honoured the place and my memories.
It was also a sad place, because the neighbourhood was a “cancer cluster”. Something was wrong that caused an inordinate number of people in the neighbourhood to get cancer. It affected my family too. I wanted the images to touch on the pain of loss as well as the beauty of nostalgia for home. I’m so glad I did the portfolio, since it’s my only tie now to those rich childhood memories.
As a juror and curator, you are constantly surrounded by other photographers’ images. Do you ever feel this gets in the way of your own ideas and style?
I really enjoy looking at a lot of work. It feels like a privilege to regularly be exposed to such a wide diversity of contemporary photography. It keeps me visually educated and inspired. Surprisingly, I don’t get visually overloaded, even when jurying a competition with 1000 entries. If anything, looking at a lot of work makes me feel like a stronger photographer. It gives me a better sense of what I like and don’t like, greater confidence in the direction of my work, and a fuller awareness of what is truly unique in the photo world (and what is overdone). When photographers are unaware of these things, it shows. Visual literacy is critical. Photography is like a language. We can express simple ideas with a basic grip on the syntax, and we can express more complex ideas (even poetry!) with a more fluent, nuanced understanding.
Finally, what makes a great photograph?
I care more about meaning and emotion in a photograph than about its technical perfection. I’m interested in images that really make me feel something. Technical mastery is important, of course, but if the image lacks emotional power, it just falls flat.
Most photography education focuses on the technical, and photographers are often taught that they need a lot of fancy gear and an exhaustive knowledge of post-processing programs in order to make images worth caring about. That’s just not true, and I think this prioritization of technique over vision does a disservice to photographers.
Photographers who just study technique for years and years often wind up feeling like they’ve missed some of the magic and beauty that sparked their interest in photography in the first place. Technical education can feel soulless after a point – but the arts are bursting with vibrancy and soul. So, I’m interested in opening up this conversation when I teach. I’m interested in talking to photographers about moving beyond the technical and doing the deeper work, investigating what it really means to be an artist. That’s the way to set the stage for great images.
You can find out more about Laura’s online courses and in-person retreats – as well as see more of her work – by visiting her website (www.valentiphotography.com). You can also find Laura on Fcebook and Instagram.
Last year, I went to my first Instameet and discovered an incredible experience that happens when creative people come together in one place. I drove an hour before sunrise to the #GoldenRiseMeet at Golden Valley Ranch in Santa Clarita, California. It was part of Instagram‘s World Wide Instameet which happens about twice a year. The #WWIM12 theme focused on meeting people and asked Instagram users to post a portrait of the person he/she met at the instameet. This was just one location of many Instameets that were happening in different parts around the world.
When I arrived in the parking lot, there were about 30 people already chatting in almost complete darkness. Once sunlight started to glow over the horizon, we trekked about a half-mile up the hills to take photos. These are some of the folks I met and their thoughts on this remarkable experience known as the instameet.
I met Attila. @popscure
This charismatic man did a phenomenal job of organizing and hosting the event. Just as he served coffee to the group he mixed the perfect blend of photography and community.
“When I joined Instagram I discovered that it wasn’t just about posting my pictures. I was part of this “safe” community. I realized that I could share my experiences with them. The Instameet allowed me to actually share my shooting locations with others and gather them to photograph together at sunrise #GoldenRiseMeet” ~Attila
I met Cheryl.
She was last in line on the hike up, giggling about her age and pace up the hill. I had a foot injury that kept me walking at the same pace. Cheryl didn’t hesitate to engage and share her life’s experiences through the lens as we walked up the hill.
“I don’t have an Instagram. I was invited by a co-worker to come. I got my first 35mm camera in 1978. Many times, I will do road trips alone and will drive as far as Montana. I also know of a not-so-well-known location in this part of California. Can I tell you a story about it?” ~Cheryl
I met Rafael. @2071photo
Rafael and his friends were fun to watch. These millennials made up most of the group, and brought a ton of equipment and creativity with them. The props, smoke bombs, and gear were impressive, but their energy and enthusiasm were more impressive.
“Instagram influenced me to shoot more and share more images with an audience I couldn’t imagine was possible before. When I’m not working as a photographer, I feel that Instagram is a fun way for me to still stay motivated to shoot in my free time. The #goldenrisemeet was actually my first Instameet. I thought I should meet more people who share the same interest of photography.” ~Rafael
I met Jose. @josecardoza
Jose is another creative force wrapped in “California chill” and a beard. It is always inspiring to see someone excelling with the craft he is passionate about. Turns out Jose wasn’t done that morning. He went to another instameet in another part of Los Angeles later in the day. “This is my second time at this Instameet, and I enjoy it. I’ve been shooting for 11 years. I grew up in and around L.A. and now work in the music industry.” ~Jose
I met a number of wonderful and interesting people this day that I didn’t get to interview. It was great to chat with John @jawntorres, Jonathan @mywitsend, Theresa @bluemoodz and Doris @dodovo who I featured on Instagram as a moderator for @wearegrryo. In fact, I stood next to Doris not knowing she was the actual person behind the Instagram name @dodovo. As an observer, I was amazed to experience what happens when creative people who are enthusiastic about the same craft come together.
You can also view my pictorial essay below via Steller.
jeff kelley | northampton, ma, USA
I think the last time I tried to stay up for 24 hours straight was circa 1993, during my freshman year of college. The results then were less than stellar, I ended up falling asleep in my dorm room and missing my Italian midterm. Thankfully, this time, I did a little better. I started out with a 1.5 hour nap at 10:30pm and then it was off to Northampton, Massachusetts to meet up with my friend.
‘Sup and Pup’
Our biggest hurdle was not the struggle to stay awake, but rather, one we were aware of beforehand: finding opportunities to shoot in a small town. Armed with this knowledge, I created a Google doc and tried to make a note of places that would be open, or have good light at various hours of the day. Aside from having a goal of successfully completing the project, I set a few other personal goals as well. The first was simple: to take better pictures than I had in years past.
‘Leading in the Poles’
My other two goals related to the types of pictures I wanted to try and take. I have never successfully done a “street portrait”- One in which you ask a stranger for their picture. @365ken has been a role model for this kind of photo. The other style of shot is a bit harder to describe. It involves finding creative juxtapositions or situations and catching them on film. For this type of shot, I was most influenced by @powercorruptionandlikes.
All in all, I was happy with how everything went. I pushed my photography a little further, didn’t fall asleep on the job, and had a good time. Will I do it again next year? Well as my Italian professor taught me to say, “vedremo” (“we shall see“). At least I’m assuming that’s what she taught me. I can’t actually remember any Italian whatsoever.
instagram | tumblr
24 hours of continuous photography with no sleep whatsoever, who would sign up for that? Ahem. me. Three times. What on earth was i thinking….
Like other years I left it up until the day of the event, and a few hours before, to really make up my mind on whether I was participating or not. That being said, I always seemed to get pulled in by the lure of taking part in such a fantastic worldwide event and being part of something bigger than myself. This year was no exception, and after being inspired by many talented photographer friends from all over the world in years passed, I again took part.
‘Ghosts of Piers Past’
So why do it? I guess for me after nearly 8 months of not shooting anything, this was a way to kick my butt into photography gear again. They say practice, practice, practice… is the best way. And for me, not a ‘seasoned’ street shooter – it’s definitely a challenge. I do not plan my shots or where i’ll be hour by hour, I believe theres a magic to letting moments just happen, and if they dont, well, I just move on. I wasn’t too concerned with fitting the mold of what was expected as a street shooter for my hourly posts, or sticking to a style, for me it was more about capturing a feeling using my way of seeing, whether it simply be a blur of colour, a fractured slow shutter experiment or a rush of red going by.
‘Rush by Red’
instagram | twitter
valeria cammareri | Milano, Italy
The days before March 19 I had done a list of places and locations potentially interesting in my city, and done kinds of photographic rehearsals in different moments of the day to check what I would have found in terms of situations and light. And I had more or less planned the 24 Hours itinerary to optimize travelling time both by transports and on foot. I generally edit my images in black and white: interminable edits with frequent rethinks. To simplify this aspect I decided to shoot only with my iPhone 6s, using a default Hipsta bw combo (John S lens+ AO BW film+ Standard flash), limiting the manual edit just to a few steps.
Although it was my first 24 hour project, I wasn’t particularly anxious about the unavoidable tiredness due to sleep deprivation, but rather about the need to continuously focus on people as subjects. Most of my shots are usually taken in the street and people are always present as the main subject, but I’m not confident with candid portraits and didn’t feel at ease with the idea of improvising a new style. So the most critical aspect to me was the idea to keep on documenting humanity in my own way. But after the first image of this photographic marathon, taken after some hesitation and a tension which was for me unusual, I felt it would be possible. And started to relax about the “style” issue.
‘The Common Reader ‘
The night was supposed to be the most difficult part of this marathon in terms of available subjects . That’s why I had planned, hour by hour, an itinerary . But I didn’t allow for the unexpected. Between 1 and 2 AM I had decided on a shot outside the emergency room of one of the major hospitals in town. I had imagined traffic due to ambulances and people going in and out. So you can imagine my total surprise when I didn’t find at all what I was ready to take a shot of. One of the most quiet and sane nights in town. No ambulances, no people in need of a visit. Nothing. At last I took a shot of a biker who turned out to be a nocturnal worker at the hospital. A shot apparently taken in the middle of nowhere.
This wasn’t the only unexpected situation I had to face during the marathon. For instance, I found no living soul in the 24 hour supermarket, and a military parade in the most famous square of the city, piazza Duomo, right where I had planned to shoot people idly sitting on the churchyard. There were no art watchers at the photo exhibition, and no street carts when I would have needed them. Many shots couldn’t be posted because they were taken too early or too late. But I think this need for improvisation in a bunch of minutes, after so much planning, was the cool part of the story and what still makes me satisfied with my performance. A new chapter next year, no doubt about that. So rather than echoing Jeff saying “We Shall See,” I am for ” You Will See”.
‘Make a Wish’
If you’d like to learn more about the 24 Hour Project, visit their website: 24hourproject.org
Sometime in March, thanks to my fellow Grryo team members, I had the chance to do a short course on Skillshare by Kevin Russ titled “Photo Storytelling : On the Road with Kevin Russ”. From time to time we tend to feel unmotivated in photography. We always need some motivation through people, courses, or even by looking through various talents. This short course by Kevin Russ was very interesting. He refined my perspective on taking pictures. Many times we are in a place or moment; we think or see, then decide if we want to capture it, or let the moment be. Kevin showed us through his on the road experience that the “just go shoot” spontaneous method can be a very useful tool. It reminds us of the moment we actually started shooting in the first place by just hitting the capture button and seeing results.
Working on a Rainy Day
Coffee Shop Views
After the course, I tried to keep the concept in mind by simply looking at a moment and following my heart to capture it. The results were a series of colourful moments telling their own story. We do have a tendency to click and then edit based on how we would like to portray the moment, but spontaneity is a really good way of reliving the moment. That is when I personally feel the saying ” A picture is worth a thousand words” expresses how we felt when we shot it.
Street plus Colorful Window views of Singapore
Welcome to Delhi – View of Palace
Bridge from Window
Kevin’s course went through the process of each detail moment he was experiencing; how he captured it, and later on, how he combines it all into a story. He tells us to just go for it. Even when we upload it on social media we shouldn’t put too much thought about likes, followers, but instead, just do what we feel like. That is how we showcase our work and those who are able to see our work will definitely enjoy our feed.
Gelora Bung Karno Sports Complex
The Zig Zag
The images shared here are a series of my experience and journey after doing the course. The images vary from different places like Jakarta to Singapore to New Delhi, India and back in Jakarta itself. All of them have been captured from various aspects from a driving car window, to walks, or at shops, or simply at a cafe. During my travels I was able to implement this simple concept and to date I try my best to stick to it. Using mostly Hipstamatic and sometimes using the native camera, I have edited some of them simply to portray the moments accordingly.
A cup of Coffee
Everyday we see, click and work through a variety of images trying our best to illustrate our work and keep the passion alive. Yet, we tend to stumble and lose focus. But, it shouldn’t stop us from continuously creating and making better images. Sometimes, taking a pause and just looking around, feeling the moments around us, helps to regain and regroup our minds. Photography is an art and is truly capturing with the eyes of the heart.
Andre Kertesz has beautifully defined what Photography meant to him :
“I am an amateur and intend to remain one my whole life long. I attribute to photography the task of recording the real nature of things, their interior, their life. The photographer’s art is a continuous discovery which requires patience and time. A photograph draws its beauty from the truth with which it’s marked. As soon as I find a subject which interests me, I leave it to the lens to record it truthfully. Look at the reporters and at the amateur photographer! They both have only one goal; to record a memory or a document. And that is pure photography.”
Let us shoot for the pleasure it brings to us and define those moments purely by being an amateur, yet always improving the quality of our work. Just go out there, grab your camera and take a shot!
I discovered photography around four years ago…or perhaps it is photography that found me.
It all started with some very severe sleep deprivation. Some might even say I was delirious at the time. I’d recently had my fourth baby, and to say he didn’t like to sleep is an understatement. Not. A. Wink. It was sheer torture, day after day, month after month, and it seemed endless. But it was during this bleary-eyed haziness that I felt something explode inside of me. I remember it so clearly, almost tangibly (and believe me, I do not remember much from that time). Creativity started pouring out of me, like lava from a volcano. I began painting and making collages, almost manically. Silly little works to me, as I certainly did not perceive myself as an artist. Creating something – anything – gave the sleeplessness some worthy purpose.
As a child I’d been very creative, enjoying reading, writing and painting. I longed to study fine art after high school, but my art teacher laughed at me and said I was more suited to studying psychology. I was mortified, deeply embarrassed. I’ll never forget the humiliation. How could I have got it so wrong? How could I have dared to imagine that I could be an artist? I decided to study literature at University (I took some psychology classes too – ha!). I went on to work as a children’s book editor, a job I loved. I thought I’d found my calling, helping others tell their stories, working behind the scenes.
All along, though, there were stories that I needed to tell too. On a whim during this sleep-deprived-but-creative phase, I found myself buying a used DSLR – a Canon 30D. Looking back now, I don’t really know why I did this, but I can only guess it was another effort to save myself from the sinking ship I was on. I started researching like crazy, learning everything I could about photography. I enrolled in online courses, watched tutorial after tutorial till all hours of the night. I was utterly exhausted, but at the same time completely energised by this newfound obsession. Making images – expressing myself in a visual way – made me feel alive. It was like being reunited with a long-lost friend.
Stronger Than She Looks
At first I was simply documenting our family life. I was happy just to be able to capture light, to produce an image that matched what I envisaged in my mind. But soon I began to get a niggling feeling that producing a “pretty picture” wasn’t quite enough. There had to be something more. I started reading about contemplative photography as a way of producing more meaningful images. This mindful approach really struck a chord with me and I began to put some of its techniques into practice.
Eye of the Heart
One day, about two years into my photography journey (and sleeping much better by now!), I made a startling discovery. I was browsing my Lightroom library, when it suddenly hit me. Images jumped out at me, like embers from a fire. I was shocked to see that what I was really photographing was not just my children – it was me. I could see my own childhood, my own pain, my own emotions in the images. I could see how my creativity had been buried beneath my insecurities and, dare I say it, shame. At first this revelation was somewhat disturbing. It was a bit like being given a new pair of glasses, looking in the mirror and suddenly seeing all the ugly imperfections that you never knew were there. I remember at one point thinking I might not be able to pick up a camera again – it was too painful to face myself in that way. I could hear that old storyline echoing in my mind – “you’re not cut out for this”. But despite myself, I started feeling incredible healing taking place.
Since that moment, I’ve looked at photography in a completely different way. I’ve stopped striving to “take” good photos; rather I feel excited to see what images I will be given. My images have taken on a new meaning. They continue to tell me stories about myself, revealing secrets I didn’t even know I was keeping. Often it’s in the little in-between moments, in the photos I would otherwise reject as “mistakes”. Other times it’s in the gems. Furthermore, an image may reveal something to me today, and months later it may reveal something new. It’s almost as if each image has an endless number of stories in it.
Playing With Light
These days I photograph with a Canon 5D and an iPhone 6. Since joining Instagram a few months ago, I have been moved and inspired to find a whole community of people courageously sharing their stories with me. In the process, I have been encouraged to learn that others find meaning in my images too. This has been a most rewarding and humbling experience.
Escape from the Cage
Dorothea Lange once said, “A photographer’s files are, in a sense, his autobiography”, and I don’t think she was necessarily referring to documentary photography, which was her genre. I think there are stories being revealed in all photographers’ work. I encourage you to look more closely at yours. You never know what secrets you will find.
You can see more of Romina’s work on Instagram and Flickr.