Tall Tales with The Backspaces App by Anna Cox
“Who knows where thoughts come from, they just appear” – Empire Records
Since coming back to IG after a long break during my pregnancy I haven’t felt the same sense of community. I thought perhaps I had changed but I began to see that the community had been degraded by the influx of stars, kids, and reposters. Understand I’m not hating on any of those groups they just changed the face of IG. Then the mass exodus occurred over the ToS a couple weeks back and now it feels like a ghost town. I’ve been exploring other apps but none had captured my attention like IG did. They are just variations on the same theme. A few days ago a friend of mine, @monoccur, pointed me to Backspaces and I took an instant liking to it. The basic premise of the app is to share stories, not just a single picture. Which, if you know me, you know I am totally down for sharing a story. In fact, most of the Juxters fall in this category. So wasting no time, I contacted the developers over at Backspaces for a chat. I am pleased to report that they are a great set of fellas with the determination to build something awesome and lasting. And the best part? They are community minded, which is at the heart of mobile photography.
The three fellas behind backspaces are New York based Adrian Sanders (@sandersAK) who manages the business end of things, and the developers Wylie Conlon (@wylie) and Dmitri Cherniak (@dlc). What originally started as a way for Dmitri to share photos from his walks around NYC with his family ended up being the seed idea for what is now Backspaces. Dmitri started building the app in May and brought Wylie in for the front-end work in August. In the beginning, they created it as a tool to share multiple photos at once bypassing the “feed bomb” that would happen on platforms like IG or tadaa but as stories where uploaded their thinking changed. In Adrain’s words, the app went “from tool to typewriter“. Not only could people share their photos but could use Backspaces as a platform to share their thoughts, emotions, or stories. What I love the most about the app is the subtle shift in thinking. The photos are important, yes, but so are the thoughts behind them and the users are there to read! There is none of the pressure to keep captions short so they will actually be perused. The users on Backspaces want to read stories- that is why they downloaded it. That, in and of itself, makes me giddy as a school girl. I won’t lie, there are some bathroom duck faces and boys in their boxers being uploaded but if you want to avoid all of that ignore the recent upload tab. I stick to tag searching, the featured tab, and looking through what my friends have liked to find new artists. In a perfect world, duck faces and bathroom shots would have their own app, but alas we don’t live in Perfect.
In the past few months, Backspaces has seen a gigantic jump in users and has risen in the ranks in the app store. It has been listed in the New and Noteworthy section also. Recently, two big name tattoo artists started using Backspaces and word spread through the tattoo community like wildfire. Overnight, the number of users jumped exponentially. When you get on the app you will notice a huge community of tattoers. At first, I was a bit daunted but then realized they are just some of the more active users. Adrian hopes to build more of these micro communities within Backspaces, so everyone will have a “home” within the app.
Then the Mass IG Exodus of 2012 happened and the number of users shot up to 50,000. The fellas have been working almost around the clock to keep up with all the new traffic. All three developers are very active on the site and I have yet to see a story that at least one of them hasn’t liked or commented on. Communicating with them is also really easy and can be done in app or by email.
In light of the recent IG fiasco I thought perhaps it would be wise to pursue the current Backspaces ToS. Taken from : Backspaces: Use of Your Content
- Backspaces will never use, modify, delete, add to, publicly perform, publicly display reproduce or translate any of your Private Content. “Private Content” shall mean any Content that you mark as “private” when uploading such Content on or through the Backspaces Services.
- Backspaces may use, modify, delete, add to, publicly perform, publicly display reproduce or translate any of your Public Content on the Site or Services, including without limitation distributing part or all of the Site or Services in any media formats through any media channels. Our primary purpose for the above uses of your Public Content is to promote it. Nine times out of ten, we will be using your Public Content in the above manner because we are stoked about your awesome story.
- Backspaces will never enter into an agreement with a third party through which it will directly profit from the above uses of your Public Content through advertising sales, marketing sales or any other method of sub-licensing, redistribution or similar means, WITHOUT YOUR EXPLICIT PRIOR WRITTEN PERMISSION. Backspaces promises to always allow you the opportunity to first opt-out from such uses of your Public Content.
In Adrian’s words, Generally speaking what we tell people is that there is definitely a way to build a sustainable, strong business without screwing content creators. Great publications (Nat Geo, NY Times) and platforms (YouTube) have found a way to monetize while building value for their creators. We believe that you can build a great big platform and have everyone win. We don’t have all the answers yet but we’re committed to creating the solution with help from the community.
The app itself is easy to navigate and the developers are working every day to make it more user friendly. Since interviewing them privacy settings, the ability to curate, and auto complete for screen name have all been added. The interface is being refined with every update and the developers are listening to the users!
Features like an in-app camera, hashtag searching and filters are already in place and are easy to navigate. Posting your first story is as easy as choosing photos and writing text. There is even a preview feature so you can see what the finished product will look like and go back and edit. Once you have published you have the ability to go back and edit your stories. The only drawbacks I see to the stories right now are the comment boxes and photo cropping. I know the guys are working on the cropping issue and I have also seen stories where you just turn your phone landscape to view without cropping. As for the text boxes, the artsits on Backspaces are using text apps and creating all sorts of great text options like this one from @fabsgrassi.
One of my favorite features of Backspaces is the website. The website enables you to send the link to the story to whomever you chose then they can then use the link to view your story. Adrian explianed the difference between the app and website to me saying, one thing to note is that right now if you login to Backspaces via web: http://backspac.es you can browse stories, like, comment and search for hashtags, but you can’t create stories. We’re keeping that in app only for the time being. And if you just want to share a story privately, make your story private then send the link to whomever you choose and they can view it without everyone being able to see it.
Overall, this baby app has gigantic potential and the developers are working hard to make it a dynamic place for users no matter what they are sharing. I am really looking forward to seeing how this app grows in the next few months. Will Backspaces grow as large as IG? Perhaps not. But in Adrian’s words “50,000 people sharing stories and 100,000 reading them is pretty awesome.” I tend to agree.
If you would like to see some Backspaces stories from some amazing mobile photographers (there are so many more and counting) check out:
Violet Rothko for gorgeous railway photos and histories: Photographer, Mother, Boxcar chaser, Music fanatic, Art fiend…Former Photo Lab Rat…these are my photos, respect my copyright.
Azulbandit for breathtaking landscape stories: The Sun, the Moon, the Stars and a place to watch the Clouds drift by… welcome to My Corner of the Universe in northern California
Marie stretchinghope for moving poetry: I shoot. I write. Never always in that order. // I’m not sure what I’m doing here.
Damien Giard for amazing street from Montreal: Mostly Montreal
thebrightdark for more street but from Portland, OR: There’s not enough light to get rid of all the dark. So they must co-exist.
Maria Muzbanger for amazing mobile artistry: N o M a t t e r Y o u r I n t e r p r e t a t i o n. I T ‘ S A L L A R T .
Susan Myers for amazing travel artistry: A traveling naturalist with a camera
Some Mobile Photo Group Members:
Misho / Olly
Some Tiny Collective Members:
Crispin / Elif / Dan / Cecile / Dopez / Wes / Unai
There are also some Juxters on Backspaces:
Mike H / Jo / BP / Anna / Fabs / Rebecca / Christina / Jen B / Graham / Jen LP / Rachel / Nicholas / David N / Fletch / Sam /
Thanks to the Backspace Boys for allowing us an all access pass to the story behind Backspaces. It was great getting to know you all and I look forward to more stories!
The Oblivious Tourist: An Essay by Erikå
Have you ever really taken the time to observed the local people around you when you take your vacations?
Some of us save so long to take the journey of a life time. Others have the luxury of making frequent vacations .
We get to our destination. We are so in the moment that sometimes we never take a moment to observe the people who live there .
Welcome to the Bran Castle and the people who try to survive as the oblivious tourist walks past them each day, never noticing them, never understanding what they go through each day
|| Doamna de brânza ||
Each day I walked past her she sat in the same place selling the same items; the homemade cheese she made herself. She was there before the dawn and would leave right before dusk. She always had a smile upon her face, but her stack of cheese never got any smaller…
|| Nelinistit ||
When you walked to the west of the lady in my previous post; you would see this man. He too was selling homemade cheese, but never sat still. Always pacing back and forth in front of his tiny unstable table. He always seemed so nervous. I only saw him two of the three days I visited.
|| Domnu Sociala ||
With his tiny traditional hat upon his head, this man was in the better area to sell items to the tourists. He would sit and chat with his friend for hours and make sells in between. Each time I walked past him he had a smile upon his face as he looked at me sneaking in an unspecting photo…
|| Porc Pielii ||
His eyes were as blue as the sky on a summers day. His traditional hat positioned perfectly upon his head. He was the busiest of all the vendors. As I walked up to see why everyone was at his stand, he was the only one selling pig skin and pig ears to eat! Popular treat for the locals and inquisitive tourists placing dares to try it….
|| Mici ||
Getting to the center of the plaza, I ran into this pair cooking mici. The aroma of the traditional treat filled the street and with that smell brought the Hungary tourists and locals a by the dozen. The entire 12 hours, I never seen them stop…
|| Bucătar ||
The line was long and the smell of the mici were intoxicating. Everyone was talking about the tasty lil treats as they stood in line. One by one, this man was handed a metal tray full of the lil mici ready to be grilled. He would take great care as he placed them on the grill. A quick hip shot and days later I seen this photo
His eyes told a very deep story….
|| Doamna de la Flaut ||
The closer you get to the actual castle, you see the people selling traditional Romania keepsakes. This lady was selling hand carved flutes and other instruments. All were displayed perfectly for those who were visiting in hopes they would buy.
She played her traditional songs and you could see her countries pride beaming in her has she played….
|| Tristete ||
This man always looked as if he suffered so much pain. He was selling cheese on the outer perimeter of the castle. I remember the tourists with their cameras passing him by one by one. None even noticed him sitting there asking for people to buy his creations. His Romanian sang pass their empty ears…
|| Steaua ||
I had the opportunity to speak to this lady after two days of passing her. She would sit in this place with a single jar of jam she made herself. When I spoke to her she would smile. What a vault of history that was stored in her. She was 95 years old. She was healthy. She was the star that shined through the heart of this small tourist town…
|| Femeie de flori ||
She never smiled, only followed for a short distance asking in her native tongue if we would buy. The flowers never left this position. Her large basket that held tiny baskets of berries were decorated with leaves. The berries were all hand picked. She never took a break. Like the many others around her, she was there from dawn to dusk hoping someone would buy something…
Next time you venture off on a vacation, whether it be something close or afar, take note of the people around you who rely on you to visit….
#wearejuxt @wearejuxt @annacox .
I’d like to extend my thanks to all of you who were supportive! I greatly appreciate it and very happy you enjoyed the series.
A special thanks to Anna Cox for inspiring my to get of me arse and write something with these photos! – Erikå
Art Critique and Community by Anna Cox and Tony Marquez
Art critique and criticism is an academic practice to promote growth of an artist. As we discussed here , criticism can take many forms but the facet we are interested in is the side that pushes us positively as artists. In 2013, we want to begin to build a forum that allows artists the freedom and opportunity to have their work critiqued. We are carefully planning how we should go about this to make it a worthwhile, healthy avenue for artists to get feedback on their work. The purpose of critique is to allow the artist a “safe” place where they can receive a honest look at their work. Respect for the artist and the work is understood before the critique even begins. Respect is something that has to be maintained for this kind of feature to work for the community.
Tony and I are planning a monthly multi genre critique forum but we cannot do this without community involvement. We are not only looking for photos for the critique but also for people who would like to be a part of a panel that discusses the submitted photos.
What we want to convey to the mobile community most is that critique and criticism isn’t a negative practice. It is simply an open and honest conversation about a work of art.
A critique of the work will touch on many different aspects. Critique is an objective practice. Meaning it is based on fact, not the viewer’s opinion. For these critiques we will be using a classic step by step breakdown: Description, Analysis, Interpretation, Judgment
A Description could contain to the answers to the following questions:
What do you see when you look at the photograph?
What is the context?
Are there situational elements that provide clues?
What is the title? Does that provide a deeper meaning?
An analysis could address:
Use of value
The interpretation will use the information gathered from the first two steps to asses the message and emotion the photograph gives us as the viewer.
The judgement sounds scary but it isn’t. It is simply looking back at all the questions answered about a work to determine whether what the photographer was saying came through clearly. Was the work successful? Did the photographer utilize every thing they possibly could to make their work have more of an impact? If not, what could they have done differently?
We would like to have critiques in the following genres: minimalism, portraits, street, landscape, mobile artistry, architecture, and still life. We are also looking for people who shoot within these genres to be part of the panels that critique submitted photographs.
If you would like to be a part of this project send us an email to email@example.com
Do you have some ideas in how we can make this successful? Send us your ideas also! We want this to be a community project.
First genre will be architecture and will be posted next month. If you have photos you would like critiqued send them to the email address above.
See you there!
Grab a seat. Let’s chat.
Recently, BP tweeted an article written by Joshua Dunlop about how Hipstamatic, Instagram and filters were ruining photography. While I agreed with the majority of the statements made, it got me thinking about why I write what I do for Juxt. I thought I would take the first school house of 2013 to talk about why I feel strongly about composition and why I think it is important if mobile photography is going to be taken seriously by the art world. We all want to take better photos right? Better photos start with strong compositions. Strong composition comes from knowing how to shoot a scene dynamically. Whether that means using the rule of thirds, utilizing dramatic light, or taking advantage of texture they all lead to stronger compositions. Make no mistake, filters can’t hide poor placement, lighting, or slanted picture planes, we know that, yet sometimes we try anyway. Our goal in the one screen school house is to make the original photo as strong as it can be and only relying on editing for fine tuning.
Do I think that sharing platforms are killing photography? No. If it is doing anything, it is bringing art to the masses and making it more accessible. Now granted much of the time the masses are a tad lazy when it comes to traditional photography methods and I can see why that would rub some artists the wrong way. But those that are lazy wouldn’t necessarily say they are photographers. In my mind, there are a few different sets of people sharing photographs across social platforms. There are those that use actual cameras and smart phones to capture photographs in a meaningful way and with intent and those that use cameras and smart phones without intent. The ones in the latter category are sharing to share, not to hone their craft and can be removed from the argument altogether. Then it comes down to traditional camera users and those that shoot mobile and the ever present argument of whether smart phone users can be photographers. In the traditional sense of photography, no I don’t think we can. But then in the traditional sense, digital cameras cannot be placed in that category either. That is the beauty of art, you see. It is always changing, expanding, and folding back on itself. That’s what makes it so interesting. Art is always redefining it’s borders. We are all innately creative whether it be painting, photography, or pottery. We all have a niche somewhere in the vast world of art and there is more than enough room for all of us. Why would any one want to put a cap on creativity? To say, yes you can create because I am comfortable with your medium but no, you over there, you can’t because I don’t approve of the size brush you are using. What sense does that make? Creativity is creativity is creativity. Mobile photography is new, a baby even, in the art world and yes we are still finding our footing but that doesn’t make us any less creative or our craft any less sound.
But. I digress. It happens. I don’t sleep much these days.
Back to the masses I spoke about earlier.
There are plenty of people using smart phones to document their lives in a meaningful way that have never gone to art school or cracked a photography book. But they love it and guess what? They are good at it. They have what you would call “an eye” for photography. The school house enables them to have the language to speak about their art and other’s work in a way they couldn’t before. When they are out shooting they can recognize leading lines or negative space and utilize those within their photograph. They are creating relevant, dynamic work and can use what they have learned to improve upon their craft even more.
More than anything, I want to arm this beautiful body of artists with the tools and the language to speak about and be confident in their work.
In 2013, I want to see more mobile shows and I want to hear more people say “oh wow, you took that on your phone?” I want us to take pride in our craft and grow it.
That’s not too much to ask, is it?
I write today broken hearted. Over the past few weeks I have tried to sit down and write. Purge myself of the heartache, share it, own it, but have ended up wearing it like a shroud. I have pulled the sadness down over my eyes, hoping to blot out my heart that threatens to pull apart at the seams. So many of those that I love are broken in body or spirit or have left me altogether. I’ve written of onions and storms, chains and bridges but I can’t seem to find the words for this raw place deep in me. I have craved a cathartic moment to move me out of this position of writhing. An idea, something to focus on, to roll over in my mind and stroke to life with words. The need to forget my heart and the pain that builds daily has me trapped like a bird beating its wings against a cage. I’ve tried to lock it down, push it away. I know rationally that because I love I also hurt, that the openness of truly caring can also bring deep despair. But I find pain leaves me in a place that doesn’t obey rationality. – Locked Up
The act of grieving is a whole body endeavor. It affects everything you touch, every move you make. I had been searching for catharsis, a way to work through my pain. As always, creativity brought me to a place where I could idle and experience what was needed. C.S. Lewis said, No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.
Grief is visceral, tangible.
With every shutter click, I unpacked a bit more of my grief and left it. My heart is by no means at rest but I am to a place where I can celebrate those around me instead of mourning the losses.
So the conversation went a little something like this :
A: So I wanna talk to you about doing an Interview for Juxt.
G : You want me to interview you?
A : No silly, I want to interview YOU!
G : Seriously, me?
A : Yes! I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before.
G : ….. huh ?!!…..Okay, deep breaths… **hyperventilates*… I’m not used to all this attention, I’m flattered, but can’t believe I’m here amongst well – insert seriously long list of talented individuals here – so many people who inspire me daily…
A: Anna G: Giulia
A: The above image is one of my all time top ten favorites I’ve seen on IG. There is something pitiful but proud about him. We have nicknamed him smexy and all I want to do is feed him soup.
Music playing in the background : Radiohead – All I Need, Jeff Buckley – Halleluiah , Massive Attack – Paradise Circus, Sia – Breathe Me, The Doors – Riders on the Storm, Jimi Hendrix – Stairway to Heaven, PJ-Harvey/Thom Yorke – This Mess We’re In, Stevie Wonder – Superstition, The White Stripes -Seven Nation Army
A: Tell me a little about you in real life. The real deal Hollifield. Giulia in living color.
G: G in Real Life … so you mean I’m not going to wake up & realise this is all just a dream? *pinch me* Well okay then let’s go right ahead and shatter all those who preconceptions about me being so “mysterious” why don’t we?!
A: I adore you! Maybe you are technicolor.
G: Let’s start off with location, people sometimes assume I’m from Europe (or Mars) – must be that Italian name of mine or my weird sleeping patterns – one or the other – but i’m actually based in Melbourne, Australia. My background though is Italian, both my parents were born there… I actually did some schooling there when i was about 10 – so can speak/read it fairly fluently – I also learned Japanese in high school – which i can’t speak at all fluently – & helped me zero amount when i visited Japan a couple of years ago. I have family all over the globe from Germany to Canada / New York / South America… & I like to travel.
A: Let’s talk moola. How do you make yours?
G: What do I do for a living? I am a Graphic Designer by day – albeit one with photographic & artistic tendencies at night. Do I consider myself a Photographer? No, but I’m learning & loving it & it has been a passion of mine since I first picked up my dad’s Minolta back when i was around 5 or 6 – I remember playing around with it in our backyard on the steps & in the garden (I was so curious about it so eventually he let me play – though i was so careful with it it seemed like some kinda mystical object – so heavy in my little hands – & even then I liked to zoom in on the details with the closeup lens). Its funny how vivid that memory is for me, feels like yesterday. There was always a camera around at every occasion, along with cake , either his SLR or video – I wish he’d kept his super8 camera, though there’s still reels of film from even older cameras somewhere gathering dust & fraying with time. I was devastated when his slr was stolen from my car when i was still at uni – it’s safe to say I had adopted that camera as my own. & it was the day before my folio was due. I was in complete shock – my lecturer told me to “go home, have a scotch & take a bath” – & he gave me an extension for my folio. & well … I haven’t really used film since.
Me? To sum up – I guess I see the beauty in everyday things. I like to capture it any way I can… I love the details. & my eyes are always open ready to take in any moment.
A: What’s a typical day look like for you? I know you LOVE getting up early. You always get the worm don’t you?
G: A typical day involves me groaning at the clock & rolling over not wanting to get up in the morning. Once I stumble out of bed I am barely functional before 12 pm. I usually start the day with by checking my instagram feed (yes i’ve been an addict ever since I first started on there around March 2011), & me easing my head around the idea that I’m awake by answering any personal or work emails that are waiting for me….
I’m lucky enough to work for myself now. My first real client when I graduated was a trial run – a dream really, working on a concept for a momento for a private collection of Japanese art – (I don’t know where those kind of jobs have disappeared to now!) She hired me after that. I worked there for awhile until she moved on to Film & closed the design business. I took off overseas for awhile & travelled. When I got back I fell into working in-house in a more corporate/retail environment – I became bored with that after rebranding & creating new identities/packaging/signage/websites for the various brands they’d acquired. So a few years went by & I began working at night gathering a handful of clients to start out with until i branched out on my own freelancing full-time in design. I have done a range of things, the usual logo & stationery / branding / packaging / ads / & have been involved in a few fitouts for buildings which is a challenge I enjoy working at a large scale & dealing with type & space & a free reign on concepts.
Currently I rent a space with some other creatives (an illustrator, printmaker, & photographer), in a beautiful old building which has some great exposed brick surfaces & arches & wonderful character mixed with some modern finishings. I love the flexibility & usually have Wednesday free for my own thing which I like to spend eating at the latest cafe on my list followed by hunting through thrift stores for vintage or retro packagingand clothes. I love Japanese books with exposed binding & pages of calligraphy, and fabrics & papers with distressed or deckled edges make me swoon…
A: If you could shoot anything what would it be? And don’t give me one of those crazy unspecific answers.
G: Hmmm I think I just know it when I see it.
A: Really G?
G: I’m impossible to walk with. I’m always running off down some laneway, or up some side street, ducking into old buildings, sneakily taking photos while I think no one is watching, trespassing on abandoned properties due for demolition – shhhh don’t tell, generally speaking I’m chasing the light often with no regard for my personal safety (um hello nearly setting foot into oncoming traffic, & um junkies in dodgy rundown places). Honestly I’m not sure my ‘real world’ friends really get it most of the time! They are usually scratching their head thinking what the hell is she photographing now? I gravitate towards textures & abstract shadows. Old posters, paper, type, tactile things with soul, anything calligraphic, graffiti, rusted locks, broken glass, discarded rubbish,things that look like they’ve been worn & weathered by time, but have been fascinated by expressions on faces lately. People watching is fascinating, it’s fun to make up stories to their lives just by observing. There’s nothing like that moment of realisation when you’ve “got it” that shot, & you can call it a day. I find myself going out whenever I have the spare time looking for the next perfectly imperfect moment. I’ve often wondered what it would be like becoming a food stylist, combining my love of food AND photography but I like doing that as a hobby for now – documenting my every meal. lol but there’s a food blog or recipe book in there somewhere I know it! Theres a few countries on my wishlist to go visit that i would need a limitless roll for… the mosques & shadows of Turkey/Spain are probably high on my architectural wishlist though. Though I’ve been to Spain it was more of a sightseeing visit than a photographic journey – I’d be armed with an iphone this time around. & give me an abandoned space any day of the week & I will come running, anywhere, anytime.
A:What inspires you? Other than me, lava cupcakes, and scones? Just kidding.. *puts on serious face* okay. Really, what moves you?
G: In terms of inspiration, it can come from anywhere at any given moment, if I’m feeling receptive I’m like a sponge soaking up everything in my environment. If i’m feeling uninspired or down I’ll often break out the ink, this tends to free me up creatively & is a kind of visual therapy. I’ve never considered myself “good at drawing” in fact I have always thought I was terrible at it. It wasn’t until my drawing teacher suggested I try ink, that I had that moment where I felt it somehow translated something I was feeling in a raw, emotive, way. In terms of artists, there are too many to mention them all but some which immediately come to mind given my fascination with ink, colour, and shape are : Twombly, Pollock, Franz Klein, Richter, Kiefer, John Cage, Miro, Kandinsky, Picasso, Rothko, Fornasetti, Serra. Photographers : I feel like I’m still learning about but a few which resonate with me : Mario Giacomelli & Siskind also Man Ray, Kertesz & Blossfeldt. I think Japanese & islamic calligraphy is the most beautiful thing with letters falling like rain on a page. Retro type from old magazines, old woodblock letters, handwriting, old postcards, woodblock prints from masters like Hokusai. & absolutely any words from the poet Pablo Neruda – they’re exquisite – I often quote them in my photographs & sometimes lyrics from songs.
A: First, can I just say I love your artist picks up there- Miro, Klein, Rothko *sigh* Anyway, next question. How has having a camera that’s a sometimes phone changed the way you look at things?
G: Not sure if how I see things has actually changed, but the method of documenting it certainly has. If someone could build me a darkroom in my house I would probably be eternally grateful. In the end I don’t think it matters how you take the picture but the fact that you do take the picture, noticing those details that a hundred or a thousand people walk right by is the first step. Turning it sideways & thinking how else can I view or perceive the situation fascinates me. Though I think I’m more keenly aware of my need to visualise emotions or interpret them through images NOW, & am drawn to pictures that have a soul – like someone breathed life into them & left behind only the traces. I feel, in a way, more receptive to the world around me, perhaps more acutely aware, though I’d say my graphic background has played a part in the way I see & “frame” things, only now I have a more immediate way to capture & share it with others. I also adore a bit of ambiguity in a story, engaging the viewer & leaving them often with more questions than answers. It’s all too easy otherwise. Point. Shoot. Perceive. What’s the point?
A: If you had to categorize your self were would you land artistically? I know you hate this question but I think your talent is multi-faceted. So you are totally allowed to circle D- all of the above
G: I really struggled to answer this question. I even asked some other people. For one thing, i hate talking about myself. I’d much rather listen to someone else tell me their stories than carry on about myself. I’m more than likely to launch into self-deprecating sarcasm than to spout endless adjectives about my own personal graphic style – I’d much rather talk about yours instead. Truth is, I don’t want to put myself in a box. Going through my photos I realised that, there is no singular theme… sure there are links, a love for light & shadows – dark & bright, black and white. Then there are sparks of colour, like splashes of ink, red is dotted through my photos in one way or another like little drops of emotion, & calligraphy weaves in and out through the urban graffiti. There is definitely the more abstract me,which i tend to fall back on by default – illustrated best in my book Whispers, & the street G,who has been emerging more slowly, and inquisitively recently. Honestly, shooting people scared me to death before, its much ‘easier’ doing textures.Choosing a couple of images to represent me was near impossible, since I don’t think I’ve taken my best shot yet, and, since there is no singular ‘style’ but a range of them. All linked by a common thread & a common voice – mine.
A: G you are more than fantastic. I have so enjoyed our late night/early morning chats when one of us is half asleep. If I had a lava cupcake I would go halfsies with you. Thanks for chatting me up.
I trust you egged some houses over the weekend like the rowdy students I know you are 🙂 The highlights for the #juxtschoolhouse tag have gotten more and more fantastic. So much so we are moving the hughlights to their own post on the weekend. I can’t wait for you to see what they have come up with this time!
This week I am going to give you an actual assignment! So get out your assignment books. Your assignment is a photographic essay. Now before you totally panic you can make this as easy or as hard as you want. And you already do this all the time, you just didn’t realize it. First, lets define photographic essay, shall we?
A photographic essay is a grouping of at least 5 photos that details an event, a person, or an idea. It can be intended to evoke emotion or range of emotions. It can be purely photographic, can contain captions, or an entire story to accompany the photos. Have you seen the life of Chloe? It’s written by my dear Ale and is a great example of photos with stories. Or you can check out BP’s story on the lucha libres for a more autobiographical essay. Another one of our Juxters, Craig, creates whimsical and dark narratives around his images.
There are two types of essays- the thematic and the narrative. A narrative essay tells a story through a sequence of events. A narritive can chronical a specific event like a birth or a festival. A thematic essay is centered around one main theme and all the images pertain to that specific theme. Think of your shots as paragrpahs in a story. What photo is strongest? Which photo evokes the most emotion? What are your “supporting” photos that fill out your essay? What idea do you want the viewer to walk away with?
Once you have settled on a type of essay it is important to have a few key components to round out your essay.
- Strong images
- A clear theme or story line
- Variety of perspectives within the choosen photos
So I set out to do this as a challenge to myself. I began brain storming a topic that I could shoot easily. My 8 month old doesn’t let me get out much to shoot so I had to make it count when I got to go. I found that a broad topic like “small towns” wasn’t challenging enough. So I kept whittling away at my idea. Recently, I visited a town called Winchester to shoot the downtown area. It’s a small central KY town and while I was walking around I was amazed at how dilapidated it was. All of the buildings seem to have been built around the same time and only a few have been updated. Many of the buildings felt like tenements with boarded up windows in one place and curtains hanging in another. The shops varied from fancy coffee shops and nice hardware stores to empty facades and junk shops. Of all the buildings in the 5 block radius only the courthouse looked new. The first time I shot there I did it in broad strokes to get a better feel for the area. The second time I went back I shot with a more focused intent. My essay is by no means finished but I will share a few shots here so you can get a visual on what I saw. Through my trip to Winchester and my love for the forgotten, I hit upon a topic that spoke to me. Beauty in decay. And more specifically, decay in the small towns that surround me. My essay has turned into a labor of love.
I have a deep love for Kentucky and all it’s small nooks and crannies.
So back to your essay. Start with an idea. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it can simply be shots from your day or all the shoes of your coworkers. Or you can create photographs or art around an emotion whether that’s joy or loneliness. Start broad and work your way down to a topic that suits you. The only requirement is that your essay communicates an idea or story.Because this is a large assignment I’m giving you until the first of January to finish. Plenty of time to pick a style of essay, choose a topic, and get to shooting. I am excited to see how you challenge yourself with this essay.
Gathering Our Thoughts with Collective Comprehension by Anna C.
What I love about Juxt is our ability not only to create visual images but then marry our images with stories, lessons, or emotions.
We bare our hearts daily to anyone willing to take a few moments to sit down with us. We shoot and we write, we share and we try to put into words the emotion that sits behind the lens. And I can tell you, as the emotional trainwreck that is me, it isn’t always easy to find that one elusive phrase that fits exactly. I write and shoot to loosen the knots, to shake free from the tension bound between my shoulders. What I am finding more and more is that even if I didn’t know it when I shot that building, barn, or forgotten item they all demostrate my state of being. A shot may be good composotionally but the narrative that accompanies it is what makes it great.
Enter Collective Comprehension @collectivecomprehension stage left. Collective Comprehension is the marriage of art and words that I mentioned earlier. A work is posted, choosen from the #collectivecomprehension gallery, and the all of IG is invited to write a caption. This caption can take any form, whether it be a story, a poem, or just a single thought. This growing community is bursting at the seams with creativity.
The brains behind the Collective Comprehension are Renee Mair (@this_cool_chick) and Danielle Maragos (@tickledpink509). When asked how CC got started Danielle explained,
Collective Comprehension was born by an idea and the combining of two creative souls, I handle daily postings that both Renee and I agree on, as well as our tumblr page which we just started forming our Wednesday Writers Q&A to get to know our writers better. Both Renee and I are kindred spirits and by uniting we’ve made this bigger than we ever imagined. CC is all about self expression and interpretation it’s lovely to see our loyal followers and their creative minds. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not in awe of the writing that goes on!! I will say that not only is Renee my partner but a true friend, we mesh well which has made the success of CC so positive. I’m just happy to be apart of something so extraordinary!!
Renee’s personal stream is a cacophony of color and form with a air of the fantastic. Renee describes her work as images that are shocking, extremely colorful sometimes sexy but hopefully – always thought provoking. Mixed throughout my work are cartoon pop art and vibrant images with a message.
Danielle is a self described painter and enjoys the freedom of creativity that mobile art affords her. Outside of Instagram I’m a avid painter and a huge fan of abstract painting, I’m no pro total armature but editing on IG has given me a outlet to express my love of abstract through technology. I also play the violin and I’m a huge fan of many French composers!
I asked the ladies about the process of Collective Comprehension and they explained the nuts and bolts to me.
One of us selects a pic from the #collectivecomprehension tag and then we post it (a new one daily). We then simply invite whoever is inspired to write anything that the image provokes in the comments section. We try to use all different types of images. We give one highlight and 3 honorable mentions daily.
I read through some of the comments and the creativity astounded me.
Edit by @vintagesoul81
Her screams teared at the glass. She writhed and scratched like a cat trapped in a hot house. It held. Her outburst literally scorched her wing tips. She slumped over, dejected, trapped to avoid filament. She focused on forming a storm of sand, swirling it into a fist. Somewhere outside a women cursed all jinns as an unexpected gust threatened to steal her scarf- too weak by @dezadie
Edit by @level80
Red soles/Empty souls/Fiercely walking on the edge of life/Both day and night to be precise/”Perfection” the dream destination/Nevermind my imperfections revealed in my reflections/a desperate need to be in season/Trust me I have many reasons/Vanity, popularity, sanity?/Since it’s up to me to define reality/I asked myself finally/Do I fail to save my sanity?/Or walk on for vanity insanity. By @thebeautyofwriting
The above posts are just a small taste of the beauty of Collective Comprehension. Artists coming together to share photographs and thoughts. If you would like to join in the experience please feel free to join in-the comments section is always open.
Below you will find more from the #collectivecomprehension gallery:
[instapress tag=”collectivecomprehension” piccount=”20″ size=”90″ effect=”fancybox”]
Class Review. (Click to see all of the School House lessons)
Well class we have reached the end of the elements of design. I know at times they seem rote but they are integral to solid composition. Last time we finished talking about texture and what it lends to our photos. Here are some examples from our #juxtschoolhouse tag.
Photo by @senor_p
I adore the vivid peeling colors against the rusty padlock in the above photo. I want to run my fingers across the rust stains. You really get the feeling of age and use with
Photo by David @painterdave
How fantastic is the bark intertwined with the fence? There is so much to love about this photo by @painterdave.
So this week we journey on through the elements to perspective.
Perspective in a photograph tells the eye about the depth of the scene. How the photographer uses the elements within the photo will either give the viewer some insight or will allow the depth and scale to remian a mystery. These markers help us decide what we are looking at and from what depth. Shooting with an iPhone to show depth can sometimes be tricky becuase of the lack of aperatures. In effect, it can flatten or distort the space between you and the background.
There are three basic points of view: birds eye, worms eye and at eye level. All of these views have to do with our horizon line and where we are in relation to it.
We have all seen the shots of sky scrapers where the angle is straight up the side of the building. This exaggerates an already steep rise. It gives the viewer a sense of smallness when gazing up at a tall building. This is worm’s eye view. This view encompasses anything below eye level or from an inferior position. It is up to the shooter how far beneath eye level they want to shoot. This view doesn’t always work and depends solely on the subject but it can make a more dynamic composition when done correctly. Don’t be afraid to get low to the ground and change your angle from time to time.
Bird’s eye view is anything above eye level and, and like worm’s eye view, the angle is left to the shooter to play with. Just because it is called bird’s eye view doesn’t mean you have to take ariel photos it just means get a little bit higher than normal.
Changing your perspective can bring new flavor to your work. Try it out see if a new perspective works for you.
There are a few different ways to clue your viewer in to how large the space is in your photos. One easy way is showing size. We learn at an early age that when something is further away it looks smaller. For instance, if you place two people in a hallway one at the end and one close to you the one farther away will seem smaller eventhough their size is similar.
The sharpness of an object’s edges can also denote depth. Subjects in the foreground will be sharper than subjects in the background. Another option is to overlap objects within your compostion. This will further exaggerate your depth. Placing something in the immediate foreground forces the eye to take it in before looking beyond to the rest of the space. You can also utilize texture to help with communicating depth. The texture closest to the lens will be the most pronounced while the texture as it goes back into the photo will lose detail.
That’s a wrap! We can put the Elements of Design to bed. Although, I’m pretty sure they will come back to visit from time to time.
Class Review. (Click to see all of the School House lessons)
Hey class last time we chatted about texture. Which is one of my favorite things to photograph. I’ve been known to cry over wood grain although keep that between us okay? I’m a sap. (Get it?! A sap? Hahaha) *ahem* So, last week we talked about using texture to deepen your composition and we will continue in that same vein this week. Here is a highlight from a classmate, @kiwinan Joy, demonstrating texture. I am also more than slightly in love with the lines.
Today we will be covering contrast, curves, and pattern in texture photography. Don’t let the title “texture photography” scare you, it’s more about being aware of what your subject has to offer.
Contrast is a huge component to any photo and can speak to tone or light. Within texture photography we will be taking both into account. There are times the subject of the photo has competing textures tonally and one will highlight the other. Other times the background can highlight the subject. Below the soft texture of the grass deepens the impact of the hard rusted metal while they are also complementary colors. The textures of the background and subject coupled with the tonal values helps to communicate the heavy rusted metal to the viewer.
The second area we are going to chat about it curves within our photos. When I say curves what I mean is lines or the inference of lines. Now we know already from an earlier school house that lines can lead the eye. Curves have the same ability the only difference is that these curves have to do with the texture of your subject.
The last facet to texture we are going to talk about it pattern. Pattern is pleasing to the eye and also can denote symmetry. Pattern also creates rhythm within your composition. Rhythm creates movement and allows the eye to move through the photo.
Exploring Life’s Fragility it Egmont van Dyck by Anna C
I first came across Egmont van Dyck a few months ago when Jen and I first started the #stilllifelounge. The image he submitted was not only thoughtful, but a true still life utilizing light and subject matter. During the interview process, I found Egmont to be thoughtful, kind, and creative. That is a hat trick in my book. I cannot begin to tell you how impressed I am with Egmont, it is not often you stumble upon such a refined individual.
A: Anna E: Egmont
A: What does your life look like away from the computer?
E: One might say the MacBook Pro laptop, iPad 1 are tethered to me like an umbilical cord, just as much as the iPhone 4S. However there are times, though not enough, when I simple place one on top of the other, then walk away and into the garden, but most likely a set of mundane household chores require my attention. No one will do your laundry, make the bed or make dinner, unless you do it yourself and so I have developed a passion for cooking and especially baking.
I do try to balance responsibility to the family with my creativity urges, but even here the challenge for me, as I have varied interests. Weeks or months may go without taking any photographs because the creative energies flow in a different direction, for I also paint large scale multi-medium sized abstracts. These can take weeks to several months to complete and in some cases 1-2 years. Yet as of last November I have not painted and the iPhone is in large part responsible.
I have not worked since 2003 due to numerous health issues that continue to effect my daily activities and since I am now staying home more, interest in photography waned. It was not until my son presented me with a new iPhone 4S for Christmas, which ignited my interested in photography a couple of months later. Because I was so taken with what the iPhone 4S is capable of, I secured a dot com name and started constructing The iPhone Arts (A) website, which went public at the end of April.
A: How does your life influence your work
E: There were a few pivotal moments in which life had a direct influence in what I was creating. At first it was just taking pictures of abandoned houses in Hercules, California, seven years ago. Within weeks, the project revealed itself to be the unveiling of a deep family secrete, made public.
From over 400 images, I had selected only ten photographs which reflected my story of having been abused mentally, physically and sexual by my mother.
In 2011 the original Black & White series was revisited, taking the original digital files, reworking them in Photoshop and this time decided they were more powerful in color.
The ‘Family Secrets Revisited’ was posted to The Artist Within Us website in August 2011, with a new introduction and epilogue.
Within a couple of months after the completing the first version ‘Family Secrets’, I underwent open heart triple by-pass surgery. During the months of recovery and physical therapy, I would walk the street of Berkeley, where I discovered the beauty of tattered pieces of paper remains on telephone poles.
There are certain streets where telephone poles are used as advertisement billboards, by having flyers stapled to them. Over time, layers of paper fragments and thousands of staples later, these are nicely conditioned by the elements of weather, a nice layer of abstract patterns developed, to which I was deeply attracted to as a source of inspiration.
I have now been photographing these telephone poles for seven years, first with a 5 MB fixed lens Sony digital camera, then using a Nikon D70 and finally in 2010, I began capturing my images with the Nikon in HDR. As the body of worked developed, I was also very curious how I could transform what I was so intensely photographing into large abstract paintings.
A solution was finally found when I created ‘White in White’ a 36 x 48 inch multi-medium painting in 2011.
Though I felt by now I had exhausted the subject matter which I called ‘Typography Graveyard,’ but then I started using my iPhone whenever I needed to visit any of my doctors, I would take long walks after the appointment in order to capture more images, using either Hipstamatic with different film and lens combinations or just straight photography using 6×6.
A: Tell me about your website and how you are using it to give more exposure to mobile photography?
E: Apart from establishing The iPhone Arts website, promoting the hashtag #the_iphone_arts on Instagram, which features other iPhoneographers through my ‘Weekly Showcase’ and ‘Curator’s Choice,’ I am still in the process to create three small collections of high quality iPhone captured.
A series of three different styles of fine art photography have been in the works whenever time and opportunity permit. Each of the series will be different from the other, but reflect my personal passion and love. They are ‘Abstract Realism,’ a description I coined in 2008, when I tried to describe what ’Typography Graveyard’ is. The other series reflects what I excelled in those years as an advertising and editorial photographer, which was creating still-life table top sets.
Lastly, a love for documentary/journalism style photography, which dates back to when I was 14 and first began taking pictures with a plastic Brownie 120 film camera.
So when I visited San Francisco’s Chinatown last Easter of this year and used my iPhone, was delighted by the results. Since than I have taken several trips to Chinatown, trying to capture the faces of the Chinese people and their environment. Unfortunately a few weeks ago, due to a human error I lost about 900 images which had not been backed up and recovery was not possible, setting back this project by 6-8 months from completion.
A: Do you have a favorite image? If so which one and why?
E: There is one, ‘The arrival of winter as autumn passes’ but it was not taken with an iPhone. It was taken a few days after my heart attack, three weeks before the open heart surgery and reflects death not being far away. But since we are talking about mobile photography, there are two and they are different as night and day.
Yesterday I lit a candle to mark the fourth birthday in my second life, commemorating the day I was to have passed only to cheat death, when doctors performed a triple-by-pass open-heart surgery. The residual consequences have been mixed and though I am grateful to be alive, the side effects of the surgery have become an almost daily battle. Especially the bouts with depression have become more numerous these last one and half years, lasting longer and becoming more sever, that I have even begun to question if the quality of life gained has been worth this daily struggle. – taken from Life’s Fragility
Personally I believe it takes one thousand exposures before you have the one perfect image. Though I have reached 9000 exposures with the iPhone, only a handful of photographs I feel will stand the test of time.
A Squirrels Bounty
During a clean up of the backyard, I discovered numerous walnuts a squirrels had hidden away among the fallen Sequoia needles that covered the ground underneath the tall coastal redwood tree, including a several empty half shells. I immediately feel in love with their texture, setting each new discovery aside as my own little treasure.
A few day later I set up a table next to a window for the expressed purpose of photographing the squirrels bounty. First I tried using a few old books as a surface, but it just did not look right. Instead I pulled from storage roof shingles I had collected from an abandoned house for the sole purpose of reusing them in a painting or as a prop. Because I elected not to have any direct light onto the table-top set, I used fill cards to help bounce back any light and soften the shadows. After about 30 plus exposures with the iPhone 4S, capturing various different angles and approaches, I felt I had what I wanted.
While studying the images I had just taken, the light from the window began to strike the set. There was a warm breeze also blowing, ruffling the leaves in the tree just outside the window, ever changing the light on the walnuts.
I quickly seized the moment and started all over, taking another dozen and a half or so exposures. The breeze kept changing the appearance of the highlights and shadows on the walnuts. I went from shooting B/W to color and back again, using Hipstamatic John S lens with Claunch 72 Monochrome, Kodot X-Grizzled and Salvador DreamCanvas film cartridges. After editing all the images I selected the Hipstamatic, Kodot X-Grizzled color version converted to B/W.
Though it was a planned image, a Muse intervened on my behalf, showing me another way and with her help, I achieved a better photograph. It is life’s unexpected moments that can take a good image and make and make it memorable and even exceptional.
Since I did mention there were two favorite photographs, I feel it will emerge from the Chinatown series, but not having stood the test of time, I consider being only infatuated with the image.
Here is the duo-toned version which is the version that is my favorite.
To read and see more of Egmont’s work:
The iPhone Arts
The iPhone Arts FaceBook fan page
The iPhone Arts Twitter account
The Artist Within Us
Four Seasons in a Life
Egmont van Dyck FaceBook personal page
Artist van Dyck Twitter account
Last week we started talking about the elements of design with light. We have already discussed lines thoroughly so we are half way there! Here are a couple of examples from our #juxtschoolhouse tag that are fantastic.
“GO BIG” was shot in Half Moon Bay, CA.
I sat on the edge Hwy 1 watching and taking pictures of a group of surfers fighting for a small set of waves for about 30 minutes when this one lone huge wave came rolling in on the scene. I immediately poised my lens as the surfer paddled into the wave. Popping up to his feet, he instantly switched back into the break and caught air off the monster as my camera lens clicked shut. -Brent, @sleekmaus
August 15: Everything looks better when you’re on vacation. I had been playing around with Foxy and Pistil (my Hipstacombo-of-the-moment) a lot this week on the Big Island of Hawai’i—it seemed to make the sand and water quietly glow. That being said, this photograph of my son’s gothic sand fortress required little editing after processing in Hipstamatic. (Nine times out of ten, I’ll remove the frame off of a Hipstamatic image; I did that here.) And while I can’t give you specific levels of each editing tool that I used in Snapseed, I CAN tell you that this is my go-to app for most post-process adjustments. Undoubtedly, I added a tiny bit of drama and contrast in this image, as well as brightened up the blue where my son is guarding the castle just offshore.. – Suzanne, @_suzanne_
This week we are going back to kindergarten talking about shapes. (If your like me, your hoping for a snack and nap time too!) Basic drawing 101 tells us that everything can be broken down into a series of shapes, and photographs are no different. What I want to call your attention to though is that the entire picture plane comes into play not just the objects.
You can use your entire photo to echo shapes and create a more dynamic composition using shapes to create a composition. Look at your key elements. Do these elements create a triangle or square? It’s sort of like a game of connect the dots. You have three objects in your photo, arrange them or move until they create a triangle. The entire picture plane can also be divided into two equal triangles like we talked about with lines. Leading lines often divide picture planes into smaller sets of triangles.
The most obvious way to find or shoot rectangles is by using the horizon line. Off setting the horizon line can have an immediate effect on your composition. It is then divided into two unequal rectangles. You can also echo the unequal rectangles by photographing another smaller rectangular object.
Overall, using repeative shapes within your composition can make for a pleasing photo. There are of course many things to take into account while shooting, and shapes are only one thing to consider.