SHOTBOX Photo Studio: a review

SHOTBOX Photo Studio: a review

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:

IMG_1023 IMG_1024


Polaroid Swing: Not Just Another App

Polaroid Swing: Not Just Another App

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.

by @postaljeff

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.

by @jps

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.

by @parkerj

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.

by @colerise

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.

24hourproject: Grryo Editor Version

24hourproject: Grryo Editor Version

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.

‘Reader’s Block’

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

giulia macario  |  melbourne, australia

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

‘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.

Metaphysical Space

‘Metaphysical Space’

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.

Night Shift

‘Night Shift’

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

‘Make a Wish’


If you’d like to learn more about the 24 Hour Project, visit their website:

Dancing in Abandoned Places with Austen Browne

Dancing in Abandoned Places with Austen Browne

I can remember when I first found Austen Browne’s work on Instagram. The ability to upload video was still relatively new to the app, and I was searching for creative videos to feature on an account I’d cleverly dubbed “@creativevideo”. It was tough wading through what were mostly bad selfies, in video form, and finding anything worth watching. So when I stumbled upon Austen’s videos, it was like hitting the jackpot. They took my breath away. In fact, his videos still do.

making a dance reel for @kjuniverse and this is one of my favorite sequences we’ve made together

Seeing Austen’s work raised several questions for me. How come these videos are so amazing? What is it about them that produces such an emotional reaction in me? Why can’t I dance like that? Ok, the last one wasn’t a serious question, but I decided I wanted to try and find out what the answers were.

dancer: Adrienne (@adrlipson)

It turns out that it’s not a fluke that Austen’s work is of such high quality. A child of two artists, he grew up near Minneapolis and started dancing at an early age. Along the way, he met Kevin, who has been his best friend and fellow dancer since the age of eight; Kevin is often the subject in his videos. In addition to dance, Austen has had other creative outlets, including drawing, video, photography and pottery. When it came time to choose a course of study in college, he decided to choose filmmaking. The combination of film and dance felt like something he was always meant to do.

@kjuniverse asylum improv with @durty2shoes lurking in the back… music: @londongrammar

” Being a dancer myself, I was able to film in a way that other filmmakers, who are not dancers, couldn’t. I was able to anticipate how a person would move, or what they were going to do next… It became similar to a dance duet, where the dancer and the camera were interacting through space.”

One of the first things that grabs your attention when you view one of Austen’s works is the stark contrast. Typically filmed in an abandoned location, where things have often been stagnant for decades, he captures a fervent energy being inserted into these places; specifically in the form of a dancing figure.


dancer: Carisa ( @carisadrews )

“I loved how dancing could bring a dead abandoned space to life and create such a strong contrast between the space and the subject. The decaying, motionless backdrop is brought to life by the movement of the dancer and their interaction with the space.”

dancer: Zach (@zenquist)

A large part of that energy, as I found out, is because the movement is mostly improvised, which in turn is a large part of the style of dance that he both practices and teaches. One could call it modern, post modern, or contemporary, though Austen would contend it is more the latter than anything else. For Austen, improvisation is a large part of contemporary dance and how it is taught. However, while the improv clearly occurs within the parameters of trained motion, there is a raw energy that occurs that is anything but mechanical.

music: @humphreys.jpeg dancer: @kjuniverse 

“If I were to try and explain contemporary dance or improv to a non-dancer, I would say that it is an exploration of movement with your body, whether the moment is coming from within the body, or the body is reacting to external forces/shapes/spaces/energy. It is definitely an exploration.”

I was still curious, though, as to what caused such an emotional reaction in me when I watched these videos. Austen helped me figure it out a bit. Dance is an art form in which one’s own body is the medium through which the art is expressed. It’s different from just about any other medium I can think of. With other arts, the viewer is interpreting what the artist is putting forth through external means, whether it’s a musical instrument, canvas, or photograph. The dancer, though, is really baring their soul. What they are putting forth is literally a part of themselves, in a most physical sense.

dancers: Kevin ( @kjuniverse ) / Kacey ( @kchulk )

“I think that for most people, improv comes from somewhere deep within, and when you are truly in the zone nothing else matters in the world… I find dance to be one of the best art forms, because your body is the instrument, which makes it so raw, and the connection of the body and mind that dancers have is really something that is special to me.”

So while I don’t see myself anytime soon being able to move in the way Austen and his friends do, I do look forward to seeing more of his work, whether it’s his photographs, films, or, maybe if I’m lucky enough, a live performance. I secretly hope that the next time I’m shooting in an abandoned spot, he and his friends somehow magically appear. In lieu of that happening, I’ll have to be content with seeing his work online and sharing it with anyone who is willing to stop and watch.

If you’d like to check out (and help fund) Austen’s next project, visit here

dancer: Zach music: Olafur Arnalds

Find Austen on:  website  |  vimeo | instagram

A Phone-y Film Experiment

A Phone-y Film Experiment

It all started with a flea market find. I stumbled across a box of old cameras; sifted through them and picked a couple out, not knowing anything about them. At five bucks apiece, though, I figured that at the very least, they’d make good bookends. But then, I had an idea.

The idea was this: shoot a picture using film, shoot from the same spot using my iPhone, then attempt to edit the latter to look something like the former. After all, there are so many apps that seem to be designed to replicate film. Even the term ‘filter’, which is sometimes mocked due to its frequent use in mobile editing, comes from what was originally a film camera method. Anyway, I roped a couple friends into the adventure, and, many (many!) months later, we are ready to report to you, the esteemed reader, the results of our experiment.

from Megan:

Film photography is the only photography I really do. I prefer negatives to image files, I just always have. So there isn’t really any story to how I got into it, I’ve been lugging a camera around since I was a kid. The first was a plastic point and shoot, the sort you could pick up at any pharmacy in a hurry for cheap. It took AA batteries, it was bright blue, the lens cover broke and the photos it took were usually blurry. Basically, it was awful, but I carried it around all the time anyway. I made the jump to an SLR my first year of college, a gift from my parents. Since then I’ve experimented a lot with camera types and film formats. I wandered into digital photography a bit, at the urging of a friend, but didn’t stay long. They’ve always seemed like two different arts to me, only sometimes having the same goal. So I think that was the most challenging part of this project for me, taking one and forcing it to look like the other. Even though they look the same or, if I were any good at editing digital photos, practically identical, they don’t feel the same. It’s a silly observation, really, to most people the end result is more important than the process, if the photograph is good then everyone feels exactly what the photographer hoped they would feel. The process doesn’t matter. Well that and not destroying a roll of film so completely you couldn’t even tell there ever were images on it, but mostly the other thing.


Click on any photo to start slideshow. Order is as follows: iPhone shot, film shot, then edited iPhone shot. 


{shot with an iPhone 5s}

{shot with a Nikon N80 with damaged Kodak Gold 400}

{iPhone shot, edited with VSCO, Mextures, and PhotoWizard}

{shot on an iPhone 5s}

{shot with a Nikon N80 with damaged Kodak Gold 400}

{iPhone shot, edited with VSCO, Mextures, and PhotoWizard}

from Cally:

I’ll have to admit I know very little about film photography, despite being the only kid I knew that had a SLR, a camera I used for at least 15 years. But looking back through my childhood film adventures, quantity seems to reign over quality. I do have a decent collection of daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes, not to mention a good number of mid-nineteenth-century thermoplastic cases that are works of art in and of themselves. The fact that they secretly scream out to me in the middle of the night, “sell us on eBay; you only look at us once a year; you need the money!” just makes me want to tell them all to screw off, but the ability to date them to within less than a decade (hair, clothes, and case mat styles) makes my little historian heart happy, although I guess that’s the thing about photos, right? You can look at one and just tell almost immediately when they were taken (with some research, of course, unless you were born before 1839). So here we are trying to subvert this little bit of fabulousness that has literally defined the photograph in all its forms, formats, and styles for the past 175 years.

That said, once I was asked to contribute to this project, I at once jumped at the chance while secretly, selfishly, mourning what a poor choice Jeff had made to include me, the procrastinator of all procrastinators. In any case, I went once again to the old Minolta SLR. I replaced the long-expired batteries (yep). I turned it on. Nothing. I cleaned it; I shook it. Nothing. Next choice was grandma’s old 1970s Instamatic 314. I removed the even-longer-ago-expired batteries (yep). I cleaned out the corrosion. I wistfully thought about how many pictures of my childhood were produced of this little gem. Then I found out they no longer made batteries or film for it. Film is easy; batteries…not so much. Moving on, I at last decided to brave the romance of the Brownie! A great idea, I told myself. Just point, er, look down and make sure your subject is level, and click. I found a decent one at an antique store for $20. Of course, the original 620 film isn’t made any longer, so I purchased an expired roll of 1983 film and hoped I wasn’t wasting more time and money.

The second camera and film experiment, another that harkens back to the retro days of the 1980s (yeah, baby, yeah!), is, of course the Polaroid. During the 80s my trusty Polaroid and I spent many hours documenting my stuffed animals, my live animals, and, of course, my very own self animal. I took selfies. I used a stick. A real stick. If only I knew then what I know now, I’d be rich. Rich, I tell you! But then again, 11-year-old girls don’t think too far into the future, as a rule. Just put on a hat and makeup, grab a stick from the yard, stabilize the camera, and, you know, selfie. But having said all that, I never really enjoyed the way Polaroids look. Still don’t, actually. But because of our history together, I HAD to go there. Again, I bought some expired 600 film, but this time I declined the stick method in order to see if I could actually take a decent photo with this thing. I couldn’t.

What did I learn? There’s more to film than just film, and the least fun part of this was recreating it with the phone shots. Especially the Polaroids. And old photos are pretty damn cool. If I had a ca. 1860s wet plate camera…I wouldn’t know what the hell to do with it. I would probably sell it on eBay for a decent amount of cash. The end of this finds me at a point where I am not in the least bit interested in editing right now, and making these pictures look worse didn’t help. So I did spend some time making edits I actually like. So, in the end, it’s been cathartic I suppose. And I do like the physical act of taking a picture with a Polaroid camera. So, yeah, maybe I’ll continue that, just for shits and giggles if nothing else. Hell, maybe I’ll pick up a stick and use it.

{shot on an iPhone 5}

{shot on a Kodak Brownie with expired film}

{iPhone shot, edited with Analog Film and VSCO}

{shot on an iPhone 5}

{shot on a Polaroid}

{iPhone shot edited with Mextures, ArtStudio, Afterlight}

from Jeff:

I think the last time I’d shot film was with a Kodak disc camera (anyone else remember those?) that my grandfather had given me. I was probably ten. I actually still had it, and tried it, but it was no longer working. Next, I tried one of the flea market finds–an old Ricoh–with some DIY damaged film. The pharmacy mail-order developer returned it with a note: “Film Received Damaged”. Duh. Then, a borrowed Polaroid camera from a friend, with some Impossible Project film. Success! After that, I tried out some water damaged film given to me, and then, developed by, our resident film expert. (that would be Megan, from above.) Finally, I had a handful of images I was able to work with. What did I learn? Well, for one, the random results that film will give you are really cool. I think, in fact, I’m starting to enjoy not knowing what I’m going to get, rather than trying so hard to achieve a particular look- it’s rather freeing! I’ve since had fun trying other films and cameras out, and I’m now constantly looking for thrift shop bargains. It’s like my photography journey has gone from one extreme to the other.




FullSizeRender (1){shot with an iPhone 5}

IMG_7370{shot with a Polaroid, using Impossible Project 660 film}


{iPhone shot, edited with ArtStudio, SnapSeed, Mextures, Polamatic, Union}


 {shot with an iPhone 5}


 {shot with a Ricoh TLX Focal 1000, using water damaged bnw film}

IMG_7513 {iPhone shot, edited with Snapseed and Mextures}

We’d love to see your film experiments, whether they are mobile phone comparisons or just straight out of the camera photos. Add the tag #wearegrryo_phoneyfilm on Instagram and share them with us.


i carry your heart: Ephemeral Summer with the Grryo Contributors

i carry your heart: Ephemeral Summer with the Grryo Contributors

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

by E.E. Cummings from Complete Poems: 1904-1962. © Liveright Publishing Corporation

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)



Valeria @ _soulkitchen_
Valeria @_soulkitchen


Tommy @pastorwallace
Tommy @pastorwallace


Andre @shutter_se7en
 Andre @shutter_se7en


Joe @joe_montoya

Joe @joe_montoya


Natalie @natmaddon
Natalie @natmaddon


Jeff @postaljeff
Jeff @postaljeff


Hector @hnato_nf
Hector @hnato_nf


Andy @mobiography


Abe @abori
Abe @abori


 Giulia @giuliam


Rebecca @repinsk
Rebecca @repinsk
Sorry Dad, You’ve Been Chopped

Sorry Dad, You’ve Been Chopped

Do your kids love to watch reality TV cooking shows? Mine do. I thought it was a good thing — though lately, I’m not so sure.

My wife and I both like to cook, and honestly, it’s one of the few common interests we have. So when our children began to take interest in a variety of these shows, we were excited. Here it was, a fun family activity we could all enjoy together! Little did we know what path we were about to embark upon. Here — along with photos taken by some Instagram friends — are a few things to watch out for.

photo credit: Meredith Rilley

It starts out innocently…

They begin speaking in a British accent at dinner time.

Usually this is manifested in phrases like ‘needs a bit more seasoning,’ and ‘I don’t think mine has quite enough sauce.’ It’s endearing. The first time.

They ask why you don’t own an assortment of specialty kitchen equipment.

It may start with the color-coordinated stand mixer. But soon it’ll be the kitchen torch, the mandoline and maybe even a sous vide machine. (Go ahead, google it)


photo credit: Richard Hill

Then, things start to get worse…

You’re out at the local family diner and they order ‘frites’ instead of french fries.

You cover by translating for the waitress, after you finish telling her that it’s OK that the chicken nuggets aren’t panko-crusted.

They request a birthday cake that requires fondant and, upon completion, four grown men to move it.

Never mind that they even know what fondant is now. In addition, they expect you to sculpt it into 1/20th scale models of their favorite pop culture icons.

Processed with VSCOcam with x1 preset

photo credit: Darren Johnson

Then, this happens…

You get a call from the school because they brought in a ‘mystery basket’ and challenged the cafeteria cook to create a dish for them.

The contents are dandelion greens, quail and kumquats. Admittedly, it might taste better than a corn dog and canned fruit.

They comment on your “plating technique,” and critically smell/examine a carefully assembled forkful before tasting it.

It’s just a grilled cheese, kid. And no, I didn’t use gruyère, sorry.

IMG_7937 (3)

photo credit: Leah Minium

And then, finally, the day comes…

They taste your meal, and resolutely declare “I’m sorry Dad, but you’ve been chopped.”

Hopefully, this is followed by them taking over dinner preparations and fixing gourmet meals for you. I’d happily take over dish duty, were that the case. Although I wouldn’t count on it. Perhaps they need to watch a few more seasons of MasterChef Jr. first.

Processed with VSCOcam with x5 preset

photo credit: Jeff Kelley

The Umbrella That Traveled The World

The Umbrella That Traveled The World

photo by Eric Mueller

If you are as frequent a visitor to Instagram as I am, there is a good chance you’ve run across a colorful rainbow umbrella in your feed over the last several months. In addition, there’s a great chance that one of those umbrellas was originally started on its journey by Jill Emmer, also known as @shineonyoucraydiamond. I’ve seen a few other ‘traveling object’ projects (in fact, I’ve even been working on one of my own), but Jill’s is likely one of the most widespread and successful. I decided to have a chat with her to learn a little bit more about both her and the project. There are now approximately 400 photos of the umbrella in her #shineonyoucrayumbrella tag on Instagram; this conversation is interspersed with a few of her hand selected favorites.



photo by @hello__jo

Let’s start with the basics. Tell me a little bit about who you are and how you discovered Instagram.

I grew up as the “girl with a photo habit.” In grade school I remember bringing a little camera with me to field trips and family vacation.  In college, I was the girl at the bar and college football games with a camera (pre-mobile phone cameras!) And a few years later, I became a proud member of the proverbial “mamarazzi” – using my kids as my subjects on a regular basis. So, photography has always been a love of mine. It wasn’t really an art form though. It was more a way of capturing a moment. My husband teases me about my obsession with “time and space” because I often say things like, “just a year ago he was crawling!” or, “I remember grandpa pulling bluegills off this pier one after another only a few short years ago. I wax nostalgic. I carpe diem. So… for most of my life, my photos never were about composition or symmetry, or anything like that. They were to capture those fleeting moments that make my heart sing or cry.


Then, a little over a year ago, I started a public Instagram account. I had a private one for a bit before that, but I noticed that none of my friends liked my more “artistic shots”… so I anonymously created my IG account and posted a few landscape and deer shots. I will never forget the excitement of a stranger liking one of my shots! It was beyond thrilling and it gave me a bit of courage to continue to share photos.



photo by @smallmoves

After that I started to make random friends from all over the world, and suddenly, I didn’t feel so anonymous anymore. I was becoming a part of a community! It took me SIX months to tell my old, non-instagram friends about my new friends and the new world I was actively participating in! By then, I had strong friendships, a healthy following and a wee bit of confidence.


So, as you can imagine, my Instagram friends mean the world to me. Without their encouragement I would never have had the courage to share my photos. Thanks to their support I am pretty much bursting with ideas and creativity! It is just so fun!



photo by @hannahargyle


So what inspired you to start mailing an umbrella off to random people?The traveling umbrella started after a number of Instagram friends asked me where they could buy a similar umbrella. So I mailed mine to them! It really made my heart soar to see a little part of me in their hands. It became a physical way to link “virtual” friends from all over the world. It truly makes my heart sing to see my friends with my umbrella. This project seems to be the perfect bridge between my artistic side and that sentimental, nostalgic side I’ve always had.Little by little, the list of people who wanted the umbrella grew, and my simple act of mailing it turned into a full fledged global project. I now have several hundred people interested in the umbrella –  instagrammers from all over the world – and 7 umbrellas are out there right now! At this moment, [May, 2015] there’s one in Minnesota, San Francisco, Boston, Australia, Rome, London and Malaysia.


 photo by @moksva


What’s been your favorite aspect of this project? Anything that surprised you about it?

I am torn! I have two favorite aspects of my umbrella project!

First, I love the connection it has given me to other people on Instagram. It has given me a physical connection with dear friends. A perfect physical representation of our mutual love of creativity, community and the art of photography. Many new friendships have been created because of this project. People usually get to “meet” the next person they pass the brella on to. It gives me great joy to see beloved friends from all over the world with the umbrella in their hands. People are now starting to recognize the umbrella in different countries!


Secondly I love the wanderlust. I love the notion that this big bright rainbow umbrella is living a glamorous life as a world traveler. Something I have always dreamt of. Since I can’t travel the world right now, at least my umbrella can! Many times when people receive the umbrella, they use it to show off the area they live in. It has been near a red telephone booth in London, adding color to Times Square, used as a prop at a world wide Instameet in Milan, Italy, glammed out in LA, snowboarding in the Catskills, taking a beach day on the Gold Coast in Australia, and alongside some beautifully colored walls in Malaysia.



photo by @golden2dew

Anything else you’d like to add?


Yes – I would like to tell you that I am looking to add on a charitable aspect to my project. So many well known instagrammers are signed up for this project, that I think it would be a great way for a company to get some exposure. I would like a company to sponsor the project (i.e. they pay for shipping or something, and then donate a bit to the charity I choose for each person that has the brella. In return, that company would be mentioned with each post.
I would love to find a company that would be willing to partner with me to help this traveling umbrella have a cause. It has connected us through our phones, through the mail and through our passions – I would like to see it connect us through our hearts as well.



photo by @neumarc 


If you would like to see Jill’s own photos, contact her about the umbrella, or if you are looking to sponsor this project, you can find her on Instagram, or at her website, Shine On Photos.



photo by Eric Mueller, model: Colleen


Voice, Mail

Voice, Mail

My entire day consists of interactions. Well, I suppose everyone’s day consists of interactions, really, but when you are a mailman on a small downtown business route, they’re certainly more accentuated. All day long, it’s a random ‘hello’ to a passerby that I may or may not know, then directions to a hard-to-find cafe, and after that, an extended conversation with a customer that continues from the previous day.




So it’s probably a good thing that I’m an ‘ambivert with extrovert tendencies’, according to a webpage that even knows what that is. The point is, interacting with people energizes me. I’d certainly dread my job if the case were otherwise. These are just a fraction of the fantastic folks I get to talk with every day on my route.




If I were to string together my daily conversations into one long paragraph, what would it sound like? Likely, a bit schizophrenic– a discussion about photojournalism, followed immediately by talk of raising chickens. A conversation about public school policies would transition into an ongoing joke about repetitive cable company advertising. It would be punctuated with a lot of hey-how-are-ya’s and intermittent chats about everything from ‘how about this weather’ to ‘why does this company send me the same damn catalog twice a week?’ (U-LINE, are you listening?)




If I have my way, I’ll be on this route until I retire– hopefully with the ability to still climb a set of stairs. Without a doubt, there will be a completely different set of people that I interact with when that time comes. I’m sure I’ll be a different person as well. But hopefully, I’ll still be an ambivert with extrovert tendencies– whatever that means.




When I Was a Kid, We Took Pictures With Cameras

When I Was a Kid, We Took Pictures With Cameras

We all know there’s more than one downside to the omnipresent smartphone–the invention of the ‘selfie’, the calloused thumbs, the inability to bullshit our way through a discussion about, well, anything that can be Googled.

But you know what my favorite upside is? The ability to take a picture at any given moment. No, I’m not talking about catching a nominee for the ‘People of Wal-Mart’ blog; I’m talking about taking pictures of my kids.


The truth is, I really didn’t take any pictures at all before I succumbed to the allure of that sleek rectangular gadget. In fact, everything I’ve learned about photography has indirectly been the result of stumbling across a photo app a few years ago. Now that I’m able to take photos at any given moment, countless events that were once seemingly insignificant (like, uh, dental visits) have been captured on-the-fly, off-the-cuff, and even in middle of the street. The fact is, even if I <em>had</em> owned a camera, those spur-of-the-moment memories would likely have never been immortalized had I not been wielding my trusty iPhone.

Processed with VSCOcam with x2 preset

So the next time someone collides into me on the street whilst checking Facebook, I’m going to think about that perfect photo of my kid–the one that was taken by a phone, the one that’s going be sitting on the mantle for the next six years, and yes, even the one that’s going to be sitting on a hard drive for the next sixteen.


Sure, I’ll likely succumb to carpal tunnel syndrome within the next year or two and end up with the permanent posture of someone decades older than me, but that hike we took on our family vacation? It holds a permanent place via some pixels in square form.


And when I’m in line for a coffee and the guy in front of me is haphazardly ordering a chai tea latte with almond milk and an extra pump of chai while day trading stocks, instead of whacking him upside the head, I’ll just take it as a trade-off. He gets to be obnoxious, I get to remember that look on my daughter’s face when she’s grown, and maybe her kids will get to know her a little bit better because of it.


Admittedly, not all of the disadvantages involve other people, and the perceived urgency my phone causes in me is distressing. It’s just slightly possible that I don’t need to take my phone in with me every time I use the bathroom. And it’s probably a good idea to actually interact with my kids in addition to getting the perfect shot for Instagram.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Maybe, if I’m lucky, my kids will take up photography. Or at least look back on the photos I’ve taken and appreciate them. It’s possible that in a few short years they will have their own phones and will be telling me to go stand in front of some foggy woodland scene so they can post it somewhere. I certainly hope so. I’ll try not to be annoyed.

Me & You, 52: The Art of the Diptych

Me & You, 52: The Art of the Diptych

I discovered the account Me & You, 52 on Instagram a couple of years ago and was drawn to it for two reasons- one was the weekly themes that gave me something to think about creatively.  The other was the purposeful pairing of two pictures, created by two different photographers, into one diptych. It was a concept I hadn’t run across before.  I ended up chatting with Anika Toro, one of the co-founders about it- here is her story:

J: Tell me a bit about how the idea of Me & You, 52 was conceived?

AT: Me & You, 52 was started in 2011. Christy and I were on the Blogosphere a lot.  I had hosted a link-up on mine for mobile photography. We had both just gotten an iPhone and I think it changed the way we both looked at taking photos.  Christy contributed her shots every week to the link-up and we began a virtual friendship.  When we both started blogging less, I asked Christy if she wanted to collaborate in some fashion.  We both loved mobile imagery and so we went from there.  She had followed a side-by-side Polaroid project called the Polaroid Girls; I contributed to the defunct diptych project called The Miss Match Project – we both had a love for diptychs!  We wanted the project to span one year, 52 weeks, and to be prompted by something new each week..  So we decided that we could shoot for two rounds of the alphabet – we would follow the letters of the alphabet to guide each week’s word, each week’s inspiration.  When we got to the end of the round we realized that the creative push from the project was sometimes the driving force to keep us producing.  It challenged us to come up with ideas we wouldn’t have thought of if it weren’t for the project. So we went for another year!

images by Elke and Corinna Hofer, contributors

“H is for Horizon” by @deuxpieces

J: When did the project grow from just the two of you to include others?

AT: In early 2013 we both thought it would be even more fun to include other people’s perspectives.  More people were using their phones to create art and experiment.  It seemed like a good time to involve more people.  The more the merrier!  I have always loved collaborating and so think that I enjoy the project when it feels like more people are contributing their viewpoints.  We all see things in our own unique ways but sometimes we happen to think of the exact same thing, sometimes we imagine the lighting the same way, sometimes we happen to use the same apps, and sometimes we come up with something nobody else thought of. Then, when images are connected into a diptych, a story, they become something even more… They become half of the story -The Me to the You, the You to the Me.  For me, one of the best things about this project is the serendipity.  The connections made between our unplanned images start to get this groove where it’s not just a narrative that takes shape but our horizon lines match up, shadows blend perfectly into another’s image, the story on one side completes the end of a story we each didn’t know the ending to.  More artists means more interpretations, perspectives, inspiration, and more possibilities for impromptu story telling.

J: The serendipitous pairing is definitely one of my favorite parts of the account.  We end up seeing the visions of three artists in the end- the two created by the individuals, and the third created by you, who has paired them together. Can you pick a few of your all-time favorites and tell a little bit about them?

AT: Wow, well thanks so much.  Funny, but I feel like the diptych is second to the idea of mobile-only imagery.  I honestly haven’t really thought of it that way…until right now.  I think of the storytelling angle, yes.  But I guess I feel like I am facilitating a presentation for each image so that it can shine even brighter on its own while working in tandem to strengthen its neighbor’s image.  Even though a collaboration of sorts, I think of this project as an individual challenge; one created by the participating artists.  We each contribute our images without knowing what the other will be creating.  Even I try to stay ahead of the group so that I am not swayed to create something to match with another member’s image.  We all to come from the same place of not knowing, of using just our own experience to create from.  That way when images are put together it seems even more magical how they match up.  It’s like the personal inspiration comes first, the connections come second.   That said, I have always really loved the story telling of two images.
I do have a couple of favorites. The first pairings that come to mind are from the beginnings of the project when it was still just me and Christy.  Most of the earlier diptychs were less narrative and more graphic in nature.  For example, with “E is for Eyes”.  Our styles are quite different but seem to go together well in this duo.  We were both inspired by that week’s theme.  I feel like this diptych really showcases what we were trying to do when we started the project.


“E is for Eyes” by Anika and Christy 

With more voices come more possibilities for narratives.  I just posted a diptych with an image from Claire and an Instant Lab image from Chris.  It’s beautiful. They both were on the same page as far as the idea and even the coloring!  I was blown away when I got the second image of this pairing…it was too perfect.  This one for me, now, feels like what the project has become.

G is for Guide

“G is for Guide” by Chris and Claire

It’s nice to see how this project, this collaboration of sorts, is evolving.  I think that’s why I am drawn to a current pairing with Christy.  It’s interesting for me to look back and compare it to our earlier connections.  This was from a few weeks back and is “D is for Double”.

D is for Double

“D is for Double” by Christy and Anika 

J: Can you tell me a little more about Instant Lab and the Deuxpieces account?

AT: Gladly. During the last round {Round 5} I learned about the Impossible Project’s Instant Lab.  It was like a little fairy produced this magical camera – one that combined the spontaneity of Instant photography with a mobile device!  It seemed like the perfect thing to add to Me & You.  This all began with a love for mobile art; why not showcase it in another form?   I decided to seek out some Lab users who may like to join the project.  I tried to find artists that were passionate about instant photography, had experience using the Instant Lab, and that had a strong unique style.  {I think it may have also been an excuse for me to justify the purchase of more film.}  You know, every one of the Instant Lab shots, so far, have lined up perfectly with its partner…it’s wild!  Here is an example, “A is for Arch”. The Instant image {on the right} is by Keith.  It is partnered with Monica’s image.  To me it’s like one image is an abstract drawing of the other.  I love this one.  The addition of the Lab has been very inspiring.

A is for Arch

“A is for Arch” by Monica  and Keith

Also, new for round six is Deuxpieces.  Deuxpieces is an ongoing diptych project between Elke and Corinna.  I had known both Elke and Corinna from those way-back blogging days and have admired their photography and stories ever since.  We had discussed, a round or two back, how we might be able to work together and so for Round 6 we figured out a way.  The difference in their creations is that they make purposeful connections.  One of them will play off the other’s image and work from there.  Sometimes their diptych is connected by color or design, sometimes it’s planned conceptually, and other times one half of the diptych is half of the other’s half.  It’s a great project!  M&Y has always been about connecting the unplanned but the addition of Deuxpieces adds the intentional.  It’s interesting to compare the processes and see what two people working together come up with for the same exact inspiration that individuals create for (for example, “H is for Horizon”, shown at the top of the article).


If you’d like to get involved, feel free to follow the Me & You, 52 account on Instagram and add to the #meandyou52 tag. You can also visit the blog site online, or if you are interested in being a part of the future of the project, you can contact Anika at