Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Phone photos

In this day and age the phone camera is like some sort of visual note taking.  In the good old days you would see something while you were out having a walk or driving your car and have a little idea bloom in your mind.  Hopefully, if it was good enough, you could retain it in your head until you got to a piece of pen and paper.  Now we click a button.  Not saying that either method is better than the other.  I usually have to use both to figure out what I was taking a photo of, due to my terrible camera.  These images usually clog my phone, making it go slower than usual, and very rarely leave it to inspire the works I first imagined when I took the photo.  But this is the fate of most ideas.  We scribble and think up ideas all the time, some flourish, others become cadavers.

Since I show process work and sketches I thought it might be nice to include some other forms of creative brainstorming or image note taking.  I hadn't consciously thought of it until recently.  What made me interested in showing these were two things.

Firstly I recently stumbled across the work of Stu Spence.   To cut the long story short Spence, a successful commercial photographer and writer, started taking photographs with his own bad phone camera but with great results.  What came out of rather accidental or non deliberate 'happy snaps' were what feel like miniature contemporary Impressionist paintings.  They still have a cheap blurry quality to them, if anything what would be considered their downfall turns out to be the appeal.  Some are stunning in their simplicity and colour composition, managing to be a little bit melancholy or a little bit foreboding; some are just generic phone photos.  Nevertheless there is the appeal of the authentic vernacular image in his work, which is something I've been looking into this year.

The second thing was an awesome post called How to Steal Like an Artist (and 9 other things nobody ever told me).  Its an edited version of a talk Austin Kleon, a writer and artist, gave to a college.  Its neat, funny and painfully correct in my opinion.  Definitely worth a read.  The title pretty much covers the point that relates to this post.  That is, as artists, we usually steal ideas.  We see things and take what we want or like from them and mix them up with all these other little scraps and cut outs of things.  So to get really awesome ideas, you need to be constantly revealing new things to your brain so you have plenty to mix and match and multiply with.  He suggests reading, I suggest getting out there.  Going a different route for a walk, taking a new bus, listening to a talk show on the radio.  Seriously that last one is surprisingly good, at my last job we had the radio on all day.  Other than great music and general story telling we had a science segment and ideas used to go off like firecrackers, especially when you hear stories about lightening triggering doorbells before they strike.

Something we find quite normal these days is to take a photo of something that interests us.  I'd like to suggest this is similar to that type of 'stealing' Kleon mentions where we collect and store away things that interest us which then can be used in some way in the future.  So whether you use your phone camera as a note taking device or use those images with a final work I think it is an awesome tool to be added to an artist's repertoire.