Tag Archives: photography

mysterious mannequins and abject objects

Leonor Fini by Henri Cartier Bresson,Paris-1933

Leonor Fini by Henri Cartier Bresson, Paris (1933)

Mannequins, E1 by John Claridge, 1968

Mannequins, E1 by John Claridge (1968)

There is something about undressed, outdated mannequins than renders them automatically unsettling. It’s not quite the same feeling as seeing someone undressed you shouldn’t be (and we all know I’m not that much of a prude). Rather, it’s the unnerving sentiment of witnessing an object rendered obsolete. Naked, a mannequin is stripped of its intented purpose – a plastic object whose sole purpose it is to mimic the human body, created for consumers.

Abandoned, unused, immobile – they also happen to make for fabulous photography subjects.

Oct. 16, 1970: The Times chronicled the sale of used display stock at a warehouse on Long Island, an event that the reporter said “would have made a swarm of locusts look like a bunch of lazy butterflies.” The complete dummies cost $10 and $20,  “but the parts were a bargain,” the caption said. “You could get a hand for five cents or buy an arm for a dime.”

José Alemany - Mannequin Head Studies, 1920s -1930s

José Alemany – Mannequin Head Studies, 1920s -1930s

Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Maniquí tapado (Mannequin covered), 1931

Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Maniquí tapado (Mannequin covered), 1931

Don’t these two next photos, by John Vachon and WeeGee respectively, look as though they could be the same mannequins?

Two female mannequins stand undressed in a windowshop front in the 1940s. Photographed by John Vachon

Department Store Models, Chicago, Illinois by John Vachon (July 1940)

Mannequins by Weegee (1942)

Mannequins by Weegee (1942)

Leonor Fini by Henri Cartier-Bresson

Surrealist artist Leonor Fini by Henri Cartier-Bresson (1933)

Last year marked the first time I had the pleasure of seeing some of Leonor Fini’s pieces when the exhibition In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States was in Quebec City. What a fabulous woman, what strange photos. If only I could have been a fly on the wall when Cartier-Bresson and Fini concocted these images…

Some of the more talented photographers took an interesting spin on the idea that mannequins were designed to be looked at. Designed to stand still, in glass in storefronts, to elicit curiosity, excitement, and desire – hopefully, the desire to be wearing the clothes they were modelling. But when these mannequins are in various states of undress, or better yet missing limbs and wigs, the visual impact packs an even bigger punch.

Being watched…

Hans Mauli

Hans Mauli

…or  watching.

Wilmington, North Carolina, 1950 by Elliot Erwitt

Wilmington, North Carolina, 1950 by Elliot Erwitt

Mannequins, Thieves Bazaar, Bombay by Ferenc Berko, 1938-47

Mannequins, Thieves Bazaar, Bombay by Ferenc Berko (1938-47)

As I researched some of these photographs, spanning fifty years and several countries, I wondered why mannequins are such a compelling subject. There is just so much to explore in the idea that an object, designed to mimic the human body, serving consumers. There is also the simple fact that one of the main reasons mannequins have been a popular subject for photographers and artists is that they are motionless, and hold their poses effortlessly – as opposed to their living, breathing counterparts.

We could easily get into some of the more controversial elements – how mannequins present an idealized version of the human body, how female mannequins are often sexualized, how they have evolved over the years, etc. I could also join the crowds of feminists who have ripped into famous fashion photographers, namely Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin, for the visual ways in which they objectified women, and often involved pairing live models with dopplegänger plastic mannequins.

There’s also the curious fact that the word for model in French is, in fact, mannequin.

But really the main purpose me sharing these images with you is the fact that I find them beautiful and intriguing.

Recommended Reading:

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Filed under art, photography, Uncategorized

new look at à l’allure garçonnière

guess who needed a change around here? i was getting a bit bored with my year-old layout, so i decided to jazz it up a bit. the header features a portrait of me taken by one of my best friends, salima punjani. we met in québec city back in 2009, and even though our lives have taken us in different directions (including some ups and downs) since then, we have always made our friendship a priority. from her traveling all the way from ethiopia to be at my wedding, to sending each other encouraging emails or letters whenever we can, we’ve kept the fire alive even when separated by oceans and borders.

a photograph i took of my friend salima pujani

salima in montreal, october 2012

not only is she a fantastic friend, but over the past few years she has been carving out her own space as a photographer. i’ve been lucky enough to see her talent grow firsthand, to receive cards featuring her latest vibrant photographs, and hang prints on the walls of my home. when we last saw each other this october, she asked if i was interested in participating in her portraits of potential series, since i had raved to her about what a great idea it was. of course, i jumped at the chance!

fueled by a desire to “help people realise their potential” through portrait photography, salima launched this project this summer:

These portraits are meant to reflect that what we desire already exists within, we are what we want to be. When I came back to Canada, I noticed people were feeling very disempowered by the economic crisis, giving up their highest goals out of fear.

My hope is that people will use these portraits as motivating factors, as reminders and reflections of their potential.

i do think they successfully accomplish that. while salima was taking these portraits of me in my walk-in closet, i was typing away on my typewriter in between trying on some of my favourite garments. why was i choosing to put on my very professional 1940s suit jacket, instead of a playful neon 1960s dress? how do the ways i choose to present myself relate to my goals and aspirations? which books did i want in the frame, explicitly feminist ones, or more fashion-oriented ones? the whole process really got me thinking about what i have achieved so far, what specifics are standing in my way, and how to overcome those roadblocks.  it didn’t feel staged, or posed: it felt like processing a lot of my conflicting feelings with a good friend.

portrait of julia in her walk-in closet/bedroom, taken by salima punjani as part of her portraits of potential series

in the end, this black and white one was salima’s favourite. some of the books stacked underneath my remington rand typewriter include:

shortly after our shoot, salima shared this image with me since i couldn’t make it to her opening in montreal. a huge blown up version of her favourite portrait from our shoot, alongside eight others. kind of surreal, to say the least!

Portraits of Potential by Salima Punjani on display at the launch of E-180 this October at La Cenne in Montreal. Photo credit Louis Lavoie

Portraits of Potential by Salima Punjani on display at the launch of E-180 this October at La Cenne in Montreal. Photo credit Louis Lavoie

all of this to say, i feel incredibly lucky to not only have people who support me no matter how lofty or unrealistic my goals are, but who will challenge and encourage me along the way. as lonely as i sometimes get now that a lot of my quebec city friends have moved away, it’s great to have moments like these where i remember how valuable they are, even if they don’t live down the street from me anymore.

check out her website for more of her great photography!

what do you think of the new design? check out the new links, tell me if you think i’m missing anything! love your feedback, as always.

7 Comments

Filed under politics, quebec city

currently: taking a different look at glasses

i’ve been thinking a lot about glasses these days; glasses as a fashion accessory, as a necessity, as a signifier of intelligence, desireability, gender or class. what do your glasses say about you? as someone who has worn glasses since two thirds of my life, how strange is it to hear people with perfect vision say they “wish” they needed glasses? how differently do i feel about wearing glasses now, as a young professional woman, than i did when i was a young girl? i’ve written about it before, but it shouldn’t surprise me that i have a lot of thoughts and feelings about something i choose to wear every single day.

vision as represented in photography has really been ringing my bell these past few months. i recently rewatched two old favourites of mine this past week, man with a movie camera (1929) and la jetée (1965). thinking about the camera as almost a pair of glasses for the viewer, permitting the audience to see things in a clearer way – or even, to see things they would otherwise never be able to.

i’ve also kind of been completely besotted with surrealist photography, something i knew very little about before this summer thanks in part to a fantastic exhibition on at the musée national des beaux-arts du québec right now. to be honest i’ve never been too smitten with the surrealist movement more generally, but this exhibition has offered a different perspective…  thinking about the possibilities the early days of accessible photography provided, combined with an incredible cocktail of creative uppity artists and feminists makes my heart beat just a bit faster.

a new pair of frames are in the mail, and i’ve got some other thoughts about glasses stores i’m slowly but surely processing. in the meantime, here is some eye-candy: literally.

Women with fire masks, Downshire Hill, London, 1941. Lee Miller

Lee Miller, by Man Ray

Lee Miller, by Man Ray

film still from Dziga Vertov’s Chelovek s kinoapparatom (The Man with a Movie Camera). 1929

Vertov, a Soviet film director, redefined the medium of still and motion-picture photography through the concept of kino-glaz (cine-eye), asserting that the recording proficiency of the camera lens made it superior to the human eye. In a double image in Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Movie Camera), the eye is superimposed on the camera lens to form an indivisible apparatus fit to view, process, and convey reality, all at once.

Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Parabola optica (Optical Parable), 1931; gelatin silver print; 9 3/4 in. x 7 1/4 in. (24.77 cm x 18.42 cm); Collection of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser; © Colette Urbajtel / Asociación Manuel Álvarez Bravo

Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Parabola optica (Optical Parable), 1931

WILLIAM WITT The Eye, Lower East Side, NYC, 1948  gelatin silver print, 10 3/4 x 12 inches

The Eye, Lower East Side, NYC, 1948 by William Witt

From Ken Russel's "Teddy Girls" series (1950s)

From Ken Russel’s “Teddy Girls” series (1950s) thanks andi!

Jaromír Funke

Film still from Alfred Hitchcock's "Spellbound," 1945

Film still from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Spellbound,” 1945

as always, click the photos for more details and links!

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Filed under art, currently

a tale of tattoos, zebras, and the importance of context

i’ve had this image saved on the three computers i’ve owned over the course of the past decade. i’ve posted it to livejournal communities, shown it to hairdressers before i knew what “fingerwaves” were, invented stories and lifetimes for her, imagined the details of her tattoos. in the end, all i really knew about her is what my (very tattooed) friend ursula told me in a livejournal comment:

the first pic with the zebra, that girl is a circus freak show girl haha, back in the 20’s and 30’s girls with tattoos were pretty rare…

i always admired this mystery zebra-loving stranger for that, and wouldn’t have thought of it that way if someone had not pointed it out to me. sometimes i daydream of having a tattoo of a tattooed lady on me, and when i do, i still see her face, her cupid’s bows lips. to put it succinctly, this image has been pretty fundamental in helping shape my aesthetics and my imagination from the time i was in my late teens until today.

something that has struck me more recently, however, is how despite the fact that i am seemingly obsessed with this image, it’s ultimately one i know nothing about. absolutely nothing factual, or true, or verifiable – vague inclinations and assumptions at best. does that intrigue me somewhat more than if i knew her name, or at least had a better idea of where and when the photograph was taken?  more than anything, though, it frustrates me. it frustrates me because it’s hardly the only image i’ve had these questions about. it frustrates me because it is indicative of an online culture of circulating and re-circulating images, and stripping them of their original context.

screencap of a tineye.com search

while i’m critical of it, i’m part of that very same system. i’ve been using the internet, creating and taking content, for more than a decade. i saw this image for the first time probably about 7 or 8 years ago… but where? i saw it somewhere online and “right clicked, save as” to my desktop. of course, we’ve all done that far too many times over the years to possibly remember where we saved it from, even if there was information about the photographer/photographed.

who is she? who took the photo? is it a closeup of a larger photograph? who scanned it and shared it online? these are just some of the questions that are increasingly difficult to answer in the digital age. it’s not as though i came across the photo while browsing in an art book, and could easily solve these riddles by reading a caption or the anotated bibliography.

screencap of the weheartit front page and pinterest front page on may 5th, 2012

the propagation of visual “pinboards” and “inspiration sites” make it effortless for images to be stripped of their context, history, and original sources. never mind crediting the person who originally shared the image online; we can’t even find the person who created the image to begin with. i’ve spent far too much time thinking about how my post-secondary education (especially as a history student) emphasized not only the importance but the necessity of citing your sources, ensuring the people who made those statements or created those images were credited in as much detail as possible. professors and academic advisors drilled it into my brain that one could not simply use an image without ensuring you listed the date, artist, format, etc. they even explained the importance of why: ensuring artists or authors were recognized or even paid for their work, to share knowledge not just images, and so on and so forth.

but with more people using the internet more often than ever before, online culture moving increasingly away from a model which centers images in relation to their creator, towards an orgiastic internet free-for-all.

this all comes back to my tattooed zebra-friendly lady. when this image came across my tumblr dashboard via tangledupinlace in february 2012, i reblogged it saying pretty much what i’ve just told you: “i love this image, i wish i could find out more.” moments after i lamented this, k (lookuplookup on tumblr, who runs a great music blog side ponytail) sent me a message with a guess of who my mystery lady might be. could it be?

May Vandermark (Ada Mae Vandermark Patton) was a tattooed lady from Scranton, Pennsylvania. She came to New York in 1924 to work as a stenographer. It is rumored that she saw a person with a tattoo of a butterfly on their shoulder while swimming and decided she had to have one as well. She got a tattoo of a butterfly on both shoulders. She met Miss Pictoria, or Victoria James, who convinced Vandermark to become a tattooed lady. Vandermark began getting tattooed by Charles Wagner, who gave her a special price of $150 for a full body suit. She started doing Coney Island shows with the name Miss Artorio and eventually worked with the Ringling show in the 1920s

the satisfaction! after years of wondering, finally i have some answers! ironically, the very same internet tools that stripped this image of its original context made it possible for me to plea with the many internet friends i have to work together and share our knowledge. huzzah! the only other photo i’ve been able to find of her was found via bme zine, shown above. since then, i’ve come across a handful of other vague stories regarding may vandermark, including the two or three names she used. i’ve added amelia klem osterud’s book, the tattooed lady: a history to my must-read list.

The Tattooed Lady: A History

i’ve also spent a bit of time thinking about my fascination with circus babes. part of what i’ve always loved about that first photograph, without a name or history attached at all, was how she was stepping outside the boundaries of what was deemed beautiful or socially acceptable at the time – at least visually. to put it succinctly, i have a very special place in my heart for those who presented an alternative version of femininity at a time when women were trying to find not only visual but material ways to reject the prescriptive gender, class, and sexuality boundaries imposed on them. that said, it’s absolutely essential to look at these things aspects critically (many people – especially people of colour and people with disabilities- were forced into almost endentured slavery type situations in circuses and sideshows like the ones may vandermark was featured in) and not simply romanticize the beautiful parts.

an illustration of may vandermark stylized with more tattoos by nicoz balboa

Tattooed Lady by Nicoz Balboa

unsurprisingly, i’m far from the only person to have been inspired by this image of may vandermark. many artists, like nicoz balboa, have paid homage to this woman who seems so strong, so compelling simply based on the one photograph we’ve seen of her and her zebra friend. as much as i feel disappointed that it took me so many years to try and find out more about this image and this woman, it is wonderful that my internet friends were able to help me find her name.

really, the best thing you can do if you find yourself in similar situations is prevent these problems from happening in the first place. nip it in the bud. when you sign up for the latest greatest image sharing service, get informed. learn how to use it. post images or quotes linking back to the original source where you found them. add simple captions with the name of the photographer, the year, and the medium if possible. when you come across images that don’t have any credit, you can ask your fellow internauts to help you find out. ask, who made this?

some of the most often referred tips i get when lamenting how difficult it is to find credit or sources for random images is to use this website. tineye reverse image search is designed to deal with this specific conundrum, and is pretty trusty. it’s how i found the highest-quality version of this may vandermark, in fact.

but what is most important is to keep this in mind: let’s make an effort to be informed of the narratives surrounding the images we put out there. here’s how Hila Shachar puts it in this interesting post:

Maybe it’s a good idea to start approaching images from a photo-journalism perspective where images form a significant part of a wider narrative, and where there is a distinct relationship between images and words, history and the present. I’m afraid that if we don’t do this, all these “inspiration” pin-boards and blogs will just end up being one big vacuum of nothingness.

yes, my story with may vandermark is specifically talking about context and credit in regards to an older photograph. but as shachar points out, it happens even with the most famous of historical figures and can be a great disservice not only to the consumer of the image, but to the person in it.

as our internet culture rapidly changes and we hop on the bandwagon of the next great image sharing website, let us temper our enthusiasm with a smidge of responsibility. let’s foster an internet space where facts and information remain key, not optional. where independent artists are recognized and rewarded for their work. where the hard work librarians and archivists have been doing for decades is not undone in a single click.

Knock Out (flapper boxer tattoo design) by Quyen Dinh

Knock Out (flapper boxer tattoo design) by Quyen Dinh

recommended reading about credit/sourcing online:

recommended reading about tattooed ladies:

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Filed under digital/online culture, personal, politics

knowledge, power and “feminist” fashion blogs

gloria swanson, photographed by edward steichen in 1924

Gloria Swanson photographed by Edward Steichen for Vanity Fair, 1924

these days i’ve been spending a lot of times with books. fiction, non-fiction, zines, and gorgeous picture books. re-reading ones that have been on my shelf for years, and starting ones i’ve been meaning to get to for longer than i’d like to admit. this weekend while visiting my friend marika‘s place, i poured over the copy of Objectif Mode, 1850 a nos jours she had taken out of the library. myself, ainslie, cat and simon turned the pages together, pointing out our favourites. the chapter for the 1920s began with a cropped version of one of my favourite photographs. i gasped, and said, “swanson! steichen! how glorious.” it didn’t have a caption on that page, so my friends were kind of surprised.

“how do you know that?” cat asked.

i laughed it off, mumbled something or other about how it’s just a random bit of knowledge tucked away in my brain somewhere… but how? and why?

i know it because i love it, is the short version.

i know it because i’ll always remember this image. because there’s something about early photography that pairs decadence, decay, the jazz age, art, fashion that will always be compelling to me.

i know it because i’ve seen many other photographers try to emulate what it is about this photograph that draws you in so much. is it steichen’s talent as a photographer? is it swanson’s gaze? is it both?

Gertrud Arndt, « Maskenselbstbildnis Nr. 16 », 1930

Gertrud Arndt, « Maskenselbstbildnis Nr. 16 », 1930

i also know these things because i am smart. because i am not just a passive consumer of photography, art, and fashion – i’m a fan. i take the time to inform myself, to remember details.

after finishing the book, i must admit i felt slightly disappointed. curious choices for images to define over a century of style. in the end, what i personally disliked about it was that it did not present the picture of fashion that i know and love. it presented the typical vision of fashion as one occupied by those who can afford to indulge in high-end couture, with more photos of runway models and movie stars than your average joe. a model can wear a dress, that is their job at the end of the day, but i’ve always been more interested in why someone might choose to wear certain garments, and how they wear them.

this reminded me yet again why i often feel alienated by the “fashion” world.

this leads to other things i’ve been asking myself about these days: what makes a fashion blog feminist. perhaps it’s because someone pointed out to me that when you google “feminist fashion blog,” my blog is on the first page of results. perhaps it’s because i’ve come across more than a few fashion blogs that describe themselves as feminist, yet i see very little/no explicit political content or discussion. or worse, a very second-wave version of what it means to be feminist.

a tweet posted on may 9th by julia that reads "if i could just have a feature that would let me read about fashion online without having to trudge through body hate bullshit, that'd be great."

one of the more specific reasons this question has been on my mind is because of last week’s extravagant fashion event. i wanted to see what people wore to the met ball last week. briefly: the met ball is when the top of the top get decked out to the nines in incredibly lavish clothing. here’s a more detailed description from the Atlantic‘s may 2007 article “Why Fashion Deserves its Place in Art Museums:”

Once inside, the 700 guests—actors and models, designers and socialites—will dine and dance and preview the museum’s newest exhibition. The occasion is the “party of the year,” the Met’s Costume Institute Benefit Gala. Co-chaired annually by Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, the party is not just a chance to wear and admire beautiful clothes; it’s a lavish and efficient fund-raising machine. Tickets start at $6,500 per person, with tables for 10 running as high as $100,000. Last year’s gala raised $4.5 million for the museum’s fashion department.

obviously, it’s one of my few typical “Fashion Elite” moments of awe. i generally click through a handful of fashion week shit, but it’s generally kinda low on my radar. the met ball, on the other hand? pure fantasy through and through, and i shamelessly love gawking at it. this year in particular featured an exhibition that is right up my alley: Schiaparelli & Prada (and wrote a bit about back in march). in my hunt for more photos of the dresses people wore, i visited sites i tend to avoid… and was reminded of why. i found myself rolling my eyes at the comments, and asking myself, really?

the comments on jezebel‘s “good/bad/ugly” met gala review are more about how skinny a model is, how much someone looks like a “drag queen” (as if that’s a bad thing?), and how slutty a woman’s dress is than about, say, whether or not it was an appropriate choice for a gala that lauds designer known for collaborations with surrealist artists, or how the theme of the gala this year was explicitly focused around conversations about feminist women.

the overall tone i got from the four or five websites i visited was one fraught with body policing (variations of the she’s too thin to show that much skin/she’s too fat to wear that dress/that colour/that style, usually coded in words like “flattering”) and left me headdesking. why so much vitriol when there were so many other potential things of substance to discuss? who chose to wear schiaparelli’s signature shocking pink? what worked, the over the top designs or the more demure ones? the hommages: well-done or too hokey?

i took to twitter and of course discovered i’m not alone in wanting to consume fashion (at least visually) without having to confront body hate and mean-spirited comments everywhere i turn. jenny zhang was briefly the fashion commentator at jezebel, and talked about her own struggles with facilitating that environment, as someone who identifies as feminist:

For a while, I was writing red carpet commentary for Jezebel, and I always felt too mean or not mean enough or not quippy enough or not discerning enough or too judgmental. It’s hard to write meaningfully about fashion! At least it is for me.

and i hear her. we fall into the trappings of “oh my god, she wore THAT?!” partly because it’s so effortless, but also because it’s so pervasive. it’s everywhere we turn. not only that, it’s ridiculous gendered, almost always heteronormative, often racist (if not completely whitewashed) – and overall unproductive and boring in my eyes. if you missed it, i wrote an article mapping out my feelings around those issues last year.

it’s so easy for me to feel as though i’m the one in the wrong, because i feel as though i’m in the minority. it’s easy to feel as though i should just accept that catty rude comments about people’s bodies are par for the course when it comes to talking about fashion. that i’ll always have to start conversations about my interest in fashion and art by defending that fashion can be art, since most people’s perception of the word “fashion” is a vacuous and mean-spirited one.

for me, framing my blog as a “critical take on fashion culture” is the most direct way i can challenge these notions. people know if they come to my blog they won’t see me writing about fashion in that way.

self-portrait by mccall johnson

i’m trying to remember why i write here. why i’ve been trying to create this space and foster dialogue around feminism and fashion for years. even though there are more and more of us these days, we still have to defend the very basic premise that you can be interested in fashion AND be a feminist. i’m really looking forward for the day we can put those conversations to bed, and move forward.

i should pride myself on my extensive knowledge of fashion and art, not laugh it off.  if i’m less worried that people will interpret my interest and affection for fashion as frivolous or anti-feminist, than maybe i can finally get to that point. let’s trade in shame for pride, stop being belittled and start being empowered. i’m done with the defenses. let’s keep talking about how to challenge oppressive ideologies we see operating in the fashion world we are already a part of.

recommended reading:

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Filed under fashion, self-portraits, Uncategorized, vintage

following the photobooth faithful


forgive me, this post will hardly be about feminism and/or fashion, but i really wanted to share this with everyone so… consider yourself forewarned!

i don’t talk about my job very much here because… well, all of the usual internet-fearing reasons. as public as i tend to be with my private life online, negotiating career-related things online is a whole new ball game in the digital age. you know, that typical jargony disclaimer people use on twitter and facebook to say “these opinions are my own bla bla bla.” today, i make an exception.

this morning, my short radio documentary on photobooths aired. you can listen to it online here. i had this idea back in january, finally got the nerve to pitch it to my producer in february, and slowly chipped away at it between other assignments and the daily grind. now, it’s ready to share with the world! i’m still quite new to the medium of radio, but i really am starting to feel at home with all the creative ways we can share stories using sound. i’m also ridiculously lucky (and grateful) to have some fantastic co-workers who will let me bounce ideas off of them and help me adjust my skills to the medium of radio.

the reason i’m writing about this radio documentary online is that there are so many other stories i still want to share that i couldn’t fit into that short piece, and there are also so many visual elements! where better to share those than right here?

for decades, we took photobooths for granted. cheap, high-quality instant photography is practical and useful, and will always be around, won’t it? not so certain. this technology, which has been around for a century, is taking a beating now that digital photography has taken up a whole lot of space and taken away some of that “instant” magic. after the almost-death of polaroid film, combined with the introduction of digital booths, photobooth lovers have been given a swift kick in the pants.

what can we do to make sure they stick around?

in short: we use them.

before you can use one, though, you have to kow where they are. of course, i have my trusty stand-by photobooths i’ve used countless times over the years: the one i affectionately called “my” photobooth in the quinte mall, in belleville, ontario; the ones in the greyhound station in montreal and ottawa; and one tucked away in a corner of union station in toronto. but when i moved to quebec city, i noticed there wasn’t one at the train station, or the malls i had been to. i had no idea where to find one. hello photobooth.net‘s locator feature! it’s a great resource.

a screencap from the photoboot.net website's locator feature

i looked for locations in the province of quebec… and lo and behold, all of them listed are in montreal. now, this doesn’t mean there aren’t any in québec city – it simply means they have not been documented and listed by someone for the website. one curious thing i did notice, though, was that for all of the montreal locations… the same face popped up again and again.

meags fitzgerald

that face belongs to halifax-based artist meags fitzgerald. i contacted her when i started researching my story on photobooths back in january, wrongly assuming she was a montrealer and could give me a good quebec-focused angle here. instead, it turns out meags face shows up for most canadian cities you look up on the locator feature, because she is responsible for nearly 90% of all canadian locator contributions. yeah. i know. after a brief phone call, she quickly proved she knows more about photobooths than i thought humanly possible.

she uses photobooth strips and frames in all sorts of artistic projects, in ways i could have never imagined. and i suppose i should retract my earlier statement about this post having nothing to do with fashion… her garden state project clearly begs to differ. she makes her own clothes, and uses the same fabric to wallpaper the background of the photobooth she takes the photos in.

two photobooth strips by artist Meags Fitzgerald from her Garden State project

two colour photobooth strips by artist Meags Fitzgerald

she’s also currently working on an animation project: a stop motion animation shot entirely in a photobooth. it’s kind of mind boggling to think of all the details involved in that process, and you can follow it on her blog. she’s launching an indie go go campaign shortly as well if you want to help make these projects happen!

my own relationship to photobooths is similar to meags at first glance.  i think we both probably started out as teenagers loving photobooth strips just for kicks, a cheap way to pass the time in the mall while waiting for our parents to come pick us up – without any inclination what we were making might one day be considered “art.” where we differ, however, is that photobooths are hardly a big part of my life these days. i can count the number of strips i’ve taken in the last year on one hand, and the nearest one to me is in a part of town very unfriendly to my lack of ability/access to commandeer a motorized vehicle (the fanciest way possible of saying: i hate car culture). this makes no one sadder but myself. that said, i think this is a better opportunity than ever to share some of my favourite photobooth strips.

my own more creative photobooth strips were hardly one of a kind originals, i.e. i blatantly ripped off the concepts that i had seen other people do online, shared with livejournal communities in the early 2000s. my most successful attempt, though, are these two taken in a month apart in 2006.

where is my mind - two photobooth strips by julia caron in 2006

another example would be how i used photobooths more recently. i think part of my admiration for meags is that she actually executes the projects and ideas she gets instead of just letting them fester in her head like i do. i’ve got more ideas for projects than i can count, but i never end up making it happen. more recently though, i was obsessed with documenting how long my hair had grown, to try and visually represent the kind of chaotic surreal aspect of it. while i took dozens of digital photographs trying to show how long it had grown, it is these two photobooth strips that i think best represent how i felt about my long locks in an artistic sense as well as serving the basic purpose of “look! my hair is long!”

photoboothcousin ithairy pits

in this interview i did with karol orzechowski back in april 2009, i did start to reflect a bit on the question of photobooth strips as a form of self-portraits. while with a photobooth there is arguably no photographer (which is also part of my intrigue around jon rafman’s 9-eyes project on google street view) the subject remains the one who chooses how to pose, how to frame – albeit with very strict limitations. meags work plays with that quite well by creating her own environments, and it’s definitely a challenge i’d like to take on one day myself.

and how could i end this post without sharing some of my favourite photobooth strips with friends?

photobooth strips all taken in the quinte mall between 2000 and 2004 (except for the one of me and alex, i think that was taken in a gananoque mall in kingston?)

photobooth strips all taken in the quinte mall between 2000 and 2004 (except for the one of me and alex, i think that was taken in a gananoque mall in kingston?)

salima and julia in a photobooth on coney island, august 2009sves+julia amber and julia

salima and julia in a photobooth on coney island, august 2009. sves & myself, february 2012 in montreal. me and amber (who uses an adorable black & white strip for her website banner) in montreal in may 2011. perhaps when andi comes to visit in the fall it will be a better excuse than any to go on a photobooth date?

here’s to the photobooth strips of yesterday, and the ones to come.

i’d love to see yours: share them in the comments!

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october: what i wore this month

making good on my promises to you, dear reader, this month. it’s november 1st, so that means i owe you an outfit post. one big honkin’ outfit post. here are some of my favourite outfits from the month of october. fair warning – lots of photos ahead. click the photos for larger images. comment if you have any questions about specifics!

let’s go in chronological order, shall we? october started with some dreary grey days… and then all of the sudden, a heat wave! just in time for a lovely visit to petawawa.

october 2nd

oct 7th outfitoct 7 th

visiting my sisters in ottawa, october 7th

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Filed under vintage, what i wore today