Tag Archives: self-portrait

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!

RECOMMENDED READING:

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recommended reading: on self-portraits

ode to tamil

ode to tamil (self-portrait) by julia caron

over the years, i’ve made it quite clear i have a particular fondness for self portraits. initially, i was drawn to many images i’d come across in art books, visual arts classes, and museums, without even realizing my favourites were, more often than not, self portraits. francesca woodman, frida kahlo, and cindy sherman come to mind as artists that made a huge mark on my life, my aesthetics, and my own (quite limited) photography. it was only over time and personal curiosity that i came to learn they were all self-portraits. cindy sherman’s untitled series, woodman’s ghostly incarnations, and frida kahlo’s powerful paintings are all reflections and representations of themselves… or at least, of a certain aspect of themselves.

a self-portrait taken by eve arnold in the 1950s

Eve Arnold, Self-Portrait in a Distorted Mirror, 42nd Street, New York, 1950.

for some reason over the past week, i’ve come across many a link which has forced me to revisit and remember what it is i truly love about self-portraits. eve arnold, an influential photographer, passed away last week. while most people quickly started circulating her portraits of marilyn monroe, i took a moment to revisit her work. it is startlingly curious to see which photographs we remember her for, and why. i was surprised to see how beautiful this “Self-Portrait in a Distorted Mirror, 42nd street, New York” was, which i’d never come across before. when we google image search her name, marilyn monroe’s face comes up before hers. how sad.

to top it off, i’ve also come across two fantastic articles on self-portraits. let’s start with wayne bremser’s reflections on the most popular photographs of 2011. it quickly shifts gears from a “best of” type list into a thoughtful reflection on fame, portraits, and consent. the contrast of a famous celebrity’s leaked nude self-portrait contrasted with a relative unknown woman’s posthumous self-portraits makes this point quite clear. this is the line that really struck me:

Vivian Maier was the least famous person in the world, the self-portrait was the only way to document her own existence; nobody else was going to do it for her.

there’s something brutally honest about that statement; for those of you in the known about vivian maier, you’ll known she’s the “unknown woman” whose life and photography came to light only after her death. the spotlight shone brightly on her work in 2011, so it is fitting that her images are part of the most important and memorable of the last year, even though most were taken many decades earlier. i strongly recommend reading the article in its entireity, as i think bremser has touched on something that most other photography “best of 2011″ lists missed altogether in their pandering to the status quo and propaganda machines.

vivian maier - self-portrait, 1960

Vivian Maier, Self-Portrait, 1960

a day after coming across that article, i found this one while trying to find proper credit on tumblr for this image. Mirrors, Masks and Spaces: Self-portraits by Women Photographers in the twenties and thirties by Herbert Molderings & Barbara Mülhens-Molderings totally made my saturday. i printed it out and poured over it while drinking an afternoon cup of tea… here are some of the passages i underlined:

The woman’s break with her oppressive pre-war image, her new liberties and her new vocational prospects, the shape and scope of which were still extremely unclear, found expression in the multitude of self-portraits taken by female photographers of the 1920s in an attempt at defining and asserting their new identity.

can i get behind that? fuck yeah. there is a lot in this article of the flapper “garçonne” persona of liberation and the direct correlation of the desire to document ones face, ones self. the power of being able to be both creator and subject is something that has infinitely appealed to me over the years, and i am endlessly grateful for the self-timer function on digital cameras for allowing me to explore that. but for someone like myself, born in 1985, to reflect on what it meant for the very first female self-portrait photographers and artists in the 1920s and 30s? wow, how eye opening.

a self-portrait taken by Marianne Breslauer, « Die Fotografin » , 1933

Marianne Breslauer, « Die Fotografin » , 1933

In a self-portrait taken in 1933, undoubtedly the most erotic self-portrait of a woman photographer of the 1920s and 1930s, this Berlin photographer (Marianne Breslauer) poses, with her cable release in her hand, as a young woman obviously skilful at the game of concealing and revealing. She has deliberately opened her fashionable, fur-trimmed housecoat in order to view her beautiful naked body on the ground-glass screen of the camera. As she is standing to one side of the mirror, her face is hidden by her hair, heightening still further the subtle eroticism of this photograph. Her gaze into the viewfinder of the camera, as though refusing to look herself and, by the same token, the imagined viewer in the eye as she performs her exhibitionist act, seems modest and outdated compared with the erotic self-portraits of women photographers today.24 At once narcissistic and voyeuristic, this self-portrait is less an occupational portrait of the kind intended for publication – we know of no publication of this photograph prior to 197925 – than a private study of a young woman photographer using her professional skills to explore, and take delight in, the eroticism of her appearance.

i’m not going to lie, this definitely put me in mind of some of my own attempts (and failures) of playing with that erotic gaze in the self-portrait… the vast majority of which i have chosen not to share with anyone. but it is powerful to think that what seems like such an innocuous, tame image today went unpublished (and perhaps unseen) for over forty years, because it was too scandalous? because it was always intended to be private? in the era of taking photographs with cell phones and instantly sharing them online, tweeting them with instagram, this seems unheard of. but another aspect this put me in mind of were some of the questions i asked when writing about katie west‘s nude self-portraits back in 2010. why are women, especially young women, so overwhelmingly shamed and judged when they choose to share nude photographs of themselves online… even if they are the ones creating those images themselves? contrasting the digital era of self-portraits with the social mores of the 1930s is definitely intriguing, to say the least.

how many of these photographers were mostly taking photos for themselves? how many, like vivian maier, probably never thought they would have an audience of thousands, even millions? reading and reflecting on all of these questions has already been quite fruitful for me… but i still feel like most of my ideas are a bit half-baked. one day, i’d like to get to the point where i can reflect on the role fashion bloggers and “what i wore” outfit documentors play in the evolution of the self-portrait, of the digital camera as a mirror… but i think my brain has got a lot of digesting to do before it can help me articulate what i mean by the political implications of those things. in the meantime, my heart will jump a little bit each time i see a beautiful self-portrait or read an amazing article reflecting on just what self-portraits can mean. i hope you enjoy them as much as i did.

may 2010as always, click the photos for credit and sources.

recommended readings:

navel gazing:

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november: what i wore this month

nov  26thanyone in canada can tell you we’ve had a surprisingly mild winter so far. usually, in québec city, we can expect our first snowfall in early november. this year, however, we’ve been holding off the snow for the most part – in fact, i think i’ve only see three little snowfalls that have hardly lasted. so obviously this has had a huge impact on how i’ve been dressing! i’m always happy to stave off the winter boots a wee bit longer.

without further ado, here’s a selection of some of my favourite november outfits.

IMG_8128
on my way to see sandro perri & ryan driver at l’agitée, a really really fantastic show. impossible spaces is definitely one of my favourite albums of 2011!

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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