The 19th-century French novelist Gustave Flaubert once said to be “be regular and orderly in your life like a Bourgeois so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
Vivian Maier took this to heart. No one ever knew this nanny was an artist of her own.
She took over 100,000 photos, mostly street photographs of downtown Chicago, and kept them for her own viewing, including her selfies. Taking pictures was her happy place, a creative outlet, that allowed her to see the world with a third eye. She wrote with light.
Today, Maier would’ve been an Instagram and VSCO sensation. While she may have resisted social media given her inclination as a loner, she probably would’ve enjoyed connecting with others who shared the same passion. The internet unleashes the weirdness in all of us, motivating us to share our work.
Van Gogh only sold one piece of artwork in his life, to his brother. His posthumous reputation speaks for itself, as does Maier’s.
The proliferation of images undermines our ability to pay attention to any single one. So we keep skimming, scrolling, consuming more and understanding less; all the while contributing to the chaos to avoid missing out.
On top of this, all Instagram images tend to look the same. It’s easier to conform to selfies, food porn, and minimalism than it is to stand out in the shadows of weird.
But even the well-choreographed, well-edited National Geographic photos lose their value. Our eyeballs are too tired to give particular attention to the images that deserve a closer look.
“We have come to a point in society where we are all taking too many photos and spending very little time looking at them.” – Om Malik
The medium taints the message. Internet consumption dulls the senses. We are suffering from excess, the nearest click, and certain closeness.
Perhaps Huxley was right: we’re so inundated with screens that we forget about books and ignore the political corruption around us.
We can forget the algorithmic filter that promises to save time by showing us the best stuff. We’re already lost, and in desperate need to relearn how to see.
Sometimes it’s the written word. Other times, it’s a still photo. If the camera is too revealing, we can communicate via video or sound. Said filmmaker Robert Bresson’s in his 1975 book Notes on the Cinematograph: “A locomotive’s whistle imprints in us a whole railroad station.”
Communication is a game of elements. Film is the art of combining images and sounds; it excludes what overexplains or impresses.”One should not use the camera as if it were a broom.” A good filmmaker lets the mind dance with imagination.
A movie is a both a creative and viewing experience. It can be dull and instantly lively, like the pendulum of our everyday lives.
“My movie is born first in my head, dies on paper; is resuscitated by the living persons and real objects I use, which are killed on film but, placed in a certain order and projected on to a screen, come to life again like flowers in water.”
Tempus fugit. Time flies. But that’s because we allow technology to accelerate it.
When we speed through life as we scroll through our Instagram feeds, seeing everything as “pictures on a wall,” we don’t remember much. We get caught in looking at the rapidity of impressions rather than engaging in real wonders. We see the world like a rolling film and any pause causes a fight with intolerable boredom.
The rush to speed through life and accomplish all our goals in quick succession is the fastest way to reach “the annihilation of space by time.” But if we walk and slow down, we can catch the everyday moments in between. Slowness is what stimulates.
Technology flattens time and our expectations along with it. We expect everything to be instantly digestible, a downloadable shortcut. The time we spend digging deeper — experiencing– is what puts the bones in the goose. Acknowledging that “it will never be finished,” opens up space and time to dream.
Nobody uses filters anymore, at least in their original function. The overall consensus seems to be that #nofilter is just fine. But it’s also partly because people are better editors — mobile apps like VSCO and Instagram offer free toolkits that make it easy to adjust contrast, exposure, and saturation. You can also tweak the strength of the filter; a feature VSCO had all along, and Instagram has since copied.
Filters aren’t dead, though; they’re just evolving to meet visual means of communication and an appreciation for aesthetic. When Snapchat introduced facial lenses, users wanted to make their images more personal and playful. Meanwhile, Prisma’s popularity demonstrates the appetite to revert photos into pieces of art.
Smartphone users and social media enthusiasts love to dabble in photography. Having a good eye is not enough. Your images won’t stand out in the feeds unless they provide interesting context or are reimagined enhancements of reality.
If you’re into new presets, be sure to download the limited edition Distortia Preset Pack from VSCO. Released to celebrate the company’s 5th anniversary, you can “reimagine the boundaries of color with these presets, created for unconventional looks and customizations.”
The farther you go, the more interesting it gets. Through walking you discover.
“The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it.” – Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking
The new Nike Sportswear x VSCO filter dropped while I was on vacation last week in the Dominican Republic. It paints a Mars-like effect on your photos. This is how VSCO describes it on its blog:
“the preset creates a bold, duotone look using strong black and red hues. The tonal range of each image is remapped to these two colors, resembling the innovative look and expressive style of Nike Tech Pack.”
As I typically do with every new preset release, I go back and try it on recent photos to see what works. Portraits and scripture seemed to work out best. Here are some of the ones that came out.
Nike has sponsored a VSCOCam filter before with the NikeLab ACG x VSCO. It also featured a dark aesthetic.
I love creative accidents. I originally applied the Nike Sportswear preset on this image and the changed it to preset X5 but the sky retained some of the red and black from the Nike preset.
You can see a bunch more pictures from the trip on the VSCO Grid and on Instagram (@bombtune).