Awkward Portrait was born out of a reaction to the well known iPhone app called Instagram.
As of now I dont own a fancy phone with all the bells and whistles. So it could just be my inexperience with the newest Pop item that keeps me reticent. However, as a film photographer I am generally agitated by the assertion that these filters, with names like the Walden, Lomo-Fi and Gotham, celebrate the aesthetic of film photography, and even more specifically, the charm of the serendipitous thats embedded in the analog process.
Nostalgia must be rampant in our societys culture for Instagram to be as impressively popular as it is. Their slogan Instant Memories plays on the psychological notion that the image is precious. The image however, its worth has been clouded by its omnipresence.
While a family of the 90s may have 4 shoeboxes full of photographs, today the 16GB iphone can hold approximately 4000 jpegs. A phone, unlike the familys old analog camera is always on hand, skyrocketing the average amount of moments captured in a day.
We live in a world that is recording time almost constantly and through an agent that is almost impervious to its effects. Whether it is through video, phone apps, or tumblr accounts weve lost our connection to the fleeting, the un-captured moment, which make those that we have caught all the more precious.
It is the serendipitous moment, that leaves its gracious imprint on a photographic object that we have grown nostalgic for.
This is what Instagram and all apps like it have ingeniously tried to imitate. Except of course, it is impossible to imitate the serendipitous.
The popularity of filter affects, such as halide crystal hot-spots, or the fading of chemicals on polaroids are meant to remind us of those shoe boxes found in a grandparents attic. In reality these filters, and the process that creates them, are devoid of the exact element it copies. While an accident of photographic nature can be planned for, the actual results may vary. Instagram and its simulacrum of the actual is made by mathematical algorithms devoid of any serendipitous moment beyond that which is in front of the lens. But even those moments are often as calculating as the components using the little device.
Selfies, if you have not heard, is the act of raising ones camera, or camera phone, to take a picture of oneself. The act of taking a Selfie, while allowing the subject to be both photographer and sitter, results in photographs that lack the serendipity that is so desired. Poses are usually studied, as the subject can see themselves on the device, because of this the subject(s) are prone to sensor less attractive tendencies. The smiles are for the camera, not for the occasion or moment, leaving the notion of spontaneity to be applied by the filter.
In the Awkward Portrait series I work to court the serendipitous.
Like most people of my generation I am obsessed with capturing the fleeting. However my tool of choice can, with some prompting, record the real thing. Working in analog allows me the freedom of capturing the variable and un-imagined mistake of the mechanical process, as well as capturing the mistake of the organic sitter. My particular nostalgia is not for the object made precious through time but the capture of time before the photographic self.
I want to capture the true smile, or even more enchanting, the odd facial gesture. To get this the sitter is made to feel awkward or asked to repeat un-photogenic actions to insight feelings of insecurity and ambivalence towards the camera.
My nostalgia is for the early portraits in photographys history. The Men and women who knew so little of the process they were unable to prepare themselves to be recorded. They had no photogenic self with premeditated gestures or smiles. Often sitters are not looking into the lens or have moved when told not to. They display a glint or expression that is unguarded, allowing the viewer to see a wealth of possible interpretations about their personality and the captured moment that created it. This is what I am nostalgic for.
My aim is to capture the un-photographed self, to take away the default smile and good side of my sitter, so as to capture the reality of their inconsistent, fluctuating existence morphed by the seconds and half seconds.
My process of capturing these portraits is not true to the original method of large format glass plate negatives. In this way I am similar to the Instagram users in that I too am practicing mimicry. To acknowledge as well as heighten the trend of technological perfection I frame each photograph in a photoshop layered pattern, which controlled completely by mathematics correlates not only to the algorithms of Instagram but also the disparity between our technologically efficient world and our fond memory of the unpredictable. In doing so I hope to comment and capture the insufferably contradictory moment that is now.