Sunday, November 13, 2011
Semi-analog love life
If someone asked me if I felt nostalgic about typewriters or gramophone records or cassettes or tapes, I’d probably say no. You’ll understand better why when I tell you that I was born in the 90’s when typewriters and records were long gone, cassettes were around only for a good 6-7 years when I was growing up. So, for me, inversely, the joy and moments of triumph at owning a CD or boasting of an attic full of floppy disks (which my father still preserves) or telling you that I played ‘Gus goes to Cyberstone park’ on a b/w PC while others were still learning how to switch on a computer; those moments are better registered in my memory. Interestingly, I think me and my generation belong to the semi-analog group where as much as we are bound to be excited by new gadgets and more virtuality, somewhere, we were still shaped in hardcore mud and clay and nuts and bolts. To give you an analogy, I feel like a pager or a netbook sometimes. Those are intermittent technologies that very much look like what used to be, but are anticipating some mind blowing, life changing moment. Eventually, that happens, human kind evolves to mobile phones and tablets.
However, there is something that I do feel nostalgic about: images, photographs. Partly because I have always been a keen movie watcher and loved clicking pictures as a child and partly because I actually participated in the semi-analog to digital move of the camera, I can relate to this one. I still remember how there were two cameras at home. A Yashica manual point and shoot that needed batteries and gave good results, another was a freebie that churned out okay images. Needless to say what kids got. Albums at home are still lying there, loaded with half burnt, half exposed, blurry yet proud memories of trips past. Recently, in a cinema class, a professor was narrating how he used to work at a film archive and one could see his eyes gleam as he narrated tales after tales of resurrecting negatives lying in tatters. I admit I feel his thrill. There is a different feeling when you touch a photograph that magically develops out of a single click. More important, the camera has a mind (mechanics+chemistry) of its own. So what you see is not what you always get on the print!
This is when my turn to analog happened. After a few years of clicking with digital cameras, I discovered lomography. That in turn led me to how pretty these cameras are! More, they entirely manipulate colors to produce instant impressionist to surreal pictures! So, I bought a Diana F+ and after much hassle and a lot of expenditure, I developed my first roll. It wasn’t that great like on the website, but I got the hang of it. This isn’t just sheer nostalgia; this helps me rethink what I am doing. Using manual lenses against automatic make me move and put in effort in composition. At times I feel that reducing the number of steps and making things easier through technologies has a severe impact on the process of art and the experience.
Warning: Analog inspires LONG rants :P
This brings me to a couple of projects that I started looking at in the course of my analog obsession. The biggest of course, was the impossible project to save Polaroid cameras. When Polaroid announced they were ceasing all operation and production of films and instant cameras in 2008, a large community of instant camera lovers across the globe came together to keep the tradition alive. If nostalgia produces that kind of art, nostalgia is a great thing! Yet another project was ‘Before I die I want to…” project. It’s not just the camera or the photograph, people mobilize their situations, clothing, old glasses, souvenirs, bring them all to create what fits in that imagination of time. I did my little take with my mother’s sunglasses when she was in her 20’s. To surmise, as much as I hate analog nostalgia in general and sitting down to write a poem on the typewriter, I guess I participate in the analog love culture too, in my own ways. I guess nostalgia is long vast landscape and mine is a semi-analog house in it.