My friend Emmet is retiring this year, 40 years after making the ‘mistake’ of taking a job teaching photography at Princeton, 27 years after coaching wandering, unfocused me through a wandering, unfocused thesis project.
As I’ve written before, I received my first camera, an Olympus OM-10, when I was in high school, when part of me wanted to grow up to be Ansel Adams. In the fall of my sophomore year in college, Emmet Gowin finally taught me, among many other things, how to use that camera, that there were many types of cameras, and that there was more to see through any lens than just a perfect full scale from pure black to pure white.
Emmet’s teaching assistant was a woman named Virginia Beahan whose work at the time included a portfolio of images she shot in Iceland with a Diana camera. I loved Virginia and her work. I also loved the Diana camera with its light leaks and extreme unpredictability.
A couple of years later when I was the teacher and not the student (at least not in title) the Diana camera was one of my favorite teaching tools – second only to cyanotypes. I gave my favorite Diana the name Gertrude K., in tribute to one of my favorite photographers, Gertrude Kasebier.
Gertrude K., along with a full set of darkroom equipment, negatives and all of my “good” film cameras, lived in a box for a very long time. She’s out and about now mainly for show and tell with my children, little people who cannot believe there was ever a time when you couldn’t see the picture instantly. I pulled Gertrude K. out of the box when I pulled out my 1987 photo class portfolio, the first of many final class portfolios that Emmet would oversee. Each student contributed one image, and Virginia and Emmet each contributed one also. Emmet was working on the Petra project at the time. Virginia was shooting with her Diana.
When I made the move to digital photography (a move I’m still not entirely committed to, just for the record) I didn’t expect the happy surprise of finding Hipstamatic, the iPhone app that transports me back to the days of my beloved Gertrude K.
Although the Hipstamatic legend appears to be a complete fabrication – a clever marketing ploy – the app itself has made an interesting story on its own. New York Times photographer Damon Winter won a Pulitzer for images shot with Hipstamatic, and the controversy was considerable.
Not surprisingly, I side with Winter. An eye is a complete damn miracle of a human organ. A camera is a tool. Sometimes the right tool for the eye’s story is a 20×24 view camera. Sometimes it’s a pinhole device made from a Quaker Oats container. Sometimes it’s Hipstamatic.
I still shoot with my grown up digital Nikon, at least from time to time, but Diana’s much younger Hipsta sister is often better at helping tell the story the way I see it. Two years ago, inspired by this (long-ish) video I decided to end the year with my own (much shorter) Hipstamatic retrospective. And here I am, still at it. Cheers to a happy 2014 and best wishes for a bright New Year.
Food | Week of December 29, 2014
This chef is on vacation, and her family will be eating leftovers while she sips mimosas. If you, the chef, are not on vacation and need some inspiration, may I suggest using the following recipes, fresh from my post of the last week of 2013:
- Tyler Florence’s Spaghetti alla Carbonara | Bitter greens with lemon/olive oil dressing
- Ina Garten’s Spring Green Risotto | Berry tarts from the Fresh Market
- Quiche (Use whatever’s in the fridge as filling) | Endive/Chicory/Mandarin orange salad
- Ina Garten’s Salmon with Lentils
- Shrimp over mixed spring greens: Plain boiled shrimp works just fine over a green salad. If you want to put a bit more work into it you can cook them and serve warm over the greens, as in this recipe.
Emmet Gowan was just down here for Photo NOLA, which I have never attended — it’s a long story — but mostly because I’d rather be out working… I’m not sure about anything controversial these days. In a riff from my musical miss who says, “I just want to make music,” I just want to make pictures. All the rest, as the late Ernst Haas used to say, is “just stuff.” For me the right camera is, as the cliche says, “the one I have with me.” If you look around for my mentor — David Alan Harvey — on YouTube during a Vogue Masters series interview, you’ll see a point where he flips through his latest book and says as he points to each picture, “Leica, iPhone, Leica, Nikon…” Technology doesn’t even matter to the storytelling process. Happy 2015.
Amen! Cheers to the stories we’ll get to tell in 2015.
Just lovely, absolutely lovely. I lay in bed with my husband and a few kids early on this lazy Sunday and we all just watched your beautiful montage. Thank you. Your posts are always an inspiration (and I need some inspiration to do better in 2015.)
Also, I love Hipstamatic. Chance, an instantly sepia-tinted memory, and a square format… what’s not to love?
Bravo! Love the piece, great links and delightful slide show. I keep meaning to get out some of the old film cameras just to see if I remember anything. A couple of years ago I took a roll with an old Yashica medium format Steve found at his mother’s, and I had to send the film away to New England for developing. It was great fun, but I about died of impatience before the prints arrived back in the mail. Happy new year!
I have that camera! And all my developing tanks. And a long expired bag of D-76 developer…. One day, maybe. I suspect that, for both of us, it would be like riding a bike: shaky first few minutes then a breeze. Happy New year to you, too. May the year be filled with bits of country ham exactly when you need them.
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