1.8 Tools of Capture

Tools of Capture: Canon 7D, Day 6 Plotwatcher Time-lapse, iPhone

Beyond accumulating physical objects and written words in my database, I am also passionately accumulating still and moving images. I use a range of high, medium, and low-resolution cameras, and oscillate between still and moving digital devices. Although quality/resolution is always a consideration when I am using a particular camera, I’m more interested in the access a particular device provides. Whether it is the med-res iPhone camera in my pocket at all times, a rugged Day 6 Plotwatcher low-res time-lapse camera I can duct tape to my bike and film while riding (or leave it somewhere all day to capture the environment in-motion) or the high-res Canon 7d DSLR with that allows me to investigate with interchangeable lenses (including a 15mm ultra wide, 100mm macro, or 35mm standard lens).


The digital aesthetics of these tools each provide a particular look to the final output. These tools are used primarily for sketching, and I attempt to capture the immediacy of the moment. Many times the poor or compressed digital quality offers a genuine quality to the piece. As filmmaker Hito Steyerl describes, “The poor image is a copy in motion, compressed, reproduced, ripped, remixed, as well as copied and pasted into other channels of distribution.” The beauty of the high or low-res digital camera is that they can all be remixed, rechanneled and shared quite easily. Still and video sketching is another tool that graphic designers can access without creating a subcategory of a separate discipline. My intention is not to undermine the tradition of film or photography but to imbue the disciplines with a shared philosophy.

Objects, writing and images all create a large database of inspiration for me to access like memories in my mind. Capturing ephemera and my surroundings is just the first phase in communicating my methodology.

2.7 Everyday Observations: Light

Everyday Observations: Light, 2011, 8 x 10” 48 Page Book (Detail)

Embrace Limitations
With access to the camera on my iPhone in my pocket at all times, I’m able to collect a visual archive of my observations at a moment’s notice. For the past few years, I’ve been developing this database and uploading select images to flickr, an online photo sharing community. The process of uploading the files from my iPhone to flickr creates an algorithm without me even realizing it. Due to its file size, the iPhone to flickr transfer only allows five photos to be uploaded at a time. I’m sure there are other apps that allow a larger number of photos and files sizes to be uploaded, but I enjoy this limitation. It relieves me from thinking too much about how many photos I want to share. At the same time it gives me the opportunity to create a mini-series based on a particular theme. Often I will shoot fleeting moments, abstract graphic forms, or light and shadows that catch my eye.

Everyday Observations: Light evaluates a typology of these images and identifies a dominant visual theme of light: natural, artificial and reflective. I select and remix fifty images of light from the database. Just as I embrace the limitations of the upload to the database, I apply algorithmic rules to the extraction of the photos from the database that are transformed into the visual narrative of the book: all selected photos must be used in chronological order; and formal relations and juxtapositions from the shape of light must relate to each image combination as well as from page to page.


Everyday Observations: Light (Cover)

Open-Ended Algorithms
Along with the visual narrative of iPhone images, excerpts from conceptual artist Allen Ruppersberg’s essay, 50 Helpful Hints on Art of The Everyday, support the structure of Everyday Observations: Light. This essay is a conceptual user’s manual on how to operate within everyday life. Ruppersberg discusses his work by explaining, “I always thought that I should just work within the basic parameters that I establish for myself, and so all the early work—I just went through a lot of ideas, because that’s what I felt like doing, and all of those ideas were open-ended enough that I could go back to them any point and work on them some more. And this is what I always thought, while I was doing things in the ’70s as a young artist. I realized that I was moving fast through lots of ideas, and that if I liked them in the future, I would come back and do more. And so everything was left open and made available for further work. And so eventually, I think that’s what happened. The idea of rearranging my life and the work is an ongoing subject.” I admire the basic parameters Ruppersberg’s sets up within his work and I apply his open-ended yet systematic philosophy to Everyday Observations: Light with addition to my methodological foundation.