70 Degrees West

A great image requires a delicate combination of many things – light, timing, subject matter, composition, equipment, and skill. As a photographer and writer, our tools and talents dictate the results seen by a world audience. Hiking through dense woods, swarmed by biting insects, we wait for the moment when the light begins to dance. Although there is no formula for producing a stunning image, Justin would say it comes down to good use of light, a compelling subject matter, a creative composition, and the right lens. Photography tells a story through a single image. Images are changing the way we see the world, and we choose to dedicate our practice to effective and creative storytelling.

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The Autographer: Conceited or Revolutionary?

This month will see the launch of a brand new camera that could revolutionize everyday photography. Or maybe just engender some more navel-gazing.

The Autographer touts itself as the “world’s first intelligent, wearable camera.” It can be placed around your neck and the camera judges at what junctures to take photographs of your life with a 136-degree view. Though the technical specs are certainly impressive and the idea is somewhat novel, I can’t help but think…is this just the next level of the over-documentation of people’s lives?

I feel like the Autographer will be a popular product for the same reason that any social media is popular – it gives people a chance to track and share their lives in another medium. The only difference is that this truly requires zero effort. You throw it around your neck after you take a shower, then take it off when you go to bed (hopefully), and your day has been documented randomly in photographs.

Now most of the time, your day probably will not be interesting enough to warrant Autographer use (another bowl of rice for lunch? Really?). But on those days when something really cool is happening – you go to a concert, head to the beach, go out to dinner with friends, destroy public property – the Autographer is your friend and constant documentarian obsessed with the same thing that you are:  you. It will take candid pictures and capture moments that may have gone unbeknownst to you while you were busy living.

This camera takes away a formerly crucial and unfortunate part of being a photographer, which is that you had to remove yourself from being present in the moment in order to forever document the moment. For this, I applaud the Autographer. I love the idea that my life can now be remembered in pictures without me having to constantly stop living to maintain the record.

However, I also feel like the Autographer will lend itself to even more self-obsession than social media and the information age has already created. People Tweet their every thought. They Instagram their every food. They Yelp their every critique of the WORST CUSTOMER SERVICE IN THE WORLD.

It’s fantastic and frustrating.

The democracy of opinion, information and thought is a great feature of this social media revolution. The ridiculous emphasis on the self is the awful part, and the Autographer plays right into it. It will cut every person’s Instagram work in half, compile a perfect Tumblr with its photography, and essentially create a visual journal of the smallest, most minute, and pointless details of every person’s life. For every photo of a breathtaking beach, we’ll see a guy clipping his toenails. For every masterpiece, a thousand dime-store pictures that others won’t care about.

Maybe the Autographer isn’t made for sharing though, and that’s how I’ve reconciled the product with reality. It isn’t a camera where you’ll take lots of pictures and show your friends. It isn’t a camera that will display a level of artistry only seen in museums and Shutterfly. It is a camera that is all about you. Your life as seen by an objective, all-remembering, all-encapsulating eye.

If I buy one of these cameras (I won’t), it will only be so I remember moments way down the line, years later. I’ll buy it (I won’t) so I can peer at the little details I may have missed while I was busy living; so I can have that cool moment where I try to figure out exactly where I was in each shot. It won’t be for others to look at it.

Because who cares about me cooking rice again?

Arabica coffee won’t survive this century

It’s a terrible thing to even think about, but our grandchildren may not ever taste Arabica coffee. Go into your local market and you’ll see many whole bean coffees made from Arabica beans – it’s a fairly common and delicious coffee. I know, there are many other ways to get that caffeine fix (and by 2080, probably scores more – a little caffeine injection every morning?). But Arabica is a coffee staple, and the fact that this plant is probably going to go extinct because of changes in climate is truly saddening, both for the sake of biodiversity, and for the sake of me getting up in the morning.

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