From Mind to Form: Making Memories Tangible

This year we took our first vacation as a family of four to California. An overall success! Despite a few serious hiccups. I find travel with kids to be like everything with kids: infinitely harder and infinitely better. Can you relate? I grew up going to the beaches of New Jersey, so giving my girls some memories in the sand each year is a definite goal. Faithful Matt lugged my backpack around... five cameras and a bunch of silvery, wonderful polaroid packs later... I happily present the results. I purchased this box at the gift shop of The Huntington, which is one of my easy travel traditions. Buy box, put trip stuff in box. It keeps the spirit of memory-keeping on my heart as we travel and inspires me to keep creating even if inconvenient.

Thoughts on Form

My creative process usually begins with a discontent with form. Something about the medium I'm using doesn't allow the voice of The Thing to emerge. I felt this way about painting with acrylic until I discovered oils. Messy! Movable! Thick dollops of black, mistake-proof. Freedom. 

With photography I became disenchanted with digital a few years deep into a business that I hated. Is this a service merely? Am I being hired to achieve a result or tell a story? That was almost ten years ago. Now-a-days I joyfully admit to being center-wave in this tide of creatives returning to antiquated mediums. The physicality and irreversability of instant film was a breakthrough. YES. 

My paper prints allow me to use the best about digital - the ability to take a bajillion photos during a shoot - and keep the romance of film. I like to insist on this designation of myself: photograph maker. Meaning my aim for all images is that their eventual end would be in print. As a writer I likewise favor the physical - taking field notes and reporting back vs. creating fictional worlds.

My desire with Instagram-as-microblog is to document that process - the process of physical art-making. Sharing perfected (nothing wrong with perfect, you know I love you, perfect, you're my friend) IMAGES of humans without story feels exploitive for me. Another beeeeautiful family or couple or wedding. Eye roll. I realize this is revelatory of my general cynicism and creative superiority but there it is. Images feel like commercials to me; selling the same old lie I fall for every single day when I scroll Instagram and feel inferior. The lie that says when I have ______ like this person, I will be whole. I feel conflicted about contributing fodder to this aptly-named "feed", even if they're good. 

So! One solution? Story + embodiment. The paper trail of our lives that explains our values and choices. The shaping forces. The trauma, the legitimate triumphs, the things-still-in-progress that should be more established but just aren't yet. Not that physical photographs tell this story always, but in a way distinct from digital I feel they testify to it's presence. That we are time-bound human lives in process. And that is the master I seek to serve creatively: all hail process. 

I've been thinking about ways to share my photos that are not an infinite scroll of digital images. How to incorporate polaroids? How to show the texture of these living rectangular memories? I've landed on stop motion for prints and I think it suits it well. Enjoy!

Super 8: the medium of memory
 

It all started one Thanksgiving when my mom popped in a VHS tape saying, "I got these old home movies from my Dad!" Her father had digitized their super 8 home movies from the 60s. Watching it, I could see the thread of intention and love that connected their family before the waves of brokenness came in... before the divorce, the Vietnam war, the unspoken trauma that characterized their later years. Working in the medium of the family story my intention is to specifically not idealize relationships ie. make commercials for perfect happiness.

In my experience film testifies to this: despite the darkness of life there is light undeniable. There is love and connection. They did visit the Grand Canyon as a young family of six, the girls in bob-haircuts and the boys in shorter than short shorts. They had Christmases and they were good. There were presents hard-won and unwrapped with joy. There was a kiss between my mother's parents, at that time high school sweethearts who were trying. I find that inspiring.

So when we decided to take our trip I knew I wanted to revisit the medium I had come to associate with family memories. Super 8 film. Film in general hits me in the gut every single time and I typically observe the same reaction in others. It's permanence, tangibility, nostalgia all allow it to capture the visceral nature of memory. It looks like how we feel when we remember: sun-drenched and hazy; clips instead of long, hard days. Joy.

I am please to now offer super 8 films with my family archival packages and look forward to building up my portfolio and sharing in the furtherance of this charming, romantic medium that speaks so deeply to me.

Polaroids: Reflections

I took two polaroid cameras with us, the Instax Mini and Instax Wide. I'm in the process of purchasing an SX-70 and wasn't going to lug the land camera around in addition to the excessively heavy metal-body super 8. I favor the mini absolutely, in color quality, ease-of-use and because you have the only necessary function (in my opinion, but I'm right) on a point-and-shoot: flash control. I love these babies for what they give me: they capture the loveliness of the scene. But I long for the control a 600SE or 195 land camera would give me. Alas, funds. In time! 

Photo Notes: The Original Caption

One of my favorite things about old photographs is the notes on the back: Mary, age 4. Jack at the lake. Santa Monica, 1974. My mom the optimist and general happy-person used to include lots of exclamations and proclamations which I see emerging when I took up the mantle with these. Vivian, lover of strawberry ice cream cones! Whenever I find a note or photo from my Oma who is now passed, seeing her 40's-style cursive with it's sharp peaks brings me back to her in a way that nothing else can. Hopefully these prints will be the same for my girls one day.

Duplexity: Creativity and Mothering

Duplexity: (of a machine) having two identical working units, operating together or independently, in a single framework or assembly.

I feel this in myself. Though the units are identical, they produce different ends. Both require my whole being: mind, heart and hands. Creativity and mothering. Perceiving: a quiet and receptive act. Nurturing: a communicative process in the form of output. I fought laziness and idealism this trip when I wanted the creative process and mothering to co-exist peacefully and in complete obedience, thankyouverymuch. They don't. They can't. There is no philosophical tension whatsoever, but practical. I am one woman with one lens with which to focus. As much as I would like to shoot wide open (photo lingo) and zoom fully into the subjects that interest me, in this season of mothering wee ones I am forced to pan out and keep it all in sharp detail. Exhausting, new and therefore uncomfortable, but worth the discomfort in both arenas. Often I feel I am doing both areas in mediocre-ly by not devoting myself whole-heartedly to either. But my conviction that doing so would annihilate me keeps me from diving all in to the exclusion of the other. 

And so this is me right now: a mother cutting grapes in two while rationally explaining why we can't sing Jingle Bells at the top of our longs over and over and over in June; also while unconsciously and irresistibly writing in mind about covenant and essence and place and other things that call me to them like a whispering adulterer. Does this sound grim? It's not yet settled. Take heart, dear soul. Process, right?

 

details

Digital images taken on 5D Mark II and printed by Artifact Uprising on 5 x 3.5 paper
Polaroids on Instax Wide and Instax Mini film
Super 8 shot on a Canon 518 with Pro 08-13 film, processed and digitized by Pro8mm
Super 8 song: We Will Say in That Day (Isaiah 12) by Wendell Kimbrough
Paper prints song: Sewee Sewee by Mountain Man

 

Love in Paper Prints

Heirloom paper prints, date-stamped of Madalyn and Daniel's special day. It's my hope that their prints somehow contain the depth of that day, and when they open their wooden photo box they are transported back like a locket, like hand-written note, like the smell of your lover left on clothes. Home. Happily ever after, you two. 

Family Photos in Physical Form

Families + prints. A good match. 

During this shoot I pulled into the bay and saw Danny and Malakai throwing rocks into the water. I had been there the day before envisioning them on this coast. If the rocks would be too jagged for his little feet; if the clouds from scarce Phoenix rain would stay. We talked, we walked, we examined rocks and Malakai said "eew," as he picked up a piece of fishing line. Jessica and I talked about babies and birth and long mothering days, our kids being five months apart. I got to create photographs for this family of three and it was an honor being a part of their story.

The Franklin Family

I photographed the Franklins at home on their acre farm. Lauren is a woman and friend who I always find to be a few steps ahead of me in life, motherhood, art and work. Her words sink into my soul as the thing I'm usually needing to hear next. She allowed me to photograph their paper prints on a spring day while the kids hung out and ate quesadillas. I'm grateful to have called these dear friends clients over the years, first as a couple, then through pregnancies, babies and now at their dream home. 

Album Meet Up at Desoto Central Market

There is nothing quite as emotionally resonant as photographs in an album. After making mine today I showed my husband and said, "Honey, look. It's our life." I created Kith&Kin meet ups to help others archive their family story while making the process fun and doable.

Seeing at the albums made today, I look forward to when the children pictured therein will see and enjoy them. How those photographs and pages will become a part of their nostalgia and view of themselves and their childhood. How often were our memories shaped by the photographs of us and the stories told in connection to them? I wonder how we will all feel about these albums in five, ten or twenty years. 

There are moments that stand out in the creative process that boldly declare, "this is what you're supposed to be doing." Helping others to see and cherish is one of those moments for me, and a major driver behind my desire to photograph. Thank you to all who attended and affirmed my calling to organize people and give them an occasion to reflect on the important things. 

With gratitude,
Anastasia


Photographs printed on 4x6 lustre through Costco, with a white border. 

Polaroids taken with Instax 300 Wide.

 

Polaroids at AZ Share That You Care Handmade Market

I met Maggie McGrath at a creatives brunch put on by Craft Culture Events. She introduced me to Pineapple Triangle, her company that organizes handmade markets in downtown Phoenix to showcase local creatives and give back to the community. Twenty percent of proceeds from the AZ Share That You Care market go to the vendor's charity of choice. We donated to Food for the Hungry, a Christian organization serving the poor globally since 1971. 

Several friends stopped by the market including my mother-maker sister Sarah of Dwell Richly who was kind enough to make this little film. I had so much fun creating photographs at the market and this video displays that joy. Taking over 200 exposures that day, Kith&Kin's thesis was proven again: people love photographs. 

Being in a room full of creative makers and supporters refreshes the creative spirit in me. It's fulfilling to make things people value, that make them smile and see themselves. I'm thankful for Instagram where I get to see our photographs live on, styled by the owner. Visit their accounts and check out their wares! Each image clicks through. The lovely furniture you see pictured was created by Tremaine Ranch

I left the market feeling grateful for the opportunity to create, give back, and connect face to face. I'll never stop loving that moment before the shutter clicks. For adults, there's a presentation to make. I love seeing how people like to look in photographs. How they choose to say this is who I am and what I value.