Category Archives: Kind of a Book Review but not really…

It’s Probably Silly But…

 

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Despite moving into our house a year ago we still have a number of boxes yet to be unpacked. Most of those boxes are filled with books, including a lot of books that I still haven’t read. Shelving to hold our library is in the planning stages but until that project is done they wait in boxes.  Looking for the next book to read requires a bit of a hunt, in my latest dig I was happy to find Instant: The Story of Polaroid sitting on the top of one of the boxes. I had received the book as a gift right before we packed up our library 2 years ago.

The book itself feels and looks like something made by Polaroid. I was surprised to find it was published in 2012 despite it’s 70s aesthetic. I usually just fold over the corner to mark my place but couldn’t bring myself to bend the stiff pages. The author, Christopher Bonanos, clearly dove deep into the history of the iconic company and it’s creator Edwin Land when doing research for this book. Yet he was able to use all the nuances and side stories to support the over arching theme without forcing in tangents that are interesting side bits but do nothing for the main point.  It’s an approachable and easy read while still explaining some pretty complex ideas. Bonanos style of writing holds on to the complexity of Land’s inventions while keeping it comprehensible.

The story of Polaroid is familiar, one that repeats itself in many American success stories. A quirky young man with an unique mind and passion for inventing changes the world with their way of thinking and creates a multi-billion dollar business in the process. I was surprised to find that Polaroid got it’s start trying to solve car headlight glare using polarized lenses. That they were already a well established company inventing technology for the war when Land came up with the idea of the instant photo. An invention that without argument changed the field of photography and American culture. Even more surprising was fine art photographer Ansel Adams’ involvement from the beginning.

 

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Ansel Adams, Window, Bear Valley, California 1973, polaroid type 55

Curious about how this new technology would shape the field of photography Ansel Adams asked to be a field tester for the cameras and film Land designed. He sent back detailed notes to Land to be used as part of their research. He would also show up in person to talk with the inventors about ways he thought things could be improved upon or just to see what they were working on. This story within the story stood out to me in a way those types of stories always do. My insecurities about following where my own curiosity leads causes stories of others seemingly fearless pursuit to make an awe inspiring impression.

 

All of us have our own story involving a polaroid. Mine involves spending hours as a kid arranging my stuffed animal collection into various poses in order to take their portrait with my polaroid camera. I remember dragging a rocking chair into my room to make the photos look more professional. The instant polariod made my pretending seem more real. I was left with a tangible product of my imagination. Sadly those stuffed animal portraits are lost but I do have some of the polaroids I took when I was a kid. They were photos I took without my current set of self conscious baggage. I wanted to take a photo of my brother drinking his pepsi so I did without wondering what my brother thought, or what anyone else in the room thought, or what I would do with the photo once I took it, and what the photo said to the viewer, or why it is important to capture that moment, or any of the other existential bullshit lines of questioning I hide behind. I wanted to take a photo of my brother, so I did. I wasn’t worried about whether or not it was good or if someone else would think it was silly. I just did it.

As I get ready to dive back into the studio I hope to take the ways I was inspired by Instant and the childlike pursual of art of my younger self with me.

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

If you feel inspired to pick up a copy of Instant: The Story of Polaroid check out your local bookstore first!

Stuff You Should Check Out:

The Impossible Project is keeping the Polaroid film alive having bought the last polaroid film factory right before is was shut down. Not only do they sell film but they recently released a new instant photo camera.

– This great article from New York Film Academy about some of the most famous artists that used Polaroid in their work.

– And from Polariod’s website where they announced the latest camera, Snap Touch, in September. A digital camera that can print instantly.

 

 

 

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The Nick Offerman Effect…

One of the gifts I found under the tree this year was Nick Offerman’s book Paddle Your Own Canoe. I started reading it immediately. After months of researching my art history minor thesis topic on how motherhood and societies view of motherhood effects woman artists, I was happy to read something that had nothing to do with any of it. I knew the book would be funny but I was not expecting it to be so well written.  I mean this guy is a really good actor and I love the stuff that comes out of his woodshop, but great author too? I should have given him more credit.

Like most of America, I didn’t know who Offerman was until I started watching Parks and Rec, easily one of my favorite shows on TV right now. I was hooked by Offerman’s character Ron Swanson…

Actually If you have never seen an episode of Parks and Recreation stop reading this and go watch it, seriously don’t even finish this blog. You need to laugh.

Apparently I talk about Ron Swanson a lot which led to a teacher sending me a video of Nick Offerman giving a tour of his wood shop. At the time I was only a few months into pursuing woodworking. After two years of studying photography, I had decided that I wanted to switch gears. I had carved a spoon out of a piece of walnut and realized that my life would not be complete just being a photographer, I needed more. I needed to get my hands dirty and build things!! When I made the switch over to woodworking I had a hard time starting over. I understood photography, it’s history, who its key players were, who I liked, who I didn’t like. I did not have any of that with woodworking, so finding out that this funny guy also built things and appeared to be someone who I thought I could sit down and have a glass of whiskey with was encouraging at a time when I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into.

Reading his book sealed his spot on my list of artists I draw inspiration from. It’s part bio part giving hope to young actors not sure they can navigate show business. The later doesn’t really apply to me. I would say that if a director or whatever came up to me on the street and said, “Oh my, be in my film!” I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to try my shot at the hollywood big screen. The problem is that I have worked really hard to cultivate a don’t-even-look-at-me-let-alone-attempt-to-speak-to-me vibe when walking down the street and would be so annoyed by someone trying to talk to me that I wouldn’t hear anything they would have to say. (hey, don’t judge! This is what happens when you live alone in Philadelphia and are a petite young lady. It’s a scary world out there.) Plus there is no way I would believe they were anything more then a perv with a video camera in his mom’s basement. So like I said, I have no reason to ever need to know how to navigate show business.

It was still fun to read his advice since it easily translates to the pursuing of any profession. He matter of factly states that we need to live life and pursue what makes us happy so we can enjoy the life we are living and be happy. Unlike many of the self help e-card crap out there, he also makes it clear that following your dreams isn’t always a walk in the park. Although highly rewarding, there are times throughout the pursuing of said dream that will ultimately really suck regardless of how many people tell you that ‘every situation is what you make it.’ I think if more people were aware of the inevitability of suckey parts that come with dream pursuing, they would be more likely to push through the suck and achieve their dreams.

I could probably write a book about all of the reasons why you should also read this book. And don’t just think because you are a lady you won’t get anything out of this. The whole second half is basically a love story. This man is MADLY in love with his wife, the funny and gorgeous Megan Mullaly. In a world with failing marriages more common then happy ones and a society that promotes the ban of emotional expression by heterosexual manly men, it is beyond awesome to read page after page of this manly man talking about how great his own wife is and openly talking about how they have prioritized their marriage above their careers. Our society needs more of this. Men and women both need to read more about these types of relationships.

Basically, you should really read this book. It was no.8 on the New York Times BestSeller list so I am not alone in this thinking. Check out the videos I linked below. Laugh and enjoy life for a few moments instead of being so gosh darn serious all the time. When you are ready to be kinda serious, go to Nick Offerman’s website to check out the stuff coming out of his wood shop.

Ode to Bacon

All the Bacon and Eggs

Tour of the Offerman Workshop

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

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