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the end.

4 Mar 2011

[Unisphere, Queens | Fall 2008.  Taken with my sometimes-impossible, but still wonderful, Holga, which I’m realizing now needs a proper name, like Pony the Yashica and No-Name the Nikon.  That last clause made me sound crazy.]

Look, it’s like this: I don’t begrudge digital photo takers.  For a long time, before I switched to film full-time,  I really wanted to get a proper DSLR, a nice Nikon D90 or something, not crazy fancy but still, you know, something like that.  And my friends who do have DSLRs take some of my favorite photos, ever.  And it’s not that I think that there’s a bright line dividing film and digital photography; in the end, it’s how you see the world, and not the equipment you use to capture it, that defines your vision.  That said…

The proliferation of iPhone and Droid apps, like Instagram and Hipstamatic, make it possible to put lovely color filters and effects on captured moments, rendering those moments more gauzy, dreamy, hyper (or under) saturated, and so on.  I use Hipstamatic every now and then, to take food photos when the lighting would otherwise render a film photo completely terrible.  And I use Hipstamatic, rather than just take the photo with my camera, sans app, because I don’t like the washed outness, the flatness, of the plain digital photo; there’s no depth of field, no aperture control, and so in lieu of that, a pretty effect will do.  I get it.  I totally get why people love these apps.  It makes everything so … lovely.  The banal is transformed into something aesthetically pleasing.  Fine.  Yes.

And in the near-ish future, I’ll have more to say about Hipstamatic; I’ve been working on a longer piece for three months now.  But for now, I’m writing because I’m pissed off.   There is, apparently, a Holga lens you can buy for your DSLR, to give it that special “low-fidelity aesthetic” that’s all the rage now.   And this is the fucking ridiculous copy that’s making me incredibly sad:

The installation of the HL-N adaptor to a Nikon camera will turn the clock back on your electronic box of tricks. What was once a hi-tech digital SLR now takes on all the characteristics that we have all come to love of our Holga’s. And now with none of the hassle or cost of developing and printing the film.

None of the ‘hassle’!  Awesome!  And … wow.   (And, for the love of god, the plural of Holga is Holgas, not Holga’s.)

I’m too angry, apparently, at this attempt to woo the DSLRers who can afford a $1,000+ camera (plus all the fancy lenses) but can’t bother with the cost of buying the actual $20 Holga and $5 roll of film nor the unpredictability of light leaks and funny blurs, that all I can do is think laterally.  And what came to mind was this: back in the 19th century, fake ruins were all the rage on English estates.  Architects were brought in to design ornamental buildings that had limited, if any, functional purposes other than to appear half-decayed.   This practice became popular after the start of the mid/late 18th century Grand Tour, a months-long rite of passage of sorts for aristocrats to make their way through the monumental highlights of continental Europe, including ruins-heavy Italy. 

Back in England, delighted at the wonders they’d seen, people wanted to recreate that landscape on their own expansive lawns.   These fake ruins — no, seriously, buildings half-completed, and then allowed to be run over with vines and shrubbery — gave the estates an extra sense of … well, whatever.  Grandeur.  Blah blah blah sublime.  History.  Monumentality.  Significance.   These follies were meant to reproduce, on a much smaller scale, and in a much quicker fashion than, say, 1500 years, the rise and fall, ebb and flow, x and y, of empires come and gone.  An aesthetics of sublime decline, without the waiting around for the actual decline.  An artificially-generated, (half-)built, insta-nostalgia. 

Sure, my lateral moves take me to fairly predictable places (see: URL for this blog), but you get the point, no? 

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