Why I Crop My Photos Square

I’ve been cropping my photos square since way before Instagram and Twitter popularized the shape – but my reason’s not much more credible than anyone else’s. 🙂 Back in the 90’s when I was spending lots of time in darkrooms developing my first arty photos my friends and I lusted for “medium-format” cameras. 35mm film was great for holiday photos, but for magazine covers and billboards you needed a much larger negative to work with – so medium-format cameras had wide (usually 6cm across!) rolls of film that were usually shot as 6x6cm square photos.

Oh how I coveted arts school students and their huge square negatives with their artful square composition. 🙂 By the time I got there though the film industry collapse was well underway. With digital camera technology rapidly consuming pro photography the medium format became a kind of niche tool for artists and holdouts. You can still get them, but between the fuss of the darkroom and the lack of film processing services you’ve got to be really dedicated to celluloid to make it work. Medium and large-format digital cameras are pretty amazing but the price tag is astronomical and the technology actually trickles down from the DSLR market – unless you have a very high-end application you’re probably better off sticking to your 35mm equipment.

Despite the glamour, medium format had it’s downsides – because the negative was huge you had to find some way to expose more surface area with the same amount of light – either you had to shoot still subjects, invest in very large and expensive lenses, or you had to have very bright studio lighting to compensate for the extra stops you lose trying to expose all of that surface area. Moving up to a high-end Medium Format could be very expensive and usually marked either a professional portrait photographer or a very wealthy hobbyist.

All of this to say that I often crop my photos square because I want to pretend I’m a hoity-toity medium format photographer like the people I admired and respected in the 90s. 🙂 It’s a little sad.

 

Tulip Photos

I enjoy taking pictures of natural subjects, and flowers are so crazily photogenic that I often find myself shooting series after series of shots in the front garden. I’ve been trying to push myself to get creative with angles and lighting to add some visual interest to what usually turn out to be pedestrian flower shots, and as a result I was really proud of this backlit tulip macro that feels almost like a glowing landscape.

TulipFire

Book Review: The Circle

David Egger’s The Circle is a fun take on a fictional evil version of Google, a company obsessed with knowing everything to the point where it actively villifies privacy and anonymity. Our protagonist Mae takes a job at the tech giant and is slowly indocrinated into their crazy kool-aid corporate culture. The prose was snappy and the pacing was pretty great – it’s a very readable and clever take on privacy issues and how readily we’re willing to trade off our rights for security and service personalization. I really enjoyed this one and have recommended it to friends.

thecircleegers

Hard to have too much discussion about the mechanics of the book without spoiling things, but Mae is subjected to a kind of “slow boil”, where she’s willing to give up more and more of her privacy for nifty benefits like real-time healthcare monitoring and office prestige. At first the trade-offs are sneakily sensible, Eggers decribes cameras saving lives in conflict zones, and kidnap-proofing babies with microchips. By the third act she’s deeply embroiled in transparency culture, but I felt like Eggers lost me along the way – I had hoped he’d continue to rationalize away her resistance but at one point she chugs the kool-aid with such gusto it’s difficult empathise with her decisions through the rest of the novel. In fact, Eggers needs Mae to make a series of ridiculous decisions to let The Circle’s menacing master plan unfold, so I get why things unspool the way they do, but I think there was a missed opportunity to seduce the reader into playing along a little further than he did.

The only ‘voice of reason’ in the novel is her semi-paranoid survivalist ex-boyfriend, which I think was a clever calculated move by the author to make rational arguments feel a bit over the top and easy to dismiss. In fact it’s hilarious how insular and co-operative Egger’s world for Mae is – even the most innocent products offered by The Circle would have real-life modern-day privacy advocates storming the barricades with wirecutters to shut the whole thing down.

The book has inspired me to consider a bunch of privacy-themed art projects, but it’s been a busy summer – I’ll see if I can get any actually done. 🙂 Online privacy is something I think about often and there’s so many discussions we need to have about what we’re okay with as a society.

See-through Reptiles

I think cleared and stained specimens are really fascinating – this is collage from a tiny reptile that was in a jar on display at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto – it’s a bit morbid maybe but the organic shapes of the skeleton are so strange and alien. It’s amazing to be able to look into a creature and learn from it’s biology.

StainedReptile