NO!

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I love that the late Oliver Sacks tacked up a great big sign in his house to remind himself to decline invitations in order to preserve writing time. The neurologist would jot down thoughts and ideas as they occurred to him, sometimes scrawling on the backs of envelopes, menus and the pages of books when he didn’t have a journal to hand. 

The act of writing itself, helped him to come up with, and shape, his ideas. For Sacks, it was a special, indispensable form of talking to himself.

“The act of writing, when it goes well, gives me a pleasure, a joy, unlike any other. It takes me to another place — irrespective of my subject — where I am totally absorbed and oblivious to distracting thoughts, worries, preoccupations, or indeed the passage of time. In those rare, heavenly states of mind, I may write nonstop until I can no longer see the paper. Only then do I realise that evening has come and that I have been writing all day.”

Oliver Sacks

Here too, is Sacks talking about his desk, complete with metal touchstones from the periodic table, a rather awesome pencil sharpener, and images of platypi and lemurs.

 

Anne-Sophie Landou

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I love Anne-Sophie Landou’s quirky style. In her photographs things appear as though  belonging to an alternative reality where everything is slightly offbeat and strange. Just lately, we chatted about her work and the things that inspire her.

Hi Anne-Sophie, please tell me a little about yourself. 

Hello Snapshot Aesthetic! I am Anne-Sophie, a 29 year-old self-taught French photographer based in Marseilles. I also have a law degree. Travels, people, music, nature, animals, art, society, words, food, dreams, everything is an inspiration to me. I guess I would describe my photography as intuitive, raw and quirky.

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How did you develop an interest in photography?

Words are my first love, but I have always been fascinated with images (movies, magazines, painting etc…). I grabbed a camera ‘for fun’ when I was a teen, I used to play with disposable cameras and I borrowed my parent’s first digital camera, a little Olympus when I was 14. In my head I wasn’t even ‘taking pictures’.

Photography became serious to me in high school when I got sick. I suffer from anxiety and chronic depression. For a year, I took intimate pictures of my closest friends, pictures of my family, of my dog, a lot of self portraits, and it literally saved me.

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What cameras do you prefer to use?

 Digital, analog, reflex, compact, smart phone, whatever the medium is, ONLY IMAGES MATTER TO ME. I tend to use flash and colour though. 

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4. Do you have a favourite photographer or artist whose work you admire?

 So hard to answer!!!! Martin Parr and Cindy Sherman were the first photographers to blow my mind. Boris Mikhailov, Roger Ballen, William Eggleston and Richard Billingham are major to me as well. I would add Picasso and Nicolas de Staël concerning influences.

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Thanks Anne-Sophie!

If you would like to see more of Anne-Sophie’s work, find her on Instagram, Flickr and Tumblr.

Also, go check out PoppyMag, her wonderful contemporary photo zine which she curates on Instagram.

Video Game Skies

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Growl (Runark), Genesis, 1990

This blog of skies from video games is really soothing. There’s something about the simplicity and lack of detail that makes me nostalgic. Takaaki Ichijo manages to nail this feeling in Amr Al-Aaser’s article about lofi gaming: “The appeal is that it leaves room for the imagination of players. And for people of a specific age, it’s a time machine to take you back to feeling young for a moment.”

Later on, in the same article, video game developer, David Szymanski likens low fidelity visuals to impressionist paintings, saying: “They give a rough idea of a thing rather than outright portraying it, and I think that can ultimately be more immersive.” It’s this expressive quality that I like. Pixels can obscure details which adds to the atmosphere and makes things feel mysterious. Szymanski also notes that it is important for the viewer’s imagination to fill in the gaps. “I think that the idea of a thing in your head is more vivid than the thing sitting in front of you.  So showing the player a forest is cool, but giving them the idea of a forest is, I’d argue, even better.”

I couldn’t agree more. Personally, I find the push for high definition everything frustrating and limiting. Oftentimes it’s the games made by small teams, with limited resources, that are the most creative and therefore, the most interesting.

Asemic Writing

After @accidentalmystery posted this 19th century blotter page, I googled asemic writing. Turns out, it’s a form of illegible, wordless writing and better yet, there’s a whole art form based around it.

Influenced by cave paintings, doodles and children’s drawings, the meaning of asemic writing is deliberately left open so viewers can interpret it in their own way. It’s primal and works on an unconscious level, blurring the boundaries between writing and art.

Quattro Stagioni: Autunno 1993-5 by Cy Twombly 1928-2011
Quattro Stagioni: Autunno 1993-5 © Cy Twombly
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Asemic Photograph © Rosalia Touchon

Asemic writing has its roots in the earliest forms of written communication and strangely, is thought to stem from the work of two drunk Chinese Tang Dynasty calligraphers: “Crazy” Zhang Xu and Huai “Drunk” Su. Legend has it that whenever Zhang Xu was inebriated, he would use his hair as a brush to perform his art, and upon his waking up, he would be amazed by the quality of those works but failed to produce them again in his sober state.

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One of Huai Su’s surviving works
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An example of Zhang Xu’s calligraphy

In the late 1800s, Japanese Zen calligraphers built on from Zhang Xu and Huai Su’s work, founding Hitsuzendō or The Way of the Zen Brush.

In Hitsuzendō, the whole body is used to push a large brush and ink, usually on newspaper roll. Often practised standing, the process results in expressive, spiritual works that aim to focus the mind.

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Jiun Sonja (1718-1804), Nantendo (1839-1925) and Kasumi Bunsho (1905-1998)

More recently, poets, writers and artists have experimented with wordless mark-making to explore abstraction and express their ideas.

Man Ray’s poem, Paris, Mai 1924 consists of different sized black dashes, Henri Michaux‘s compulsive, calligraphic drawings expressed his “interior gestures” and Cy Twombly‘s paintings often incorporated frenetic scribbles and scrawls.

This is just the tip of the iceberg; it’s a fascinating subject. Go take a look at Tim Gaze’s magazine to see the breadth and scope of asemic art worldwide.

Crappy Cameras

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“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.”

– Ansel Adams

When asked what camera he used, Walker Evans tapped his temple with his index finger and said, “It’s not the camera, it’s…”  Evans did this because he knew photographers make photos, not cameras. No matter what, the type of camera can never make up for creativity, patience or skill.

Dash Snow shot Polaroids because he wanted the resulting images to seem cheap and disposable. Chase Jarvis published an entire book of photos snapped on his iPhone, fittingly titled, The Best Camera is the One That’s With YouIt doesn’t matter much to me if a photograph is low resolution or out of focus. Crappy cameras inspire me because of their limitations and I prefer when things are left open to chance.

If you ask me, the photographer, Oscar Fernando Gómez Rodríguez has it right: “Don’t worry about technique or what camera to buy,” he says. “Feel what you feel and translate it to the image.”

Ruth McMillan

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© Ruth McMillan

I’ve been following Ruth McMillan‘s work for years, after seeing her raw, gritty photographs on Tumblr. Whether documenting her travels or capturing intimate moments spent with her muse, Sandra, her pictures are always interesting. We recently chatted about her work and inspiration.

Hi Ruth, please tell me a little about yourself. 

Hiii, I’m Ruth, I live in Glasgow but I’m originally from Northern Ireland. I’m currently
working on self publishing a poetry/prose book and also a photography book.

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© Ruth McMillan

How did you develop an interest in photography?

My Nana helped me to buy a digital Nikon camera because I wanted to photograph sunsets. I had that for a couple years until a few friends started using film cameras, so I bought a Holga and fell for the magic of film. Shortly after that, I met Sandra and she became my muse, and I bought a Kodak point and shoot camera on eBay which helped me develop my aesthetic further.

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© Ruth McMillan
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© Ruth McMillan

What cameras do you prefer to use?

I’ve been using the same 3 cameras now for a couple years, before that I experimented with many until I found my favourite. I use a Pentax slr, Mju and a Kodak point and shoot.

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© Ruth McMillan

Do you have a favourite photographer or artist whose work you admire?

I have many, some of them are… Justin Apperley, Perpetual Kitten, Joe Nigel Coleman, Isa Gelb and Alessandro Ruggieri. You can find these guys on Instagram.

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© Ruth McMillan

Thanks Ruth!

If you’re interested in seeing more of Ruth’s work, go check out her website or find her on Instagram.