Okay, Instagram. As some of you know, I have two IG accounts–one under my own name (or something like it) for the sort of snapshots everybody shoots and another under the pseudonym Knuckles Dobrovic for photo projects (I wrote about my introduction to the devil of IG here).
The first project was more an exercise than an actual photography project. It was basically my way of learning how to use Instagram. I put a thing on a patio table and photographed it. Almost every day for about a year, at different times, with different things, in all sorts of weather. It’s just as ridiculous as it sounds, but it was fun. That project (cleverly titled Things On A Table) started in 2013 and ended in the summer of 2014. At the end of that project, I wrote this:
I’ll probably come up with some other sort of project, simply because I’ve grown fond of the name Knuckles Dobrovic. I realize that’s a stupid reason. I don’t care. I’ve no objection to doing things for stupid reasons.
The Knuckles account sat idle for about four years. In January of 2018, I started a second project, which was more pretentious than my first, but equally ridiculous. During my daily walks, I’d stopped periodically and photograph something at my feet–some leaves, a crack in the sidewalk, a lost glove. I decided to layer two or three photos taken on the same day to create a single image. It was weird fun, and it made me happy. That project lasted for about ten months. Then I put Knuckles back on the shelf, where he sat for about four months.
The third project took root while I was playing the game Geoguessr, which involves Google Street View. The game basically drops the player somewhere in the GSV world and you’re supposed to figure out where you are–rural Finland, suburban Arizona, a forest in Brazil, a street in Thailand. I loved the randomness of it; I spent most of the game just wandering around and looking at stuff. So I decided to appropriate images from GSV, modify them a bit, and turn them into black-and-white images. Because it was an art project and art projects are famously pretentious, I decided to limit the project to 100 images–sort of an homage to Hiroshige’s ukiyo-e series, One Hundred Views of Edo (which is actually 119 paintings, but let’s not get fussy). It was the only Knuckles project I was sorry to end.
The fourth project was sparked by the onset of the pandemic. The world seemed isolated and a tad disjointed, and I wanted to express that feeling of social dislocation. So I took some of my daily snapshots, diddled with the color a wee bit, digitally sliced it in thirds, then re-arranged the pieces. The result was a photo that didn’t quite make sense, so I called the project Slightly Dislocated. It was fun at first, because the process could be applied to almost any photo style–street photos, landscapes, still lifes, anything but portraiture. But after a few months, it felt forced. The project lacked energy and passion and I just stopped doing it. The last photo of this project was posted in March.
Now I actively dislike the project. I’ve considered deleting it, but that seems somehow cowardly. If you make a mistake, you should just accept it and move on, not try to hide it. However, even though I haven’t posted anything to the Knuckles account in months, I continue to get notifications about it. It’s like a constant reminder of how much I dislike the last project. The only non-cowardly way to resolve that is to start a new project, one I’d actually enjoy, something to get rid of the bad taste left by the Dislocated project.
A few days ago, when it was cold and windy and my knees hurt, I sat at the computer sliding back and forth between social media, the Geoguessr game, and the work I was supposed to be doing. Three things happened. First, I read a comment about Daidō Moriyama in a forum devoted to Japanese photography. He’s basically the godfather of the are-bure-bokeh style of photography. Are-bure-bokeh roughly translates as “rough, coarse/crude, out of focus.” The style developed in post-war Japan, and it conveyed the way Japanese society was fragmented and alienated and shocked following two atomic explosions and a military occupation by a radically different culture. We’re talking about high contrast black-and-white photos, sometimes savagely abstract, sometimes ordinary but with a sort of leaden feel, sometimes almost frighteningly hallucinatory. It’s a style I’ve been drawn to, but I’ve never seriously attempted to recreate.
The second thing–almost immediately after seeing the Moriyama comment, I came across a comment in another venue in which somebody was called “a total bampot.” That’s a Scots term, which means “an idiot, a foolish person, a nutcase.” For reasons I can’t begin to fathom, the phrase are-bure-bampot sprouted in my mind, and stuck there.
The third thing–after doing a bit of work, I turned back to Geoguesser and found myself someplace on the coast of Scotland (it turned out to be Portsoy). And hey bingo, there was the burr of an idea for a project. An idiotic idea, but still. What if I applied the are-bure-bokeh approach to Google Street View images from Scotland? Are-bure-bampot.
It’s…well, it’s idiotic. A post-war style of Japanese photography applied to Google Street View images of Scotland? Madness. But it would allow me after a fashion to return to the project I’d enjoyed the most, and it would still fall well within what I consider the Knuckles Project Parameters. It would 1) be simple and grow out of something I’d do in an ordinary day, 2) include an element of randomness and serendipity, 3) maybe not be entirely original (how many project are?), but the result would still be uniquely mine, and 4) wouldn’t require any extraordinary effort.
So what the hell, I tried it. I’ve only made a few images–and only posted three of them on the Knuckles IG account–but so far it amuses me. They’re clearly not in the classic Moriyama style, but I’m okay with that. I’ll keep at it for a while and see what happens. Are-bure-bampot. Rough, coarse/crude, idiotic. Yeah, that has a certain appeal.
Sure why not? I really like the style. It’s not at all idiotic. Fun too.
LikeLiked by 1 person
The idiocy is part of the attraction. For me, at any rate.
I’m glad that Knuckles is back—and the new project is pleasing. I managed to miss most of your thirds-project, and some of those are very cool, no matter how much you actively dislike the project now. Long live Knuckles!
That project quickly began to feel sort of twee…sort of deliberately contrived and mannered, if that makes sense.
But I do like having a photo project ticking along in the background, like some sort of creative metronome. It doesn’t dominate or interfere with anything I do, but it’s always there to be heard in the quiet moments.
What is reality anyway? We’re always changing what we see and perceive into something that works for us, and sometimes we share that with others and call it art, though others often disagree. I’m headed over to IG.
I tend to shy away from the notion of doing ‘art’, though I don’t know why. I like being creative, whether it’s in cooking or photography or bicycling or anything else I do. But I’m not sure I take any of it seriously enough to consider it art.
But I’m glad you like the photos.
I love your assuredness in any idea that comes your way. Keep doing what you do. These images have something special. And what is originality anyway? According to Brandt and Eagleman (The Runaway Species) originality is a matter of ‘Bending, Blending or Breaking’ ideas that already exist. They have observed that imaginative leaps are branches on a family tree. “Humans are continually creative: Whether the raw material is words or sounds or sights, we are food processors into which the world is fed, and out of which something new emerges.”
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks. I don’t know about that ‘assuredness’ business, though. I suspect it’s more of a ‘what the hell, let’s try it, how bad can it be?’ approach. It removes the pressure about ‘success’ but it also allows for a great deal of error. I mean, that’s the sort of approach that led me to buy sardines in mustard sauce at the market. Big mistake. But now I can at least say I’ve tried them. So there’s that.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I’ve spent my summer in an online art course from the UK. Now I can say that I’m chuffed that your fiddling and faffing resulted in such a creative mixture. I can’t wait to see what flows It should be great craic for all of us.
LikeLiked by 1 person
“Fiddling and faffing.” It’s like you’ve peeked inside my brain. Or seen me cook.
Does this relate in some way to the gnomic reference to a Crow Road coffee shop on the photo here: https://www.utata.org/frontpage/2021/06/15/former-corner-shop-walthamstow-yellow/? I shall go and look at once for a woman in red in Jubilee park, and a man in blue in Glasgow…
No relation at all, but lawdy Simon, I still completely love that photograph. And it’s never a mistake to look for a woman wearing red (although it’s sometimes a mistake if you find her).