23 May 2008

One City Left

A few months ago, Noah came up to me and said, "I know someone doing a project that you would love."

He was right, this was perfect. I met Kevin (from Given Collective) on a particularly freezing day, and he told me about his project over breakfast. I don't know if it had a name at the time, but here is what happened. He had been distributing disposable cameras all over the world with the brief, "Your city." After finishing the roll, everyone was to mail the cameras back to him and the images would go on a web site.

That's all I knew when I started taking the camera everywhere with me. It was interesting to have a specific thought in mind when deciding what to take a picture of (kind of like the Dietribes thing); I would ask, "Does this represent what I think /feel of New York?" instead of "Oh neat, I have to take a picture of that."

One City Left - New York

One City Left - New York

The concept ended up being even cooler than I thought! Check out Kevin's opening statement of ONE CITY LEFT:
“One City Left” started simply as a project examining how individuals capture “their city” using only a disposable camera. When keeping equipment minimal and uniform, personal perspective becomes paramount, creating different interpretations of similar subject matter.

One City Left is a project about its participants: documenting their culture, places, and experiences. These images are more than just pictures of cities; they are pictures of someone’s city, and how they view, experience, and live in it.
Ten people's photographs tell the story of five cities: Edmonton, Montreal, New York, San Francisco and Vancouver.

One City Left - New York

I had forgotten how great disposable cameras can make things look - not perfect like a DSLR or pixelated like a low megapixel digital camera. There's a graininess about the pictures that I had forgotten all about (I think the last time I used a disposable was during my 11th grade trip to Islands of Adventure).

One City Left - New York

One City Left - New York

What else - it shows how people living in the same city can view it completely differently and love very distinct things about it. For example: I got to share the New York section with my friend Heron, who took an amazing set of pictures that was quite different from my own. Check his out and see what I mean. This adds another dimension to something I started exploring a few years ago with Fotoprojekt, which looked at the different ways people from two different cultures interpret the same word.

Visit ONE CITY LEFT and check out all the pictures, there are some really beautiful shots in there. Thanks for this opportunity, Kevin! Now it's your turn to shoot a roll.

21 May 2008


Remember when I did that food color photography project last August (here are the photos from it)? Well, my friend Jason (whom I met through Noah) thought it was neat and wrote about it on Mental Floss shortly afterwards. Thanks to him, I got 700 hits in one day!

A few moths later, Jason approached me with an idea he had for Mental Floss: a weekly trivia /fun facts post all about food called Dietribes. And he asked if I would consider taking the photos for it. Boy oh boy can you imagine my excitement at this.


I like taking pictures of all sorts of things, but the frenzy started with food in 2004 when I read about Tucker Shaw and his plan to release a book containing photos of every single thing he ate for a year. I loved the idea so much, and as I read the book I could pick out patterns, learn about his tendencies, watch the seasons change, etc. What people eat gives such a neat peek into their lives. Anyway, here is my Flickr set of food photos if you're so inclined, but that is not the point here.

Dietribes runs every Wednesday. As you can guess, the food theme is different each week. Today is peanut butter. I get to learn the coolest stuff by being involved in this, like "96% of people put the peanut butter on first" when they make a PBJ sandwich. wow! This is one of my favorite parts of the whole thing, besides having an excuse to eat very specific things each week and play with my camera.

Dietribes screen shot

How it works: I get my assignment towards the middle of the week, and have to send photos by the following Tuesday. I usually plan my weekend around eating that particular food and going photo crazy. Something I love is that through doing this, I have gotten to see how a big blog like Mental Floss works. It's so organized!

1. I get an e-mail from Meg containing the food-of-the-week and attached facts /fun trivia.
2. Allison crafts a post putting it all together in a lovely way.
3. My photo gets added.
4. Jason does some editing and makes sure it's ready to go.
5. It goes on the web site.

Like I said, another perk for me is that I love all foods, so the assignment serves as a mini surprise in my Inbox each week, like "What will I get to eat this weekend?" ... helps me keep things interesting (sometimes I can fall into a habit of eating the same 3 things every day for a month).

moment of truth.

There you have it, guys. My little side hustle. Pay Dietribes a visit some time. So far I have shot for: peanut butter, cherries, sushi, salt, wine, cupcakes, ramen, tea, watermelon, cookies, eggs, sweet potatoes, coffee, McIntosh apples, macaroni & cheese and strawberries. See how delicious my life has gotten? :9

15 May 2008

Photojojo Time Capsule

I've been using the Photojojo Photo Time Capsule for a few months and am really liking it.

Once you sign up and link to your Flickr account, you get an email twice a month showing you an assortment of pictures you took that week, a year ago. Look at how simple it is:

A few hours ago, I was reminded that this time last year I was reading too far into things I saw around the city:

There are other neat little features like being able to share your Time Capsule on Twitter and writing a message to yourself that will be included in your Time Capsule the following year.

I like how simple this tool is, and how excited it makes me each time I get an email from them. I read my journal from "this day last year" every day, just to see what I was up to... the Photo Time Capsule plays into the type of nostalgia you get when you stumble upon something from an earlier time in your life even stronger than reading text, I think. Give this a shot, it's free too.

13 May 2008

Brand Tags

Four days ago, my friend Noah launched a "collective experiment in brand perception" site called Brand Tags. The idea is simple enough: "a brand exists entirely in people's heads." This is what you see when you go to the site:

Picture 2.png

All you do is type the first thing that comes into your head for each logo (every time you hit "submit," a new logo comes up). Over time (not a lot of time, in this case, which I'll get to in a minute), each featured brand has its own tag cloud, representing the collective perception and thoughts of that brand. The more times a word or phrase is typed by people, the bigger it shows up in the tag cloud. Here are three.

Whole Foods:

Picture 7.png

Internet Explorer:

Picture 6.png


Picture 5.png

It's a simple and brilliant idea, and has already been picked up by PRWeek, Adweek and Seth Godin, among many others. This thing shows so clearly that a brand can try to control its experience all it wants, but in the end people will still think what they want. I bet Brand Tags can actually be used as a tool for brands themselves to gauge their health, maybe even better than a survey. For example, if someone was asked about a brand that they had never heard of in a survey, they may try to fake it so as to not sound dumb ("Oh, I've heard of them somewhere for sure, not really sure what they do though"). Brand Tags seems to have so far allowed for brutal honesty, though:

Picture 4.png

You can also now create an account for yourself (among other fun things) and see the collection of tags you've entered in:

Picture 1.png

As of 10.00 am today, Brand Tags is up to 160,000 tags. In just four days! This is amazing, Noah. Definitely one of those "Why the hell didn't someone think of this sooner" ideas. I can't wait to see where this ends up. (Also, for a bit of fun, Noah also threw together a site for tagging celebrities, which is pretty hilarious - check out the tags for Paris Hilton, for example).

12 May 2008

25 Project : request

I've written about 25 Project quite recently... just a small update. This month's theme was requests, and my request was made! I said "shadows and sunlight" or something similar... this is what Michelle made (+ caption)

Shadows and light. I realized that the request was actually "shadows and sunlight" when I was about 95% done with the drawing - sorry!

Hooray! It's lovely. I love the little teeth monster looking guys.


I've been really overwhelmed with life-related things since being back from Japan (work, errands, etc.), and didn't take the time to reflect on my trip until yesterday. We have a status meeting every Monday morning at work, and I got to share some photos and brief rundown... I hate to admit that this impending chat is what forced me to really sit down and think through it all, but I'm glad I finally did it. Nippon08 is the Keynote presentation I gave, but here are the photos with voice over text.

Those who know me know that I've been wanting to go to Japan for around 10 years. There are a lot of things that slowly built up my interest and love for all things Japanese, but that's a sort of long story /explanation. Anyway, last April I realized that I would be missing the Brooklyn Cherry Blossom Festival that year. I was so frustrated that I told myself "I should just go see the real thing in Japan." A few moments later I stopped and thought, "Hey, I should!" and made the decision to go over for sakura the following year.

So I went to Japan last month, all by myself, with not too much of a plan. I was terrified. There were several instances in which I couldn't sleep at night, thinking I was mad for doing such a thing.

This was one of the first things I noticed in Japan. I was exhausted and wonky until I got onto the express train to Toko, and peeked through the seats to see a forty year-old businessman reading manga. This is when it started to feel real.

on the shinkansen

This is where I stayed: Shinjuku. There are a lot of businesses here, but also neon lights as far as the eye can see. It's like Times Square times fifty.


What I didn't know was that the district my hotel was in (Kabukicho) is the biggest red light district in Japan. I reguarly saw flyers like this, and groups of androgynous beautiful people plastered outside of clubs, advertising the cast of "performers" to be found within.

Yes, I took one.


I got lost every single day. Since I felt really safe in Tokyo, though, it was not too bad. I didn't have a set schedule, only a handful of things I wanted to make a point to see. Each time I got lost, I found something awesome. One time in Warp Zone (I was on the same road for an hour, eventually ending up where I started, even though the road is not a loop on my map) I found a shrine with this cherry tree in front of it:


While wandering in Shibuya, I found some stone steps leading downward two flights into a basement manga superstore mecca (there were dozens of aisles like this, very narrow so two people could hardly pass by at a time):

There were dozens of aisles like this,

Also while finding my way in Shibuya, I saw a television show being filmed:

a television show was filming.

Let me tell you something quickly about Shinjuku Station - it's the busiest train station in the world. It's easily the size of Chinatown (although my estimating intelligence is quite crap, so I might be wrong, but it's HUGE) and as of 2006 saw over 3.5 million passengers a day. I got lost every single time I was in there. One of those times, I ended up in the Metropolitan Government Building, where I was shuffled into an elevator with a bunch of people and ended up on the 40-somethingth floor, looking over the city at sunset. wow.

observation deck

It wasn't confusing craziness the entire time, though. I got to visit Naked Tokyo. They just moved into a new space in a tangle of streets in residential Harajuku. Turning the corner and seeing the familiar sign made me grin. They were very wonderful and welcoming, inviting me to clubs and dinner etc.

Naked Tokyo

I also got to meet my friend JWoo's father. The day I met Papa Woo, he was helping to record a rockstar in a basement studio in Shibuya. He let me play the Hammond organ, which was amazing.

Papa Woo!

I had some mountain time! I went to a few mountains in and around Hakone, one of them being this very iconic one:

Mt. Fuji

I also took one of these to the summit of another mountain and got vertigo:

cable car gondola thing

Culture of Cute is something I kept saying in my head over and over while in Japan. Everything is cute. I was squeaking the whole time. Here is a store that was inside a hot pink airplane (all the sales associates were dressed like flight attendants):

This store was in an airplane.

Here are random trucks in Roppongi:

everything looks like a toy here.

Here is a train - omg, this train.

!!! Chuo Line

Here is another big reason I went to Japan: I have relatives there that I had never met (or even heard of until a few years ago). I first got to meet my second cousin (she lives in Tokyo and was so so so so gracious and nice and helpful and fun and lovely).

So, I went to Japan with this photograph that I've seen in my mother's bedroom since I was young. The woman is my great grandmother, and the little girl is my... great aunt? My grandmother's sister. They're from Nagasaki, so I took a bullet train nine hours there.

Kame & Fumiko, without the frame

My journey tomorrow (train)

I got to meet the little girl in the photo. She is now 96 (or 97, my first cousin once removed's wife told me; sometimes the Japanese count the 9 months in the womb as a year) and lives in a retirement home in Nagasaki. I can't even describe what this felt like. My grandmother hasn't seen her in over 60 years, and was flipping out when I got back and told her about this /showed her the photos. Guys, this was amazing. I got to meet my mother's first cousin as well, whom she has never met either. He was lovely lovely lovely, and even though he didn't speak English he kept telling me things through his wife (who spoke a teeny amount of English) and showing me photographs. I was ecstatic. This entire chunk of the trip was very emotional for me (don't even get me started on all the atomic bomb stuff I saw and learned about).

Oh also, I found out that I'm part Russian. neat.

Russian flag

I took a detour on the way back, upon a couple of people's advice. It was pretty beautiful, albeit a little harder to get around. It took more time to get to places than actually see them, but again I didn't have a set plan so that was fine by me.


I couldn't get over the color of this thing.

Even though I had only spent 6 or 7 days in Tokyo prior to returning, I felt instantly at home when I stepped out of Shinjuku station (after getting lost again) on my last day.


Here is something neat. I barely got to see any cherry blossoms while in Japan, because rain and winds wiped them all out before I got there. The weekend after I got back, though, I went to Brooklyn:

sakura matsuri

It's kind of cool how things work out. The thing that brought me there was actually waiting for me when I got back.

I just wrote this in an email to someone, but picture taking every single feeling you've ever had, throwing them into a kaleidoscope and shaking it up. I think that's why it was a little difficult to collect my thoughts on my trip, because I felt everything while I was there. I was terrified, elated, lonely, introspective, everything. I finally have mental closure now though, and all I can say is


06 May 2008

Live Cultural Vernacular Updates

I ran across this while commenting on my friend Ed's blog this morning:

I have an idea,

When "geotagging" was underlined, I thought I was just missing a capital letter or hyphen, but turns out it's not in the database of existing words at all. It would be cool if Firefox used an Internet connection (it is a browser, after all) to dynamically update things like spell check, based on frequency of use across the web /infusion into cultural vernacular. It feels like something Apple would do as well. Wait, does this already exist and I'm just massively behind on my browser updates? It seems like something that should already be happening, now that I think about it.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...