Finally, Art befitting a Throwaway SocietyI liked the article's style, but think it missed some of the reasons as to why this became such a instant phenomenon. Despite the memetastic aspects, I believe that at the base of all this is something very inspiring and rather artistic despite the contradicting technique. The reporter also made no effort to dig further or get some opinions from people involved.
By IVOR TOSSELL
Friday, November 4, 2005 Page R31
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One of the purest joys of photography is discovering that even the rankest amateur can do something artistic if he or she leaves the shutter open long enough. Even in this age of digital manipulation, where software lets you sepia-tone pictures faster than you can say "tasteless," there's an analog joy to capturing the blur of a car's taillights at night. It's a timeless genre.
But what, you ask, if your subject is stationary? Helpful as ever, the Internet has an answer: Ditch the tripod, press the shutter button, and throw the camera. Then, if it survives, post the results on-line to show everybody. This is called "camera tossing," and thanks to the Internet's newfound powers of self-organization, it's becoming a popular past-time.
The idea isn't just to chuck the camera, but to put just the right amount of spin on it so that light performs geometric tricks. The results can be quite striking, in a Spirographic kind of way. (Check out some results at cameratoss.blogspot.com.)
There's also an appealing element of risk, as hundreds of dollars of electronics goes spinning out of your hands -- and, the camera-toss websites insist, in order for it to count, the camera must leave your hands.
I know about this, because I decided I should write from a position of experience, and rigged up a camera-tossing test stand. It involved a floor lamp, a futon and a pile of pillows. I set the camera to a one-second exposure, pointed it at the light, and with a flick of the wrist, sent it spinning like a Frisbee. It landed on the pillows with a plastic crunch, but the picture was mighty pretty. The second time, the camera landed on its lens. The third time, I shot wide and hit the laptop.
Then I returned to the camera-tossing pages on-line, and discovered that after you toss the camera, you're supposed to catch it. It's an irksome distinction.
The neat thing about camera-tossing is that it's at the vanguard of a new way of sharing photos on-line. It's taken flight on an innovative service called Flickr (http://www.flickr.com), which you'll find old hat if you run a weblog.
The Internet has seen a lot of "let's all post pictures of the same thing" sites -- handheld signs, airplanes, Hummers, confessions, cats, swirlies made by flying cameras, you name it. Sites like these are appealing because they show social interactions playing out on a level that's so out of scale with our day-to-day lives.
It's the equivalent of starting a wave at a baseball game -- a few people sparking off a reaction by thousands. Take heart. Start the right wave, and somewhere in the world, in some quiet corner, a writer will be throwing his camera at furniture on your behalf, too.
It also missed a little regarding credit to the creator and early participants. Although camera toss became very "self-organizing" eventually, it did not start that way. Someone did start/create it, *cough* ;-), and promoted it by sharing their extensive photographic experiments. It was the results of these experiments that caused it to catch on gradually on flickr, and eventually expand beyond that. There are even specific photos in those early days that have comments such as "I was resisting, but that's it, now I have to try this!".
Luckily, the Washington Post is taking a different approach. We'll see if it get's published (planned for early December).