At the beginning of this year I started taking pictures of origami with my phone camera. Not counting scribbling, photography is my oldest love. I’ve been taking pictures since I could read and write, and it was always as a visual exploration rather than as a mere recording device of family snapshots. This long history means I am not quick to jump on to the latest photography bandwagons, which come up ever more often in the fast-changing world of consumer digital photography, so I did not sign up for Instagram even after I got myself a smart phone. Recently, however, I decided I could use Instagram the way I use Twitter, as a focussed project in turning out things regularly. This I have been doing and I just reached 50 photographs in my origami-picture project.
My aim with this experiment has been three-fold:
- To make more origami, which I do nowhere as often as I’d like to
- To take more planned, and sometimes abstract, pictures.
- To write less personally-motivated rhymes, which I enjoy doing.
I started off with a bunch of origami boats and random things I’ve had sitting on my desk for years, some of it from back when I was preparing the dummy site for my lecture some years ago on online portfolios. Through most of January, I tried to carry around one piece of origami whenever I’d head out, and took as many pictures as I could in a variety of locations, situations and lighting. While I do want to explore all sorts of different styles of photography within this framework in the future, I figured going outdoors, out-and-about in the world, was the best way to play with it in the beginning, rather than being stuck at home under a table lamp, the easiest option.
One thing I noticed about photos of origami when I first got this idea, especially on Instagram, is that they are more often than not merely documentary photographs of middling quality. There is a rarely even an attempt to create a good photograph, with the focus being on displaying a piece of paper-folding, and that too not in the best light. Having seen that, I decided my photos should work equally as interesting photographs, as they do as documentary pictures of origami models.
Since I now had a new Xperia-Mini instead of the old fairly-useless phone camera on my previous model, I knew I certainly had more of a technical ability to take quality pictures on the phone. That combined with all the usual wisdoms involved in making the best of the photographic equipment you have in hand, has made for some very interesting, and in some cases striking, images which I am quite happy with. A phone camera can never replace a proper one, but thinking in its terms is an interesting and educational exercise.
The other aspect I wanted to add into the mix was the text that goes with the pictures. It comes almost as second-nature to most, to add in a clever or appropriate title to pictures such as those added on Instagram. I wanted to take that even further by adding in rhyme and thought, and sometimes even story, into the mix. I wanted the photo and the text to say more than either could do on their own; A chance for me to write and rhyme on a more diverse set of subjects without letting too much personal introspection come into it. I’ve let the pictures lead me to the text, which has resulted in a variety of writings.
What started with a set of old origami slowly moved into newer more exotic models. I took a few shots using the origami Diwali lamp I designed for the festival, looked up simple diagrams both online and off to make three fresh designs I was not familiar with, and I even did a couple of improvisations. Not a bad start to exploring origami more through photography and Instagram. For now I’ve been sticking to tiny models made of simple white note-paper, more for the convenience of being able to carry them around in my pocket easily. In time, I will try other scales and more elaborate models and ways to utilise them. These simple explorations have been a strong place to start.
Fifty down and sky’s the limit. I will continue to play with this as long as the enthusiasm lasts. As far as raw material goes, there are an infinite number of origami models out there to try, and a further infinite number of photos I could take with them. Coming up with text to go with each is sometimes a challenge, but a happy one, and I have enjoyed the results of my attempts for the most part. What I’ve done thus far has been a lot of fun and I hope to enjoy this process even more with time. Creating a couple of hundred strong photos with rhyming captions by the end of the year won’t be a bad pay-off either.
For now, onward with the experiments.