April here came out of a meditation on (read: brief research into) the etymology of the word. While a link between the month and root “aperire” seems tenuous, I am nothing if not a fan of folk etymologies and the insight they give into how we perceive and seek to justify/understand language. Certainly it makes intuitive sense, that April might be about things opening up into the world.

I enjoyed playing with this kind of imagery here. My grandfather (not the train-shaving one) was an early hobby photographer (and an early-adopter of technology generally; he was the first person I knew with a cell-phone) and our extended family history is well-documented from about 1930 onward thanks to him. And notably, he was able to capture our lives on film without using the camera as an escape or a barrier from the people he was with–the feel of the camera slung around his neck and pushed to the side was just part of his hugs, much like his chin-bristles and charmingly garish polyester print shirts.

Picking up a camera makes me feel connected to him (and to my cousins; he taught us well!). When I used his (film SLR) for my first and only photography class (he’d retired as the family photographer when my siblings and I hit the Definitively Not Cute, Please Don’t Record stage), I found the dark-room incredibly alluring. As a risk-adverse teen with access to the early internet, I knew early in the class that I wasn’t going to be pursuing an art-form with long-term exposure to carcinogens, but I dreamt of the sereneness of processing photos in that darkroom for many years afterwards.

Sometimes my work in Illustrator (my preferred program in Adobe’s Creative Suite) replicates part of that feeling, of a sort of timeless slow creation, with things revealing themselves. While the sensory aspects of the darkroom added another visual/tactile layer, any act of creating can, at its best, bring me to that centered place where I, the medium, the subject, and the world at large are tangential to the process itself. Personally I think it’s tied up with the ego of some artists and the self-deprecation of others–that state can feel both incredibly powerful (because it becomes the entirety of the universe for that moment) and also distanced (because the ego just doesn’t matter there).

I dallied near that zone in this piece. Much of it had been baking in my head and sketches for years–the beautiful mechanics of the aperture, the dials and guides and typography of vintage cameras, the sort of tension that camera lenses hold as both “records” of reality but also story-tellers and liars. The positioning of the text was one of those easy fall-into-place bits; while I try to keep the dates relatively easy to read on the calendar, I also enjoy fully integrating them into the scene, even when that sacrifices some readability.

The hardest part was knowing what was through the lens, especially given the obvious fictions of the scene. Ultimately I pulled umbrellas from a previous April; their more organic distribution provided a relief to the more rigid geometries of the rest of the scene, their “openness” continued the word play, and their individual shapes referenced the circles and points of the aperture.

For the photo, I threw in a few items to play on precision of photography and the circle. A scratched and outdated lens saved from the trash, a monocular, a gauge-measurement ruler with graduated holes, an old aperture with different settings, my most precise and favorite compass partially open, and a well-used nibbed pen.

04 april 2015

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