Sunday, September 27, 2009


originally uploaded by moominsean.
I've had a really hard time capturing the sense of place in Arizona since moving here from New England a bit over two years ago. It's wide open and many objects seem commonplace to me. I could navigate the close roads and small spaces of New England just fine; there's an inexhaustible supply of 18th and 19th century buildings, old cemeteries, bridges, waterways, abandoned industrial buildings, and trees. I don't really have an eye for Arizona. I see great landscapes, but other than that I struggle to find a way to capture the feeling of what I'm seeing.

Then one day I was scrolling through myriad photos of saguaros in an Arizona Flickr group when I came across an interesting Polaroid by a photographer with the user name "moominsean." I checked out the rest of his photography and instantly knew that he is accomplishing exactly what I wished I could - he captures a sense of place in photos of the southwest.

Sean (which is, I assume, his name) uses a combination of Polaroids and modified toy cameras to take his pictures. The results are rad. The tone of the toy cameras and Polaroids work for Arizona. Many of the places out in expanses of the state that aren't Phoenix, Flagstaff or Tucson support only small populations of miners, ex-miners, ranchers, retirees, and folks working for the state. Those places seem caught in the past and Sean's photography takes the present moment and, by passing it through the lenses his unique cameras, creates images that represent not only how that moment looks, but also how it feels.

I also found his blog, moominstuff. I've heard people say that lomography, Polaroids and toy cameras are an easy medium to use and claim that the cameras, not the photographers, produce the results. I would argue that for photographers like myself who merely buy and use such cameras, this statement only partly true. I counter that if I could afford a digital Hasselblad with a lighting set-up and all the gadgets, then in that case the camera would be just as responsible for the great results as the cheap cameras. Of course, choosing your tool is part of the photographer's decision and the photographer's choice of camera is as essential to the shot as the composition, the lighting, or darkroom/Photoshop work. Sean not only chooses his cameras, but modifies them. He personally creates his tools, a process that further invests him in the quality of the images he creates. And on his blog, he's kind enough to share that process.

Sean's Flickr page has a bit over 2000 photographs, mostly of the southwest, but he also has some great photos of Japan. It's totally worth spending a while scrolling through the pages of his photography. My personal favorites are his shots of Humphrey's Peak.

The blog - moominstuff

The photographs - moominsean

The cameras - moomincameras

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