7by7; final thoughts before the lotus-eaters

Eh, it was pretty fun despite all the work involved! I really enjoyed doing all the fake writeups and setting up a very clean photo studio look in my room. Actually, if you want to replicate that setup for your own documentation:

macro setup

Set-up for closeups and small objects – one giant sheet of card paper with a slight milled texture, a giant lamp (I stuffed the sides with aluminium foil to reflect and diffuse the light a bit) and a point light – I used a reading lamp. You want the lights as low as possible, in opposing directions so that you cancel shadows. Ideally your body should be *above* the lights, so you don’t cast any shadows over the item you’re photographing. Setup time was around 20~mins, the hardest to photograph was the test-tubes.

bigger objects

Side light reading lamp (directional) then the large round lamp (head lamp) was placed on the higher front so that it floodlit the space and the white wall “bounced” it off a bit which was nice. You can further bounce it for a softer look with aluminium foil or frosted paper. I prefer a harder cleaner look for this project because I wanted it to look as clinical as possible, but that’s a matter of preference.  This kind of setup is really useful! Replace matte/nibbed paper with vinyl paper if you are aiming for the highly polished industrial product look, you’ll get a slight wavering reflection in the plastic, which is pretty neat. I almost never use pure white paper since paper white is bright/bleached white, you want a darker white so that the whitest item is your object, not your paper. Like if you are photographing an iPod or other white object, use a warm white (stucco white) instead of pure white.

Final thoughts:

……… It was really really difficult and timeconsuming, even though I enjoyed it a lot. I think out of everyone who did 7by7, my algorithm was the easiest? I had no difficulty remembering or needing to change it, and despite the simplicity (rainbow colours) I think I had a good variety of books lol…. from snow globes to sex toys to Renoir and railway posters. I really liked the variety of books, and it’s a good thing I stuck to Gimbel! it made my task easier since the collection was small. It allowed me to know with more depth, since the library was so curated.

I had no definite idea or even area of interest when I started the research, which was a good and bad thing I suppose. The good part was that I was surprised at what came out (thank you mammalian whale-self), the bad was I knew it was related to what I read but more nebulously and less distinct. It wasn’t a Read book A—->produce Item B. Like vaguely I can tell that the curlicles from the briefcase seem to be victorian poster inspired, but I don’t know how the sandwhich came to being or why I have purikura dogtags or how the scenerio came to being.

Time was the biggest problem – by day3 I knew what I wanted to make, and started running sketches and ideas in my head.

not quite prototype

It was like vaguely – “oh I want a city in a briefcase, and make it an attaché” *insert wordpun here* and then later it evolved into
“why not make a bladerunner silouhette city?”
to —>
“if we’re making silouhettes, why not make it into a slinkys? so when you open the attaché you get a giant slinky city?”
to  —>
“slinky city with slinky spies”
to —->
to —>
“I wonder what a spy would carry in his attaché”
to —->
“what if you didn’t know whether he was a spy or not?”
to —->
“I wonder if spies have real families, like that kid who worked for the FBI without his parents knowing”
to —–>
“hey which war is this again?”
to —–>
“does it matter? there’s someone, there’s an attaché and there’s a mystery”
“WOOOHOOO MYSTERYHAUS TWILIGHT ZONE” (detour to watching youtube)
“aw crap I burned the briefcase”
“OMG HOWHOWHOWHOW it’s 2hrs before class!”
“okay maybe we unearthed it. like. the attaché. archeology. like raptorsaurus.”

….. the problem wasn’t coming up with the idea, it was doing it while being in the library 3hrs everyday on top of other class work D: now *THAT* was the killer. 100% bullet in brain type.

On the other hand I really enjoyed doing it – deliberately creating a fictional narrative and making highly treated and presented objects but stripped of any form of identitifcation. It was really hard (do you know how many brands, images we see everyday?) and I wasn’t even sure if people would notice, but these kind of things, details, they add up.

1. dogtags – edges were smooth but etching was in raster. After the cutting/etching was done, I re-seared the edges of each piece so you wouldn’t see the laser-needle track marks on them. I also increased the woody smell by burning mosquito coil, then mixing the ash and rinsing the wood pieces with ash-water.  That way, you keep the smoky “burnt” smell, but it doesn’t use any identifiable wood i.e. ash, cherry or oak all have distinctive wood smells.

2. testtubes – got them for a wholesale supplier, but they were trademarked so I used a nail file and ground the logos from the rubber tops. I also boiled some water, and dunked them in to sterilise and remove any residue. The soil samples are from places I go to, to reinforce the attache/attachement play on words.

3. sandwhich – originally I was going to use wonder white, since it’s the most generic of generic but I don’t eat enough bread to justify it (if I could finish so much, I would have though). Same reasoning, the cheese is generic processed slice cheese – no brie, pramagiano or any kind of “ethnic”/”cultural” item. I was actually thinking of doing a different filling every single time I presented it, but it would very hard to generic-fy some things, like lox cheese spread since that is so obviously American. For the lipstick I used an almost pure red, with a hint of blue undertone (shows up better on camera tbh)

4. polygon – this was kinda fun. I used to do a lot of origami as a kid/teenager for all the wrong reasons, people used to come to me during birthdays/valentines and commission me to make stuff for them (get paid yay!—>support comic collecting) I chose the Electra design; those familar with origami will recognise it’s based on the atomic explosion pattern and invented by American origamist David Mitchell. Even though it’s an old craft, this was pretty modern design and suited my purposes for “non-dateable” (as in, at first glance, you cannot recognisably put a date to it). Also I chose generic tant paper which is another of those ‘could-be-from-anywhere’ type things. Personally I LOVE japanese washi paper, it’s great for folding, has a lovely weight and creases well and I like the fibre interlock but it’s too culturally iconic to be used.

5. flower – eh, this was actually the last item to go in. After a while I realised that one of the consistent pattern in items was the mix between highly treated and presented (like the briefcase) and absolutely non-treated or minimally treated (like sandwhich) The flower would be an example of something “generic” (loosely) and also most un-treated. I didn’t do anything, just let it wilt and that was patination in itself.

6. note – another very treated object; the text is an excerpt from this article from NYtimes then run through several online free translating services. I find that the easiest way is to translate an English text into Mandarin, then run it back on itself because the grammar is just so different (almost inverse relationship) but to support my Cold War Effort I did it English —> Mandarin—->Russian (for the commies) —>Spanish (for Cuba) and then back to English. Then I did one final translation from digital to writing it by hand, and then adding coffee stains and other scent markers on it. Envelope is actually from Hallmark! but I sandpapered the logo away hahaha

7. attaché – the pièce de résistance! or rather, the most treated of the lot. I dunked it in a pail of water with salt and soap added in, soaking it overnight. Took it out, dried it then went to 6E16 and threw it against the walls several times, jumped *on* it several times, thwacked it with a hammer and cugel, slashed it using a chisel. To make it as realistic as possible, I tried to imagine if I was fighting, how would I use it to block attacks. (basically my left arm was swinging wildly as I fought with myself) I got kinda annoyed at the uniformity of damage though……. so I went home, got some olive oil and started to buff the leather, so you get a weird composite of highly polished and highly destroyed. Interior I splashed on diluted hot sauce – super generic, I got it from a 1.99 store at St Marks’. To do the tea stains, soaked some tea bags (also generic, from duane reade) and dug *under* the slashes to splash the wood inside. Then I smoked it by using cigarettes, but instead of placing them inside as I did before, I put them on a wire tray so only the scent would get in. I stabbed the rest along the sides to make cigarette burns. Finally I got some generic alcohol (beer) and diluted it with vinegar (makes it super alcoholic-soury smelling, but not identifiably yeasty-beer anymore)  and splashed it a bit

wow I feel tired even writing all that out…. did I really do it? lol, I don’t know anymore!


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