I sit here in front of my Mac and look at the enticing row of applications on my dock. Bright and alluring, they remind me of my old crayon box. I once had the biggest box of crayons that Crayola made. Even though I loved the idea of so many colors I never, ever used them all—not even close. Mostly, I just liked the idea of having so many crayons. Eventually, I'd find a couple crayons that I liked and got to work. The fewer colors I worked with, the better the results seemed to be. Lessons come to us early in life. Perhaps the best way an artist can spark creativity is to establish limits. Sometimes we simply have too many creative choices.
My dock teases me with its possibilities—all those little icons poised to launch into action. I stare at them and wonder where to start. At least with my crayons I could tell which ones were the best. They were the ones that were all gnarly and worn down, the paper peeled down so far that the color name could no longer be read. If I got stuck, those were the go-to colors. Now, I simply stare at infinity. I can do anything I want. There are no limits. The possibility to do anything is often like staring at a blank canvas, the most terrifying thing an artist can do.
Yesterday I discovered an app for my iPhone's camera that gave me instant delight. Called Hipstamatic, it has just been named the App of the Year by Apple's App Store. It is inspired by an inexpensive camera made in 1982 and, by its very nature, imposes limitations on the user's iPhone camera. Shake the camera and you can get a different, random set of limitations. The photos are what they are. You get what you get. The format is square, the images are compelling in their murkiness. The app works and feels like the cheap cameras of my youth. I am in love with it.
I want to go out and photograph everything with this thing! Free of the burden of choice, the app chooses everything for me. I can just go out and make pictures. Some of the pictures look great, many don't. I don't care. It reminds me of the exhilaration I felt as a boy when I'd click the shutter, not knowing exactly what I'd get. Back then I'd have to go to the drug store to get the film developed and that was expensive. Now, the developing happens in the iPhone. But, it's a little slow and you have to wait. That reminds me of the anticipation one felt when waiting for pictures to return from Kodak.
The app is on sale right now, less than a buck! You can buy additional kinds of "film, lenses, and flashes" for the app. That means you'll get more variation and more...choices. But, if you stick to random mode, you can still free yourself from the burden of endless decisions.
I'm just getting started with this thing, there will be more images to come.