This has been sitting on the back burner for weeks…
- PhotoMemo, the Photographer’s Memo Book is everything the Galaxy Planner could’ve been, and I’m actually using it, unlike the Galaxy thing.
- Foreign Observer is a color zine by Daniel Rodriguez. It’s sold out at ShootFilmCo, and is no longer available on Daniel’s website.
It’s sort of a shame to put them together like this, but oh well.
PhotoMemo is great!
Now, I was perfectly happy with my google sheets-based tracking spreadsheet for most of my photography, and most of the data fields in PhotoMemo are already captured in my FilmTracker and, sure, I have to copy some things (like the roll number) out of the Google sheet into PhotoMemo, but it’s great to have an analog book to jot down notes as I’m shooting (or, more likely, shortly after), and PhotoMemo is just the right size to slip into a pocket and requires no power or wifi to access.
Matt Day used to have a review up on YouTube, but it’s gone as of March 2021… (See below for my latest thoughts.)
Now, I was overly enthusiastic about the Galaxy planner thing when I unboxed it, but it’s sat unused on the shelf ever since; I’ll probably drop it in the donation box for my next trip to Goodwill. After maybe a month of very little shooting, I’ve already filled half of a PhotoMemo book, and at this rate, I expect to be ordering up some more very shortly.
If you shoot film and have the least bit of interest, you should pick up a few packs.
As a project, Foreign Observer is interesting: the US born son of immigrant parents photographing the culture and characters “back home.” Comparing/contrasting the scenes and characters Rodriguez captured in his trips to Mexico with the events he usually shoots—garage rock shows, daily life, vacations—and you find some disconnect. I think Rodriguez feels this, and Foreign Observer is an attempt to express the gap he feels.
I don’t pretend to understand the struggles children of immigrant parents feel. I live next to many of them, and see it: relative wealth and freedom, the yawning chasm of western culture just outside, calling, parents with more cultural baggage than they can fit in their McMansions struggling to hold on to what they imagine life was like back home, though they haven’t lived there or done more than visit for a week or two in the last 25 or 30 years. I’m sure it’s similar for immigrants from other places and cultures, and I’d like to see some pictures from, say, Raunak’s trips to Kalikapur. I bet there would be some similarities.
Exploring this disjunction takes some self awareness and courage, for sure, and Rodriguez has done a great job with Foreign Observer.
The zine is a 36 page color folio, saddle-stapled, on semi gloss and comes in a little slip cover sleeve. The first pages feature a short essay about the project, and then it’s straight into the pictures. I have two small complaints: 1) all the images are landscape format, so you have to turn the zine sideways and flip the pages up to go through it, which is a bit awkward; 2) some of the images suffer from something, I’m not sure if its bad scans or bad printing, but a few of them have the digital edges and quickly blown highlights that distract from the images. Beyond that, though, the images themselves tell the story pretty well.
Foreign Observer was sold out as of late 2018. The zine was limited to 50 copies, though, so the sell-out is unsurprising. Back in 2018, prints were available in a nice scheme: you pick your price ($5, $10, $25, $50, or $100), pick your print, and Rodriguez will mail you an 11×17 print in a tube, with 75% of profit going to the ACLU. If you missed it, sorry. Check out his website, though: plenty of newer work, and images from other projects. Good stuff.
Edit: As of maybe a month after posting this, I largely stopped using the PhotoMemo books. Honestly, I just can’t be bothered to pull it out. If I shot more 4×5, I might use it more, but even then, I’d probably stick with either the Notes app or Google Sheets on my phone.
Don’t be like me. Keep notes. You might learn something.