Unboxing Photo Memo & Foreign Observer

This has been sitting on the back burner for weeks…

  1. PhotoMemo, the Photographer’s Memo Book is everything the Galaxy Planner could’ve been, and I’m actually using it, unlike the Galaxy thing.
  2. Foreign Observer is a color zine by Daniel Rodriguez. It’s sold out at ShootFilmCo, but still 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 does a thorough job of reviewing them, so I’ll let him tell you all about it.

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.

Foreign Observer

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.

At time of writing, Foreign Observer is still available from Rodriguez’s website. The zine is limited to 50 copies, though, so you should hurry. If you miss out, prints are 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. Jump on it.

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