Thursday, November 7, 2013

Instax Gratification

I'm not silly enough to think our little Tumblr group has any claim to Instax Gratification. The name is catchy, it rolls off the tongue, and best of all it fits the instant ethos. So I suspected there might be other Instax Gracifitations online, but before yesterday I figured there were just a few. In fact I keep a folder on my desktop to bookmark interesting Instax sites, and I have to say they're relatively rare. Until recently it had only contained seven URLs. And that was just Instax, without the Gratitilation part.

Turns out I'd been searching for the wrong keyword. An extended Google adventure searching Instax Granstagnation yesterday turned up a surprising number of results. It seems many more people are using Fuji cameras than I'd realized, and quite a few are posting photos under the title Instax Grafinegation. Who knew?

Most seem to be fly-by-night operations, here today gone tomorrow. Someone buys an Instax camera or receives one for a gift. They get inspired. They shoot a few photos, call the blog post Instax Gracitifation, then the magic wears off and nothing else is heard from them. This post fits that model. And this one. Not to mention this one, this one, this one, and this one
Monica Shulman

What these posts confirm for me is that this camera hits hard, like cupid's arrow. I still remember my first young Instax crush. It was 2011, during a photo meeting at Lisa's house. I saw a 210 sitting shyly by itself on Lisa's mantle. It was staring straight at me. Our gazes met and for several seconds I couldn't turn away. Who's,...what's that? I asked. Even before the reply I knew that our fate was sealed, that Instax and I would find a way to be together, to make this work despite the odds. 

It's not just me. I've seen the same thing happen time and time again. Just last week in Belgrade I watched Luka come under the spell, gaping in excitement as he watched my photos magically appear out of nothingness, then asking if he might shoot a photo or two with it, then wondering aloud where he might find such a camera. All of this occurring in a burst over the course of just a few days. Instax Grantafelation! I left him my 210 as a gift. I've given three away that way. I know what you're thinking and don't worry. Another camera is on the way as I write this.
Luka coming under the spell

The thing about schoolboy crushes is that they inevitably fade. Gradually one begins to notice the flaws, and it's only a matter of time before that's all one can see. And the Instax 210 offers plenty to complain about. It's huge, ugly, and cumbersome. The viewfinder looks like something out of a cereal box. The strap unleashes without warning, and the parts are plastic and easily broken. The batteries don't last. As with all cameras, most photos aren't keepers. But each time you prove that point you're 70 cents deeper in the hole. After a while you wonder who the fuck came up with Instax anyway? Is it some cruel joke? A test of true fidelity?

Visual Intersections

Thus the slew of Instax Graficitation posts trailing off into silence. The ones above are just the tip of the iceberg. This post, written quite recently, promises to survey the field and show the best of what's out there. But it's too late. Most of the sites mentioned appear to have lost interest already in Instax. Someone reserved the title Instax Grantafulcation on blogspot, but the energy fizzled before they could post anything. There's a site called Instax Graflextication which has nothing to do with Instax. I think it's about bath balm dolls. Instax Granticifation comes close, posting a small selection of Instax from various Tumblrs. And some of them aren't half bad. Last update: two months ago. It's one to keep an eye one maybe. Visual Intersections shows potential too, but I think the most promising site yet is Instant Gratistelation. It's got plenty of Instax along with various other instant photo types. A quick browse tells me that this one is a labor of love, and best of all it's fairly current.

For some reason many Instax shooters are attracted to scantily clad women. Maybe it's just a matter of odds, since there are probably more pictures of that subject than any other in photo history. Men are simple machines, really. A pair of eyes and some testosterone searching for quick gracitifation, plus some other stuff not worth discussing here. Add it all up and it's a trillion dollar industry. 

Still, I find the Instax/femme combo a bit strange. OK, you captured the model looking like she just swallowed a goldfish. First shot perfect. Do you need to blow the whole 10 pack? Because that stuff doesn't repack, just saying. Yeah, and I'm gonna call it Instax Grassification. Oh yeah? Me too, and my version shows a little more skin. Hmm, what should we call it? Instax Gratistination? Ooh, bad girl. Down. Baby. Phu-leeze. If you want to shoot hot bodies, why not get down to business? Instax Girls may occasionally push the boundaries of tastefulness, but at least the approach is raw and unabashed. But, alas, the most recent post was 4 months ago. End zone. Fade route. 
Instax Girls

The crush comes on quickly like, well, an Instax photo, Then proves just as disposable. Damn you, Santiago Stelley! Your Instax photos are among my alltime favorites. Then you quit. And Pierre Lachaine? Why did you remove your Instax photos? Some photographers keep Instax as a mistress off to the side, visiting occasionally but withholding the promise of a serious relationship. Jeff Dietz, Brian Sparks, and Dan Rubes, I'm talking to you. Won't you stop flirting and make an honest camera out of Instax already? 

Maybe I don't really want that to happen. Part of the Instax magic is its idiosyncrasy. If I saw hordes of people roaming around with 210s --heck, if I saw one other person carrying one-- I might lose interest. I like the crush cycle and its inherent gaps, and the way it keeps relationships in checkI think it may be one of the foundations of art. Give me two eyes and the hunger for instant gratiflagration, and I'll show you a museum.


Pierre Lachaîne said...

Interesting post. Glad I'm still following you guys. At the moment, I'm in the process of redoing my site, with more reliance on Flickr and Google for storing the pictures because my self-hosted server can't handle the load. But my Instax pics are all there on Flickr, as they have been all along.

The other thing is that, while I greatly enjoyed working with Instax, it gets expensive quickly. I'm a senior on disability and I just can't afford it. If I could, I would probably only use Instax and Impossible Project film. I never say never, though.

Blake Andrews said...

Hi Pierre,

I realize your Instax stuff is still up but I had to bend the truth a little to fit my agenda. Thanks for indulging. And yes, in a perfect world we would all shoot Instax all day long. And all night. And at the end of the day and night we'd sit around the fire and tell stories about the day's photos, and share prints, and toss the ones that didn't work into the flames, and it wouldn't matter because cupid's arrow was in there pretty deep. Like blinders. Like a drug or something. Allowing us to shoot Instax all the live long day. But it's not about that. It's about the photo, and limits, and it always has been and it always will be. So here's to you, Andre Breton and Pauls Bunyan and Bowles! Live now, in the instant, before someone hijacks your identity in a comment which may or may not be authentic.