2016: The Year of Collaboration

2015 was the best year on record for me; I did the work I was most excited about and I learned more than I ever had before. In 2016, I want to collaborate more. 

I've made a list for myself, and I won't make it public, but it involves a lot of different disciplines. My first collaboration this year was with Forrest Aguar and Michelle Norris, stylist and art directors around Atlanta. We collaborated on a photoshoot in which I designed patterns and colors, and they styled and lit the production. It was one of the best experiences I've had as a creative. It led to Forrest and Michelle teaming up with me as Very Clever, too.  

In February of this year, I collaborated with my new studio mate Josh LaFayette, a great illustrator who was new to ATL. He had designed a set of cards for Chronicle Books called Food Fortunes, a tarot deck. It helped you decided what to eat for dinner.

We got to shop for A LOT of food, arrange and style it, and then I shot it. It was another eye-opening experience. 

After just two months of creative collaborations, I'm already excited about what's next. My plans in 2016 include finally finishing a print journal I've been working on for some time. You can be sure it'll involve a good bit of collaboration. 

Making a Fake-Real Newspaper as a Promotion Tool

For the second Summer of Ice Cream Sandwiches, I decided to send out a promo piece for all the people who showed their appreciation. Some of my earliest influences came from the work of filmmakers Zucker Abrams Zucker, known for their work on Airplane, Top Secret! and The Naked Gun. I love sight gags, elaborately drawn out and executed ideas. If the Summer of Ice Cream Sandwiches started out as me creating a universe where Sammies were plenty, then why not create a newspaper for that universe. 

Enter the Ice Cream Sandwich Gazette, the only trustworthy newsource for all things ice cream sandwiches. I planned it enough ahead of time that I'd be able to get it out with enough time before the first day of summer. 

The whole thing was a bit of satire, with all the articles and pieces being written and put together by myself. I'm not a confident writer, but satire allows me to indulge in my craziest tendencies. 

You can certainly see the project at a glance right here, so let me just sum up what I learned from making this:

People Love Unconventional Promotional Items
I didn't consider this piece a promo item for myself until another creative referred it to as such. I was just making it for fun to reward everyone on Instagram and Twitter who had spent a whole summer indulging me in my project. It wasn't inherently a promo piece first, so it never came across as overtly promotional when people received it.

Writing Newspaper Content is Hard
I had no idea what I was doing going into this. I couldn't find a local place to get newspapers printed. Someone tipped me off to The Newspaper Club and they were very helpful in seeing this through. I wrote 6+ articles myself and I wrote way more than would fit in here, but thankfully I can put some of the unused stuff in my parts bin

Rewarding Specific People Makes This a Lot More Fun
The back side of the newspaper was set aside as faux-ads. I decided to target some of my favorite creative people on Instagram, or people who were very vocal on being fans of this project. The texts, tweets, 'grams I received when they received their newspapers were priceless. Reward the people who stood behind you. 

Take Everything to the Next Level
Yes, I've repeated this line over and over with everything I do, but I mean it. I love to be elaborate and if there's a way to elevate a creative idea to the next insane level, just do it. Don't think too hard about it. 


Halfway Through the 100 Day Project

On April 6th, 2015, I committed to doing one hand-drawn type piece a day for 100 days. It was the challenge to myself for The Great Discontent's 100 Days Project and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The goal of the project was to take a creative activity that you could replicate every day for 100 days. Here's what I've learned so far, where I still want to go and how everything turned out OK.

 

Getting Started

I jumped in right away on day one and then I realized that I had no idea what I was going to be writing out, what style or what tools I'd use. Over the past few years, I've jotted down phrases on post-its, moleskins, iPhone notes, etc. I thought that seemed as good as any place to start. On the first day I drew 10-15 things before just going with an early sketch that I had considered a "joke sketch". 

First day, first sketch. Is it a masterpiece? Not exactly.

Waffles with imaginary feedback in my head

After the first few days, I was overwhelmed. I had already gotten 3 days behind from the get-go, and I was judging my work too harshly, throwing away countless sketches because it wasn't good enough.

The advantage of The 100 Days Project was that you had to find an outlet to to share publicly, for accountability and so others could see. I chose a separate Instagram account as a place to share all of these and with an empty slate and no followers, who would be there to see and judge? 

Within the first week I learned to let go of perfection or getting it close to right. I had to let go that these had to be portfolio worthy and just let myself experiment. I had to post the bad shit along with the good shit. I knew that there had to be a starting point to look back on. 

hitting a stride

Once I let go of expectations, I was able to get into a stride that's led me up today. I was writing out inside jokes, social media observations, faux-inspirational posts. I was gaining followers pretty fast on Instagram. I showcased it on my personal account. I could feel myself getting a little better at this, but I wasn't getting better in the way that I wanted to. 

 

working on skill

Part of the reason I wanted to tackle this for 100 days was to get better at the technical skill of lettering, so about 20 days in I decided to finally tackle my dream of getting better with calligraphy and script. I've collected lettering books and tools over the past 2 years so I finally started to practice letters and form over and over for more than a few hours a day. 

It was soothing to just repeat line forms and swishes for hours on end. I didn't want to hit perfection because some of my favorite hand-type artists have a certain vulnerability to their letters, a signature. I felt most vulnerable working and putting out these letters to the world mainly because I felt like I still knew nothing. I've still got a long way to go.

I'll update as I get closer to hitting day 100. 

Why Phhhoto Makes Me Rethink My Photos

I've been addicted to the "instant moving pictures" app Phhoto for the last few weeks. The output is a looping animated gif, but a simple process of taking 5 photos in quick succession gives you that result. Yes, there have been countless apps for creating gifs or cinegraphs (those still-images with slight movement in them), but Phhhoto has me expanding my creative ideas in just the right way.. To see what I mean, look at the gifs below:

Here's a secret: I've tried to get into creating videos, but I don't think I'm any good at it yet. It's not that I don't want to bring another dimension to my work, but it's hard to think in motion when you're used to still visuals. I'm intimidated by the medium, and I see so many peers do amazing things with video. Where Phhhoto comes in is that I'm able to take a composition and add a little bit of motion to make the idea come across clearer.

One of my favorite recent still images was of an ice cream sandwich in a container that mimics a fire extinguisher box, and is only intended to break glass in case of emergency. I ran into challenges photographing it the way I felt best brought across that breaking of the glass, but Phhhoto allowed me to make that come alive. Is one better than the other? I don't think so, but I've already noticed that trying a version of the composition in motion as a Phhhoto has started to inform how I capture the still image. That's huge. 

In my notebooks that I've previously used just to sketch out and write down still photo ideas, I've now filled up pages and pages of ideas that would look great as moving image or Phhhoto. Do I tackle an idea as a still photo or a moving Phhhoto? I've started to not care about which I do, but how to exaggerate my creative voice in motion. Similar to that early exploratory period when everyone joined Instagram, I'm going through experiments or finding small moments to animate along the way.

 

Some takeaways (in no particular order of importance): 

I spend a lot of time creating some Phhhotos
I saw a monument on my trip to Greenville last week, and found myself trying to capture it through the app in a way that made it look like the shapes were subtlety moving. I spent almost 10 minutes trying to get the right loop, the right pan of movement. It was fun, it was frustrating, and I was never fully satisfied. Therefore, I loved it. 

Who cares if it takes 10 minutes to compose?
We all meticulously set up shots, spending hours composing or lighting. This app can be quick, but it can also be incredibly complex. Similar to executing a magic trick with a finished photo that looks simple but is very complex, you can do the same here. I want to push how far I can take a single moving Phhhoto.

It's a new platform and the possibilities feel endless
Yes, new social networks are generally exhausting. I have to add all new material, put the same profile photo, add my friends from twitter and Facebook. Here's where Phhhoto turns that upside down: your profile picture is in motion too, and only captured in app. Beyond that, I'm mostly excited to see what I can uniquely create on the platform. I've started to reverse-engineer ideas when executing them, so that the outcome is what I want from the beginning. I'm deliberate in the motion that's created, what personality the objects moving in or out of frame have, and if the composition creates a small moment that celebrates or critiques small observations of life. 

I'm starting to believe I can get into video
I started this by explaining that I was looking to bring my ideas into motion and this is the first step at extending these ideas. It's gotten me thinking in an entirely different dimension, and I think this is the start of something. Maybe it's not so intimating after all, but I won't be creating full-length narratives any time soon.

People are doing amazing things with it already
Phhhoto has built it's own explore page or "wow" section in the app, so you can see what their team curates as the best examples in the app. Generally, they seem to follow themes and feature stand-out people and tags. The early days of Instagram saw inventions of countless creative tags, and people on Phhhoto have started to explore that too. For example the tag #pushhit showcases a finger in perspective pushing something further away, giving the illusion the finger is pushing it. I'm hoping to see the sort of creative explosion we saw on Instagram, but for moving images.

Consuming Phhhotos are easy
Vine was cool. Vine still is cool, but most people I know (including myself) have fallen off with it. Six seconds of video, although short, ended up being too much to commit to. On Instagram, we're using to having barely 1 or 2 seconds of someone's attention for them to double-tap or move on.  Phhhoto seems like a happy medium. It's not a heavy video load, and you could consume it in a second or two, or spend more time with it. Some of my favorite moving Phhhotos have very subtle animation, but you sit and watch it for much longer to absorb it.

How do I see photo-taking differently now? 
The biggest takeaway is that now that I can do real motion inside a Phhhoto, I want the still images I take to have the same feeling of movement. It's challenging, but maybe this little app will help me with making my images have more personality. 

If you're on Phhhoto, make sure to follow me @timlampe. This is not a paid ad for Phhhoto. I just enjoy apps that challenge the way I see things. 

What I Learned From Ice Cream Sandwiches

The other day I opened my mailbox and saw a few business-related envelopes that I'd normally throw in the trash, but then I took a second look at the business name under mine; it said SUMMER OF ICE CREAM SANDWICHES. I can't even begin to comprehend how the internet works, or how it creates something as majestic as fabricating a business name that I'd receive legitimate physical mail, but it was certainly a magic moment.

For those who already don't know me as 'that ice cream sandwich guy,' I embarked on a big personal project this past summer called the Summer of Ice Cream Sandwiches. This blog post is what I've learned from spending an entire summer with a childhood treat. 

It kicked off back in June, right at the start of summer. Everyone asked me as the project continued what was my purpose or reasoning for creating these photos and it comes down to something really simple: I wanted to introduce more play into my work. 

No, this wasn't a brand pitch, it wasn't created in order to get featured on blogs or Instagram, but quite simply it was put in motion so that I could push myself to open my head to the most creative ideas I could. 

Ryan McGinley was interviewed this year in a VICE column. One quote that stood out to me

"Find something to be obsessed with, and then obsess over it. Don't compete; find what's uniquely yours. Take your experience of life and connect that with your knowledge of photographic history. Mix it all together, and create an artistic world that we can enter into."

That was it. I wanted to create a world in which ice cream sandwiches don't melt as easily, and the common sight of seeing them shoved in a mailbox would be perfectly normal. Ice cream sandwiches as currency, secret clubs, party games, hidden away in secret spots. 

What were the big takeaways on this crazy journey? In no specific importance, here they are:

Ice Cream Sandwiches Melt Fast
It seems pretty obvious, but doing these during the summer, and sometimes I had mere seconds before they would melt, fall apart, or just look downright un-photographable. I became an expert on planning everything ahead of pulling the sammies out of the cooler.

Sticking to Real Ice Cream Sandwiches Only Was Hard, but Worth It
Everyone asked if I used any fake ones, or how many I went through. The first answer is I didn't use any fake ones: they were all real. The second is I think (I lost count) that I went through about 300+ ice cream sandwiches over the summer. The project could have been a lot easier if I had created sammies from clay, or if I simply photoshopped sammie into crazy situations. The part of these exercises I learned the most from was trial and error of positioning these sammies or getting them to look how I want. The stunt of composing tens of sammies in some of these raised the stakes for myself, too. Looking back, there were a million frustrations and do-overs, but I don't regret going all out on real sammies. Don't photoshop what you can pull off in real life. 

Photo Ideas I've Kept In My Back Pocket Came to Fruition for this Project
Here's something I didn't expect; all the failed photo experiments I've tried over the last 2 years lended a hand in this project. Little ideas that didn't quite feel fully formed or ideal for past photo experiments suddenly became obvious for ice cream sandwiches. I know, for a fact, that I wouldn't have been able to complete this project if it weren't for all the failures that came before it. One important behavior I've taken away is to keep a constant journal of photo ideas, because you don't know what you'll come back to and when it's the right time to do it.

Push It As Far As You Can, Then Scale Back
When developing ideas for this, in my sketchbook I'd write down the furthest I could take a particular idea. For example, I really wanted to fill a car up to the brim with ice cream sandwiches and then take a picture. That's the extreme. With most of these ideas, I took it as far as I could and then scaled it back to something that was executable, realistic. The result of that was shoving over 40 sammies inside of a mailbox (which is illegal, but why should it be?) and snapping that shot. 

Execute Quickly, Treat as Exercises
I can't say I always held to this standard, but the idea was that I would execute these quickly. Since the platform that I would present this over was Instagram, I started without the intention that these would be anything serious, but an exercise in creativity. Then I got carried away tracking down suitcases and designing and printing money wrappers for sammies and making them all fit without melting. I often found some of the images I loved the most were the more simple ones, that took 10 minutes or so to put together. Users attention on Instagram gives you about 2 seconds for them to "get" the concept you're throwing across. It has to be quick and it has to be clever.

People Won't Always Understand This and it's OK
I've gotten more puzzled faces than I know about this project, and that doesn't discourage me from continuing it. I know how it can look from the outside, and it was more likely assumed that it was a waste of time, resources and people didn't see what the point was. I don't believe even my family understood what I was doing. I pushed back those notions, and continued to explore this, and for the people it resonated with, it was absolutely fantastic. I heard from so many people about how it put a smile on their face, how it made them go out and buy a box of sammies, and how it brought back childhood memories for them. At one point after the summer Dana Cowin, Editor-in-Chief for Food and Wine Magazine, came up to me at an event and asked me if I was that ice cream sandwich guy. She had said that my project had made her go out and buy a box of Good Humor bars that she remembers so fondly from her childhood. If every post I did put a smile on 10 peoples faces, it was worth it.

 

That's it. There's loads of other takeaways, but at the end of the summer the ideas that sparked in my head exponentially grew. I found myself writing down and concepting tens more creative ideas, both silly and serious. I want to always feel this inspired and ready to create. I want people to come up to me and tell me how much my work resonated with them. I want to keep pushing ideas and getting better at execution. Let's hope next summer I can learn as much as I did during this one.