She writes poetry, plays the piano and shoots fantastic Lomographs. In this Lomo Amigo feature, Strangelilgirl shows us how creativity requires one to be a little strange.
Name: Sarah Cunningham
Country: Oregon, USA
How long have you been a Lomographer? I’m sure you’re not new to this whole thing.
I ordered my first Lomo camera—the Fisheye 2—in July of 2007. I can still remember how intrigued and bewildered I was upon seeing that crazy box with all the Lomographs on it. I took my first roll in one night, using flash and getting crazy light streaks, and could hardly believe the photos were real when I saw them! Of course I went to the website soon after and just fell immediately into the whole world of Lomography, making a home and winning various rumbles soon after. Now, I can hardly remember my life before Lomography.
Describe the Tori Amos Limited Edition Diana F+ in 5 words.
Elegant, feminine, fiery, demanding, rewarding.
What are your top 5 Tori Amos songs?
Oh goodness, I love and hate this question. Only 5? Ok:
1. Muhammad My Friend
2. Sweet Sangria
4. Little Earthquakes
5. Cloud on My Tongue
What kind of pianist are you?
I’m a beginner on the level of technical skills and sight reading, but can play “Für Elise” or even “Winter” by Tori Amos quite easily. My piano teacher is still amazed at how I somehow bypassed the whole learning-to-properly-read-music part and went straight to playing full pieces by memory. That’s what a lot of it comes down to: muscle memory. Once I have something figured out, I ditch the music and just feel it and play it. I’m currently working on being more diligent, learning to fully read music, and learning music theory. I’ve got a long list of classical pieces I’d like to learn, along with 2 books of Tori Amos piano music from her CDs “Little Earthquakes” and “The Beekeeper.”
So you mentioned that you like “projects that involve more than one genre,” and that you try to apply certain photographic methods to your writing. Can you elaborate? It sounds pretty rad.
I think that as an artist, thinking on only one level or in a very linear fashion can be inhibiting and become a bad habit. I also think a lot about this sort of translation process, only within one language—like a translation between genres or subjects, or things that become “messy” and resist easy labeling. Think of a collage between areas of interest. I’m currently reading a book of poetry by Joshua Marie Wilkinson, called “Selenography,” and he incorporates old Polaroids taken by a friend next to each page of poetry; it’s amazing! The mood of each photo and poem really complement each other and reinforce how great they are in their own manners. I have noticed that when I approach writing, I’m approaching it through such different methods—maybe more calculated?—than when I’m just walking around with a film camera and have my Lomo vision turned on. So what I’m trying to do is pay more attention to how I photograph—how I approach it, have fun with it, what catches my eye—and apply those techniques to other areas, such as writing. In other words, apply the 10 Golden Rules to other aspects of your life!
At the same time, I love the idea of how you can sit down at a piano and get to know the keys and the differences between them, the method and the calculation and the theory, and apply that sort of regal diligence to an artistic endeavor. How can you write poems that are translations of sheet music? I’d like to figure that out.
I just finished my own genre-blending project at the moment, in fact. It incorporates photography, the golden rules, prophecy #5, poetic interpretation, and handmade chapbooks. Check it out in my LomoHome!
What’s your favorite photo taken with your Tori Amos Diana F+?
It’s a draw: I’m super proud of my multiple exposure shots of my boyfriend, Kevin, from the first 2 rolls. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking shooting with a new camera, no matter how experienced you are. What I wanted to do with those particular photos was try to tell a story by moving him along in different poses and only winding a little bit, letting the scenery overlap itself. I feel like I sorta did that. The other shot I love is from my 3rd roll, the one of Kevin’s feet surrounding a plant. That was taken out in Selma, Oregon, the country area where Kevin grew up, and I thought the tones just turned out lovely. I also have a thing for photos of body parts versus entire people.
For fun’s sake, can you write a couple of meters about it?
I can do even better! Here’s a sneak peek at the Lomo poetry chapbook I just finished, and this particular piece was definitely inspired not only by the 4th golden rule, but by Tori and this camera:
one day, she awoke
and her waist looked like hand grenades
and she couldn’t wait to become someone
who liked noise and fire
her days had been limited somewhere between
a couple meters above the ground
so she made a flip book of giant moving trucks
bursting through unflattering bridges
instead of doing her usual work with flat things,
folded things and things
that make a girl feel disposable
instead of walking down supposed-to streets
she began routinely letting out
little bursts of light on all sides of her
and by all sides she meant
the people that folded hat boxes,
the people that sifted baking powder,
the people made her notice
knees and slugs and interstates,
all of which she became obsessed with
moving her limbs in sync with each one
until she became a million reflections
one day, she fell asleep
having forgot about safety margins
because wearing gloves for her
was no longer a source for heat or color,
she spent her time now
shaking hands in front of globes
and throwing her arms about like burrows of taffy
convincing people that shyness
is a thing for the worms
and that even bugs
at the end of the day
want to lower their arms
Your boyfriend and our fellow Lomographer, Artvandelay, is in a lot of your shots. Are your photo trips planned or are they more like spur-of-the-moment things?
I’d say half and half. Great photo opportunities cannot be predicted, so we try to be really good about keeping cameras and film on us everywhere we go. But we do actively set aside time for traveling, road trips, documenting everything we do. Lately, we’ve had a lot of river dates, and for Kevin’s birthday I just bought him a Lomo Fisheye #2 white edition along with the Submarine Case, so we are very excited to have some fun with that!
Do your cats get along with him?
They have pretty much adopted him! Out of all my friends and family, my cats have taken to Kevin more than anyone else (probably for the same reasons I have!). Boots is more of a mama’s boy, following me around like a little baby, while Maika tends to be attached to Kevin at the hip. It’s very cute.
The strangest, funniest or hands-down greatest Lomographic experience you’ve ever had.
Lomography has given me an amazing chance to make friends in a way I never imagined! Not only have I formed many sincere friendships through meeting people on the site, but I’ve now had 2 chances to actually meet people in person (and there are upcoming opportunities currently in the making)! Kevin and I spent a week in June traveling all over the East Coast with Vtayeh—NYC, Philly, Baltimore, D.C….we even went skydiving together!—and back in December I was lucky enough to spend two weeks in Japan, where I met and spent time with Takuji. You can read about one of our lovely evenings in Tokyo here: http://thingsareimplied.blogspot.com/2010/12/izakaya-no-bangohan.html
The Japan trip was especially cool because coincidentally I was there for the Grand Opening Party for the new location of the Lomography Gallery Store in Tokyo. It was so surreal, standing in a room packed full of people I didn’t know, who spoke languages other than my own, yet we all had the same cameras around our necks, held our hands above our heads and took photos of each other and the crowded room, and posed together like we were the greatest of friends. The Lomography bond is immediate, and unlike anything else I have ever experienced, hands down.
Can you leave us with tips on how to make the most out of the Tori Amos Diana F+?
Just like trying to understand great poetry or lyrics, such as Tori’s own songs, you can’t always force a concrete meaning or understanding out of things. Why does everything have to “make sense,” anyway? I think of those folks who look at a piece of art or read a poem and say, I don’t get it?…as if that’s a bad thing! Sometimes you gotta just let things be, and “meaning” doesn’t always have to be packaged up with a straight-forward, pretty little bow. I think this can apply to the Tori camera and to Lomo photos in general. Like the 8th and 9th rules, you don’t always have to know everything about what is going on. There is so much more to appreciate in aesthetic beauty—the way a word feels coming out of your mouth, or the process of composing a photograph with a film camera—that forcing definitions onto pieces of art sometimes takes away from what makes it art in the first place, especially Lomographic art. Feel the camera in your hands, let it be plastic and pretty and exactly what it wants to be, and by being fully in the moment, you’ll get photos that are completely honest and real.