Brandon Walker's "Snaps" is an experimental magazine exploring voyeurism, memory and nostalgia
Updated: Jun 27, 2018
Brandon Walker is a photographer and Emmy Award winning writer/producer. His artistic process is the subject of a critically acclaimed television series In True Fashion. He is the recipient of the Edwin H. Land Foundation Prize as well as the Davey, Telly and Communicator Awards as presented by the The Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts. His instant film portfolio was curated by The Polaroid Archive at Harvard. Collectors of his work include fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld and HRH The Duchess of Cambridge
Brandon has graciously given ALTER/ANALOG readers the change to flip thought the whole magazine by clicking on Snaps
"Under the bed or in a dusty attic, a photo album awaits rediscovery. Sealed beneath yellowed plastic pages are memories, faded and discolored by time.
Inspired by photo albums of the past, this project nurtures a decayed film aesthetic while embarking on the creation of “new old memories”.
Alter/Analog: The concept of a making a “found” photo album is intriguing. What inspired this approach?
BW: While looking through a box of childhood photos, I was confronted by moments I no longer remembered. How could I look so happy and not have a single corresponding memory? The next day, I unearthed snapshots of my first serious girlfriend. Did I still remember her? I certainly had impressions, but my recollection seemed more inventive than factual. So, I asked myself, “What is a real memory and how do photographs confuse the matter”?
Alter/Analog: Did this challenge your feelings about photography?
BW: I think it confirmed a few things I’d been sensing about photography for a while. It made me want to look at other people’s old photos. As I sifted through unfamiliar albums, my mind invented stories to support the worn and color shifted images of young couples, tropical vacations, and holidays. I took notice of the large number of intimate, suggestive, and highly personal snapshots taken of wives and girlfriends. It was at this moment I became interested in the idea of making pictures that were both old and new simultaneously. If the veil between the past and the present is indeed nebulous, it could lead to the creation of “new old memories.”
Alter/Analog: The first page of the magazine is a letter from a man called Arthur. Who is Arthur and are these his photographs or yours?
BW: You’d have to ask him yourself.
Alter/Analog: I thought I just did.
BW: This is not Art.
Alter/Analog: Wait, are we talking about the project or Arthur?
BW: (Laughing) Art is what you can get away with!
Alter/Analog: So, if this isn’t “Art”, what is it? A photography-based experiment?
BW: A good picture is easy to make. A bad picture is easier still. An interesting bad picture is another matter. I believe the artistic value of Snaps is more apparent when you watch people trying to figure it out. Looking at Snaps is like smelling an old perfume or hearing a song from your youth. Suddenly the past is alive and colliding with the present.
Alter/Analog: How do you feel about making analog projects in the era of digital?
BW: I think it’s pointless to make images that are technically perfect and pictorially rotten. I can appreciate a technically flawless capture for what it is. But it’s important to recognize just how bad a well taken picture can be. I’d say it’s better to capture a perfect moment imperfectly than a flawed moment flawlessly. Art isn’t always pretty, it’s supposed to make you feel something.
Alter/Analog: What alt photographic process did you use to create this project?
BW: Snaps is non-era specific. The magazine is made using found and freshly created materials.
Alter/Analog: Can you be more specific about how you achieved the overall look and feel?
BW: It’s a combination of poor composition, haphazard focus, and good timing. Badly expired films including Kodak ColorPlus and AGFA emulsions were exposed and eventually printed without color correction. These “drug store” quality prints are beautiful with their scuffs and imperfections.
Alter/Analog: Is there a specific camera for this kind of outcome?
BW: The “best” camera is the one with something interesting in front of it. But more specifically, point and shoot cameras are very useful for this kind of work, particularly ones with zone/scale focus systems. Every camera and every film has its own unique signature. If you can find the one that best suits you, the rest is just button pushing.
Alter/Analog: Why scale focus?
BW: Cameras with zone/scale focus systems can be dead accurate or terribly out (if you choose the wrong zone.) I take a catch all approach and select a middle zone and a somewhat larger aperture. This often renders a slightly defocused image with a more nostalgic quality. Simply put, I turn the camera into a fixed focus device like a Kodak Instamatic or a disposable camera.
Alter/Analog: How do you feel about nostalgia and photography?
BW: The word nostalgia comes from the Greek word nostos which means to “return home”. This project aims to celebrate the colors and textures of a faded aesthetic without replicating the past faithfully. By “returning home” in new photos, we carry those visual cues into the future. Nostalgic feelings are universal, even if we all long for different things. A fondness for the past is not dwelling in a mirage, it’s a reminder that you have a life worth living and that the future is built on those hazy and beautiful impressions we call memories.
Alter/Analog: How important is it to have a personal connection to your photography?
BW: There is a certain fascination with the familiar and a magic in the mundane. I photograph what I know.
Alter/Analog: Your name is nowhere on this printed edition. That is interesting.
BW: This isn’t a photography magazine or art book by classic definition. It’s an experiment that has allowed me to part company with certain expectations. Life is about the silly snapshots that we take every day with our eyes and carry with us like a journal. Once you accept that perfection is nonexistent, you are free to enjoy the imperfections in life and art.