Early Photography Attempts

When I was a little girl, I became fascinated with photographs. I have many stories about my early fascination/obsession with recording things using various mediums.

This particular one is the story of how I came to notice that the photos we took with my parents’ 110 format point-and-shoot camera were of remarkably lesser quality than the photographs in the 1-inch-thick Sears catalog I adored, although I certainly didn’t possess the vocabulary to express that at the time.

What did possess, was an itching to use a camera! So, I took the old 110 from it’s high shelf
in the foyer where my mom stashed her purse (I wonder if it was up on that shelf so as to be where I couldn’t reach it? Oh well!), and began the task of photographing my toys and the toys of my siblings. “I had better catalog these, like Sears,” I thought.

Now, there was a lot I didn’t know about photography back then, and there was no such thing as digital; much less, an auto-exposure on the cheap, little 110 viewfinder camera. That means a lot of things: 1) The flash had one auto setting, and when fired, it always blasted out the same amount of light, no matter how close one was to the subject. 2) It had one focus setting –
basically from infinity to about two feet – which means anything closer than two feet would be out of focus. 3) Since it was a viewfinder, what you framed in the little plastic window was slightly higher and to the right of what was actually lining up with the lens (and therefore, the film). What this meant, was that if you were too close to your subject, you could actually completely miss having them in the frame!

All I had by way of an instruction manual was the Sears catalog itself. I studied the images carefully, and discovered that the most important thing for photographing toys is that they are framed tightly – nothing is in the background, and they completely fill the frame. So I knew all I had to do was put the camera very close to my subject matter – right?!

Well, consider the above camera limitations, and take a guess at how successful I was.

Needless to say, when my mom picked up her developed film from the corner Revco (a pharmacy chain we had in Cleveland, now CVS), she flipped through the prints of my sister’s First Communion, our school Christmas pageant, my brother receiving his new toy BB gun, smiling and
nodding to herself, and then suddenly stopping when she saw things like this:

My favorite thing to remind my mother about the early encouragement of my career is all of the times she would come back from Revco, and yell, “Sarah! Quit wasting film!”

But then again, she and Dad did put me through film school. Thanks, Parents.

(top to bottom the photos are entitled, “Michaelangelo the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Next to Candles on Coffee Table, Parts I & II,” “Barbies on Large Orange Chair.”)

Tee Shirt Design #1

One of the many other artistic interests I have recently begun to pursue is graphic design. I was advised by my amazing designer friend Rob to take a really good typography class as a foundation. In the spirit of exploring typography, I started designing tee shirt slogans with fonts I already have in my computer.

I have found that, as with any software program, it really is important to learn how to use all of the various tools in Illustrator. My Illustrator-savviness is far from advanced, but I was able to concoct what I think is a pretty appropriate design for my original slogan about contemporary real estates trends: “California is the new Brooklyn.” (c) 2008 Sarah Sloboda

Soon, I hope to have the design available for purchase on zazzle.com, but in the meantime I made a custom version for my friend Jen who is moving to Nashville from Williamsburg – in her case, Nashville is the new Brooklyn.

Morning Cookies

For the new year, I bought a weekly desk calendar with some inspirational phrases on it, and decided to keep the pages clean, except to document creative excursions, and to make sure I was dedicating a some time each week to a small adventures and fun.

A few days ago, I woke up in the morning wanting to make cookies, and since I had promised myself to keep
the little calendar lively, this seemed like a great idea – furthered by the fact that my Mom had sent me back to New York from Ohio with a great little cookie mix and jar of frosting. (Okay, I realize it could be considered cheating to make them from a mix, but the love involved in receiving said mix from my mother should muzzle any nay-sayers.)

There is something nice about baking in the morning. I’m sure that’s when it was done, traditionally, and yet most of my life, I’ve always had school or a day job, so baking in the morning on a weekday kind of feels like a magic day off or playing hooky! And I realized that if we all got to do one thing per week that felt like we were playing hooky, we’d probably have a lot more fun, and end up being more productive from our place of a more positive outlook.

I am a perfectionist when it comes to setting cookie dough balls on a cookie sheet. I don’t know why this is – perhaps it comes from my graphically-inspired visual background. But each ball has to be the exact same size (spoons help measure this nicely), and also perfectly round – no lopsidedness or protrusions. I form these balls with concentrated deliberation, seeing no other way. I do not know why I am doing this, until I pull them out of the oven (just a touch of golden brown around the very edges – I am also a perfectionist about baked-ness), and remember from some obscure past experience that they become perfectly shaped, flat, smooth disks in the oven. I relish this perfection again when I frost – making perfect swirls with my spatula as I do so.

What I love about baking is that it is not complicated (particularly when using a mix!), but it requires full attention. I can therefore clear my mind from stress by simply putting my full attention on the perfection of the shape of a ball, or patiently wait for the exact touch of brownness I am waking to appear around the cookie’s edge while it’s baking. It centers my mind in a place of wonderful simplicity, and in the end, I get to eat the delicious results.