100 Million by Fabs G
I was a crawling babe on IG when I got in touch with Crispin Giles’ (aka @100million) feed. I got amazed by the free spirit I’ve found there; scratches, juxtapositions, strong body language, street photography, all mixed to create an extreme narrative full of originality and energy. Immediately he became an inspiration, and because of that I was planning this interview since I join JUXT on December 2011. But we all know, life happens and there is a time for everything; during this time, Crispin became the creator and one of the minds behind Tiny Collective; a group of talented people around the world who do a really great work when it comes to push mobile/social photography to its limits. On this interview we talk about Tiny, its initiatives and the partnership with Impossible Project, Backspaces and of course, his creative process. Please have a sit and meet this awesome artist. Enjoy it.
“It feels like we’re in a kind of a mobile renaissance now and I think we’re going to continue to see the things grow and mature with mobile photography becoming an accepted stream in photography, and I mean accepted into the mainstream.”
F: Fabs C: Crispin
F: To begin with: tell us about the early days of Tiny. Who came out with the idea and how did you work the concept?
C: In the summer of 2011 I was looking to start a group and I asked my friend Roni if she’d want to start something. We ended up doing a group collab with our mutual friend Instatone, we called it #tinycollab and it kind of went viral. I mean kind of. Not in a way that had millions of people involved, but in a way that showed us there were people out there into working on stuff collaboratively, in a group setting, so things kind of gained some momentum after that. I remember calling the group Tiny Mobile Collective for awhile, and I set up a really lame tumblr with that name. It wasn’t long before we shortened it to Tiny Collective and asked more of our friends to join and built a way more focused portfolio at tinycollective.com
But when I was first going around asking people if they wanted to start a group, there was kind of this question like – “what’s this all about?” “What does it mean and why would I want to do this?” And I mean, yeah – fair questions for sure. So it just took getting the right people together, finding the right fit with personalities and styles and interest levels etc. It’s not an easy exercise bringing a bunch of people together (many of whom have never actually met in person) and trying to pull off even the most humble of projects together. But when it works it’s awesome.
F: Talking about Tiny’s mission, what does it mean, in practical terms, to ” propel and explore the new social area of digital arts”?
C: In creative terms this means pushing ourselves and each other to do new work, to try new things, not rely on easy patterns and familiar ways doing things. To be engaged and present and plugged into what we’re doing – as a group, as individuals.
During a group meeting, it was Koci who came up with the concept of “social photography”. Replacing “mobile” with “social” as a way to really focus and underline the human connectivity behind the mobile community. That there is this very tangible, and genuine social component at play here. Not only with what we’re engaging in together on sites like IG etc. but how this community has helped bring like-minded people together to work on projects outside of these sites (of course I’m talking specifically about Tiny here), and I think it just helped remind us how the larger community has really become an important aspect of it all.
“Mobile photography is probably the most democratic an art form I can think of, besides finger-painting or something.”
F: Where do you see Mobile Photography and Mobile Arts going? You have been there since the very beginning. What role do you expect Tiny to play and how can groups like Tiny support photographers and artists?
C: It feels like we’re in a kind of a mobile renaissance now and I think we’re going to continue to see the things grow and mature with mobile photography becoming an accepted stream in photography, and I mean accepted into the mainstream. I feel like there’s going be more events specific to mobile photography and with innovations by cool companies like Impossible leading the way and pushing the boundaries between old and new ways of doing things, we’ll continue to see more engagement and crossover from mobile to different forms of photography.
In general terms I think Tiny Collective will continue to generate ideas, and explore new ways in which we can animate ourselves in the community. Ways we can continue to develop our thing as a group, as well as remain active in our personal artistic pursuits too. That’s the cool thing about Tiny; we’re together but also apart so there’s this push and pull that keeps the work fresh. I think groups, if handled with care and run well, can be awesome. Kind of like a home base where members can draw energy and bounce ideas around and kind of just feel part of something bigger than themselves. We’re all human and for the most part require interaction and communication with other humans. For the most part.
F: I see more and more, a great distance between what is a community play (Instagram, EyeEm) and what is a real artistic movement/behavior. But we must agree that these communities helped a lot to develop the creativity inside this new “darkroom”. Do you see them more apart in the future or is there any chance yet?
C: Well, I think there’s bound to be creative shifts and movements within any community at any given time. I mean we’ve seen that with various groups and projects maybe starting to take things more seriously, maybe deciding to become more organized, others maybe parring back a bit and becoming more lean and flexible. I’ve definitely seen more people take a greater interest in mobile photography, and that comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. I find it really exciting watching this happen, and I’m totally seeing a kind of collective confidence emerge as well. People seem to be taking things into their own hands and empowering themselves, choosing to showcase in different ways, on different sites and I think this illustrates how far things have come in such a short time.
But I think there’s always going to be a place for the uninitiated, the casual, or the curious. You know, room to investigate things, to become involved by starting at zero, by learning what they can do and what they can say with mobile. And of course there as many avenues as there are those involved in this pursuit, this all really speaks to the democracy of the medium.
F: How do you guys decide the creative direction of the group?
C: Because there’s a lot going on and so much to deal with, responding to everything as a group can be impractical. We’ve figured out ways of working within the group context, and found what works, what doesn’t. With the core members, everything is put to vote. Things like membership and invitations are all done by nomination and then invites are sent to perspective members based on this elective process. We’ve recently started identifying a lot of specific roles and responsibilities within the group and had to organize things a bit more officially lately as well, just to stay on top of everything. Bringing together a group of people to work on creative things requires a lot of structure to get projects done. But it’s surprisingly easy to come to consensus on stuff when you’re working with the calibre of great people we currently have in Tiny.
F: Can you tell us what is next for Tiny Collective? Besides the site, where else are you going to spread the word?
C: Well, at the end of June we’re involved in this very cool partnership with Impossible Project where we’re gonna open 9 shows in 9 consecutive days in in 9 different cities in 5 different countries. Will be something like 900 unique images in all. It’s crazy. Every show will be printed live, on opening night, exclusively using Impossible Instant Lab. It’s a really forward thinking device that processes Impossible prints directly from the iPhone. Very cool, It basically bridges the worlds of instant and mobile photography. We’re all really excited about it. You can check it out here.
F: IMO you are one of the thinkers from this so called “mobile photography community”. I see it very clearly when it comes to Tiny. When it comes to 100million, I see an intuitive, flammable and sometimes meditative artist behind the image making you do. Can you say something about this? Is there a Crispin, that is a thinker, and then 100million who is the image maker?
C: I think there’s a ton of people doing really incredible things in the mobile community now. Every day I’m blown away by the talent and creativity I see out there. I can learn so much, you know, just be exposed to so many cool ideas just watching stuff scroll past me on my phone. It’s kind of incredible. But I think I’m like everyone, you know, my work shows different sides of myself at different times. For sure there’s a pensive side, and a moodiness to me as a person but there’s also carefree and playful sides to me as well. I mean, I believe we’re all multi-faceted and we are revealing variations of ourselves at any given time. I think subconsciously it all comes through in what we shoot.
F: On your profile you say : “I am not concerned with purity, technique or the reverence of past movements and their tired conventions.” On the other hand I really believe that this quote by Ansel Adams applies to you: “You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” Am I right? If so, how these two worlds play inside you?
C: I did say that didn’t I? Sounds a bit precious. I think what I was sort of trying to assert my own place, and also kind of make no apologies for having an uneducated hand at photography. Maybe some self-inflicted pressure about legitimacy or something. “I’m here and I’m doing my thing and I don’t need to know what I’m doing…” Sounds ridiculous actually. But of course, none of it matters. Mobile photography is probably the most democratic an art form I can think of, besides finger-painting or something. I like some of the pictures I make, and if others do too, then that’s cool. I don’t have anything to prove. If I did I’d probably use something other than a phone to take pictures.
But yeah, I totally agree. We bring all that we’ve absorbed into everything we do, and influences can be something outside the sphere for sure. We experience things we don’t even know we’re letting in and in turn we push it back out again. I mean, this is totally how we learn. Everything is fluid.
F: I believe that style is more about what someone chooses to capture as a human being than the way someone edits an image. I do believe that if I take off all the noise from some of your images, the 100million’s seed will still be there. The eye of the hurricane. Can you describe your creative process? Why and how you make the choices behind your images? Did you ever had some kind of turning point where you found a verve which you don’t have realized yet?
C: That’s interesting. I think style is just another version or facsimile of something. Something you design, something you seek out maybe. I mean I believe this is totally connected to our subconscious, to the choices we make as people in the world and the parts we want to expose about ourselves to other people in the world. First impressions, ego, self image, all of that. But in the end, I think it’s all the same thing. If I can have an honest reaction to a picture, then I don’t see the difference between a raw shot and an app-stacked piece. For me it’s all about feeling something. I just don’t believe there’s a pure and not pure, a true and false at play here. I don’t like to make that distinction.
So yeah.. I have no idea why I take one picture and not the next, and on a good day there’s no conscious choice being made. I am not in control. It’s all impulse, and everything seems like it’s on auto when I’m really really focused on what I’m doing. And I LOVE that. I think there’s a strange irony in such a focus equalling impulse. It’s a state of mind, and this is where plateaus are broken, where personal limitations are explored and I think ultimately where we grow as artists by pushing these lines out to the maximum.
F: You said Backspaces is a game changer and I do agree with you; can you give us more thoughts about it?
C: I just think there’s always so many different ways of saying something, of expressing yourself creatively. On IG it’s very much a static, kind of ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ kinda environment – and that’s awesome. And with Backspaces it opens up this whole other space, I mean not only with the ability to add multiple images to a post, but the ability to add text I think really just widens the field of possibilities. It pushes the narrative. That said, I rarely add text to my BS posts… So there you go. But yeah, it’s a very happening app and the guys behind it are equally as happening. Super good people.
F: When it comes to music; what’s your soundtrack now? Do you listen to something while shooting? I barely do that to keep me alert
C: I actually don’t listen to music when I’m out shooting. Most of my day is centred around music, in my job, so it’s kinda like a reprieve to go out and walk without listening to music. I will definitely wear headphones when I’m on the street taking pictures, but rarely is there any music playing. Right this second, as I write this, I’m riding a streetcar west on Dundas St. listening to Mikal Cronin’s new record MCII. Highly recommended listen. So good…
F: Give me your TOP 5 anything. =)
C: Great question!
1. My beautiful wife Priya
2. My confusing, and often frustrating creative experiences
3. My life in the Bush of Ghosts
4. My runner’s high
5. The freedom to communicate my confusing and often frustrating creative experiences
Meet Crispin Giles here:
Tiny Collective // Backspaces // Instagram