Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Instant Photo Isn't Always Digital

Posted by Angie Luvara, ATLANTA, GA -- I’ve been a photographer for a little over ten years, but I've only owned a digital camera for about two. I learned photography with a manual film camera, changing rolls every 36 frames and adjusting my shutter speed, aperture, and focus by hand. While I still use my film cameras all the time, there are certain instances (like weddings and concerts) when I’m very thankful for not having to stop and change rolls every 36 photos.

Whenever I take my film cameras out with me, I always get lots of comments and strange looks from people who didn't think that film even existed anymore. I recently acquired several old Polaroid cameras, and thought the same thing would happen. When I ventured out to the local skate park to test these new toys, what happened surprised me. When using my film camera, people were surprised that they couldn't instantly see what the photo would look like. However, when using my Polaroids, I could give my subjects the same instant gratification they receive when I turn my digital camera around and show them the photo I just took.

I’ve since learned that the oldest Polaroid I own—a Polaroid 195 Land Camera, made in the 1960s and 1970s—was frequently used in photo shoots to provide proofs of what the end product would look like before shooting with a film camera. Perhaps digital cameras aren’t as advanced and distant from older forms of photography as we think. Maybe they’re just the newer Polaroid, and, you can still get film for the older version at http://

Angie Luvara is a photographer and Managing Editor of Social Shutter. She is also a Doctoral student in Sociology at Georgia State University. To view more of her photography, go to her blog at

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Very Fine Art

Posted by Chandra Ward, BALTIMORE, MD -- I don’t consider myself a consumer or a big fan of Fine Art. However, while I was in Baltimore over the holidays, I stumbled upon the American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore which had some of the most interesting art I have ever seen.  The museum, as its name suggests, is a visionary one in every sense of the word. Here, what is considered mainstream fine art is challenged by artists who create innovative and eccentric art out of unexpected materials.   At the All Things Round: Galaxies, Eyeballs and Karma Exhibit, you can see images carved in Styrofoam cups and bottle caps, mechanical ships made out of toothpicks, mobiles made out of scrap metal, as well as sculptures that seem to simply emerge out of drift wood, plastic, shattered glass, and other everyday items. While I was in the exhibit I wondered: "if I had this kind of artistic talent, would I ever think of using these materials to create such fascinating works?" 

The museum is also great for families, as many of the works are interactive. The gift shop is another highlight. It's incredibly affordable, so you can leave the museum with unique mementos and kitschy gag presents for friends and family. If you are in the Baltimore area, a visit to this museum is definitely worth your time.

Chandra Ward is the Assistant Editor of Social Shutter and a Doctoral student in Sociology at Georgia State University. You can reach her at

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bum-Proof Flower Pots

Posted by Deirdre Oakley, ATLANTA, GA – Anti-vagrancy laws have been on the books in many U.S. cities for almost two decades now. These laws, aimed most specifically at homeless people, render innocuous activities like sleeping on park benches, loitering, and asking for money illegal.  Rather than investing in needed services, some cities also allocate funds to various “beautification” initiatives to further discourage homeless people from frequenting public spaces – like, for example, Atlanta’s “bum-proof” flower pots.

Flower pots have always been on the walls in and around Woodruff Park. But sometime in early January city workers installed so many more that sitting is now impossible. These walls were places where people from all walks of life sat with friends eating lunch, or sat while waiting for the bus, or, in the case of homeless folks, sat peacefully playing cards because they have no place else to go. No new park benches have been installed, and the aesthetic is particularly incongruent because police barriers still surround the park to keep the Occupy movement at bay.

Atlanta has always had a bad reputation when it comes to addressing homelessness. In preparation for the 1996 Olympics, almost 9,000 homeless people were bussed out of the city. Likewise, city officials continue their attempts to shut down the Metro-Atlanta Homeless Taskforce, which provides shelter for about 600 people every night. Even now, with homeless numbers up because of the bad economy, the city has opted to add flower beds instead of shelter ones. Somehow, this brings an entirely different meaning to the phrase Flower Power that just doesn’t sit right.

Deirdre Oakley is the Editor of Social Shutter and an Associate Professor of Sociology at Georgia State University. She can be reached at

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Food is Great at Occupy DC and So Are the People

Posted by Chandra Ward, WASHINGTON, DC -- It was a cold, blustry January day in the Nation's Capitol.  My Southern weather sensibilities were challenged walking around with barely enough layers to get me from the museums to the Metro station.  But I found warmth at Occupy DC's encampment perched in the middle of centers of capital, federal buildings and monuments.  I strolled through the tent city with my friend where we were greeted with open arms by some of the nicest people I had ever met -- including Stiff and Jerry who were the first to befriend us.  Jerry, the self-proclaimed chef of DC's Occupy, asked if we wanted a tour of the kitchen.

My new friend took us to this large but rather inconspicuous tent with a beautiful wooden totem statue outside. To my surprise inside was a fully functioning restaurant-style kitchen. In fact, it had everything a restaurant one would have, including a sign for “employees” to wash hands and a health inspection score of over 90. After our tour Stiff and I hung out and he gave me an arrowhead as a gift.  Jerry invited us back for dinner. The food was great and so was the company.  I came away so humbled by the generosity of my new friends who are not only dedicating their lives to this important social movement even in below freezing weather, but providing damb good food as well.

Chandra Ward is the Assistant Editor for Social Shutter and a Doctoral student in Sociology at Georgia State University. She can be reached at

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Making Music To Save Yourself...And Everyone Else

Posted by Angie Luvara, CLEVELAND, OH -- I’ve worked with many hip hop artists, photographed more shows than I can remember, and seen tons of fans react to watching their favorite artists perform. But none of these artists have the kind of social movement that surrounds MGK. Occasionally tagging along with MGK and his crew, I’ve experienced and photographed some amazing moments. I’ve witnessed fans getting MGK to sign their body parts, only to inform him that they were going straight to the tattoo shop to make the signatures permanent. I’ve seen girls remove pants, shirts, and bras on command during his concerts. I’ve watched as groups of young people started camping out in the freezing rain well over 24 hours before a show started. I’ve even gotten goosebumps listening to 2,200 fans chanting happily for MGK for over two hours, waiting through DJ sets for him to grace the stage with his presence.

There are probably a million different factors that have come together to create this movement, but I can’t help but be completely impressed by MGK himself. Amid the antics common to a 21 year-old enjoying the spotlight is something quite uncommon—there’s something selfless about his motivation to succeed in this competitive industry. In a world full of artists motivated by fame and fortune, MGK derives his motivation directly from the fans whose lives he has helped change. I’ve met a select few people in my lifetime who, simply by following their hearts, suddenly found themselves contributing to the greater good in ways they never imagined. There is a special place in my heart for people like this because I know this selfless life wasn’t one that they pursued, but rather one that pursued them. MGK explains this well when he says “I started out making music to save myself, and ended up saving everyone else.”

This revelation is exactly what separates MGK in an industry filled with money-chasing, self-interested music artists. Although he certainly enjoys the benefits of his rising fame, he also feels the burdens that come along with it, like not being able to venture out in public by himself, and having to balance his art with his business, without selling out. Through all the ups and downs of his transition to fame, his fans are what motivate him. I saw evidence of this time and time again when I traveled to Cleveland last week for his “Ho Ho Homecoming” show. In the middle of a seven-hour soundcheck, perfecting every last moment of the two-hour set he would perform the following night, MGK learned that fans were already starting to camp out in the freezing rain in anticipation for the show scheduled to begin over 24 hours later. Despite being instructed by doctors to use his voice as little as possible when not performing, he ventured outside, curled up in camping gear with his fans, and entertained them with tour stories until a member of his crew finally pried him away over an hour later. The following night, after performing with every fiber of his heart and soul for over two hours, he and his crew collected every last one of the numerous gifts that fans threw onto the stage for him during the show, loaded them into their cars, and took them back to their home. Backstage, one set of fans presented him with a bulletin board of photos and letters explaining how he has impacted their lives, while another set gave him a plaque announcing that they named a star in his honor. Typical of most artists’ post-show routines, MGK spent time shaking hands, signing autographs, and taking pictures with his fans. However, with a rare sense of genuine curiosity, MGK also asked not only each one of his fans, but also each of his friends/family/crew “How was the show?” This question, though very similar to the typical “Did you enjoy the show?” that many artists ask, could not have been more opposite in meaning. MGK was not looking for a surface response, but rather a genuine, honest critique of whether or not his performance was powerful and meaningful to each and every one of us.

Don’t get me wrong, MGK has had his share of typical 21 year-old artist moments—from destroying a hotel room in Las Vegas to spray painting a venue. But juxtaposed with those moments is something more: genuine passion. That passion is exactly what sets MGK apart from other artists, and it’s the foundation of the movement that surrounds him. It’s easy for fans to be dedicated to an artist when they see an artist that is so dedicated to them.


Angie Luvara is a photographer and Managing Editor of Social Shutter. She is also a Doctoral student in Sociology at Georgia State University. To view more of her photography, go to her blog at