The Place of Polaroids in a Digital World

Monday, 23 May 2016

So, I wrote a piece and it's been published in a magazine and you can buy it and touch it and hold it! Here's a heavily-edited snippet from my four-page feature (!) in issue 8 of Blogosphere Magazine. In it, I also share some practical tips for taking polaroids - but if you want to read the whole thing, you're going to have get off your arse and go buy it! It's sold online, in WHSmith's, and in lots of indie newsagents across the U.K.


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My first camera was a lump of plastic with a bright yellow button. It was 2000; I was five; I’d just started school; I was growing out my hair to make sure I wasn’t mistaken for a boy. Anything was possible. I don’t know if it was the new millennium or the fact that I was five, but I was pretty sure that my Polaroid i-Zone was witchcraft. Like my Game Boy Color, it was made of the semi- transparent blue plastic that screams TOY. It was shaped like a submarine and weighed way too little for an actual camera; I knew that much. But with a click of a shutter, out would pop a one-inch photo on a strip of colourful paper. So began my love affair with Polaroid. 

It’s easy to believe in magic when you’re little and you’ve not yet seen enough to be cynical. Like Father Christmas and flashing trainers, an instant camera made no sense - and I loved it. I guess I was the right age: there are only a few years when you’re old enough to question, but young enough to take that leap of faith. Life is too short - and too much fun - to waste precious toddler-time on scepticism. My instant camera took an instant photo and that was that. 

But I’m twenty now and the magic hasn’t gone. If anything, the form has even more mystique and allure today. I love the physicality of a polaroid and the immediacy of a blog. Stories take time to tell, but an instant photo is, well, instant. Sometimes the story is all in the photo and it doesn’t need to be elaborated by words. Sometimes the photo is abstract and the story is all in the words. It’s an easy way to build rapport with readers as they eavesdrop on intimate conversations and see snapshots from my travels. Instant photography is an old form revived by new media and I’m excited to see how it evolves.



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Today, we’re living in the age of Snapchat, where spontaneity is staple. If you didn’t take a photo of that coffee, I’m sorry — it just didn’t happen. It’s the first cardinal rule; do you know anything? Scott Hardy, CEO, recently described Polaroid as the first social network. And it kind of was. We all want to share stuff, and whether that’s through art or social media, most of the ways we record our experiences are online. By the late 2000s, our digital photo albums had reached saturation point. In the last few years, I’ve taken so many thousands of iPhone photos that each individual one has little meaning. In a sea of images, a single photo is a drop in the ocean; and the memories it holds are diluted, too. A polaroid, on the other hand, is a concentrate: you take only a few and they end up in breast pockets and wallets. We’re a generation of over-sharers and polaroids are refreshingly private (it’s no coincidence that early instant photography was mostly pornographic - so I’m told). They’re spontaneous - like Snapchat - but they also stay around for more than ten seconds. It’s a happy marriage of a satisfying physicality with twenty-first century instant gratification. I’m sold — can you tell?
So apparently that’s The Place of Polaroid in the Digital World. If it were easy to quantify its magic, it might not be so magical at all. But as our memories fade and our photos float in cyberspace, it’s a comfort to be able to reach out and touch something tangible that says, I lived that! I was there in that place at that time and I remember it now with this picture in my hand! So let’s live and let’s share because there’ll come a time when Snapchat’s not around and neither are we.

Instant Stories x Local Wolves

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Hello! It's been a while. Today I'm interrupting our normal schedule with a long-overdue update. By overdue, I mean really overdue. My life has changed irrevocably in the months since, and I haven't quite yet found the words to talk about it. I know I will, eventually. But for now, please kindly indulge me in some shameless self-promo.
Instant Stories has recently made a couple of appearances elsewhere; the first of which I want to share with you today. Last November, I was interviewed by Local Wolves Magazine. You what? You heard! I didn't shut up about it on social media but in all my excitement it somehow slipped my mind to share the news on my actual blog.

Local Wolves is an online and print publication founded and EIC'd by superwoman Cathrine Khom. Based in Southern California but with a talented team spread all over the world, Local Wolves aims to "delve into the most creative minds from the world of entertainment, arts and culture." It's beautifully-produced, and a treat to dip in and out of or, to do as I do and binge in a single sitting. 

I met up with their photographer Mila Austin in Southwark, and thankfully she was lovely, because she needed the patience of a saint to drag me out of my camera-shy shell. Then I answered a bunch of questions about writing, instant photography, and invisible illness: click here to read the whole interview.




   
I'll be back soon with normal posts!

Find the whole interview here: localwolves.com/celestine-fraser
Check out Local Wolves: localwolves.com


Meet Ana Marta

Monday, 21 March 2016

On a drizzly December day, I sheltered under Waterloo Bridge and met Ana Marta. Squinting and windswept, we wandered around the Southbank Christmas market in hot pursuit of hot chocolate. Ana wished the milk was a bit more vegan. I wished my gloves were a little less fingerless. We went indoors.

Suddenly conscious that there was a roof over my head, I asked Ana, where is home? She comes from Porto, a city on the coast of north-west Portugal, but she’s studying abroad in London for the year. She’s in her third year of graphic design at university, so she’s pretty proficient in design-that-is-graphic, though she does point out that ‘it’s not necessarily the thing I want to be doing for the rest of my life’.

Same, Ana, same. If I had a penny for every time I heard ‘Oh, English - so you’re going to teach?’, then I’d do whatever I like because I’d have a trust fund. I’m an optimist: I like to think that studying is a springboard into finding the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning, rather than a vortex into inevitable bankruptcy and homelessness. And it gives you the time to find passions and soulmates and to screw up and start all over again. Ana explains that it was only through trial and error that she realised that animation and motion graphics are what she likes best.

“I totally understand that I probably won’t make a lot of money, but I’m fine with making enough to have a place to live, and get food. I don’t need anything else!”, she continues. “And usually when you’re good at something, it eventually pays off?’, she adds, a little tentatively. 

If that’s the case then she needn’t worry. She is quite "good at something", and that's YouTube - if 22,000 subscribers mean anything! Her self-titled channel, Ana Marta, is a hub of vlogs and short films about her life: she'll talk about anything and everything, but university, travel, and graphic design feature most prominently. Scattered with whimsy illustrations, extremely-pleasing fonts, and colours that say everything's sweet in the world, her videos are short and sweet and always charming. 


She started uploading at around the same time she started university, “it was like a parallel thing”. Making videos was a way to get thoughts off her chest; sharing them with a receptive audience, a way to bounce off ideas: “I think video is a way for me to convey what goes through my head in a more effective way than through words. With video, you can use song, type, illustration, and colour to set the tone.”

Since November she’s poured her every spare drop of creative juice into weekly uploads to a collaboration channel called New Age Creators, the brainchild of Orin Willis, a fellow YouTuber. Ana says “the week after I got to London we went for coffee and it all went from there”. Now, it’s a hive for five young filmmakers from all across the globe to gather and brainstorm: the UK, Spain, Portugal, Germany (previously, Australia), and New Zealand. They upload Monday to Friday and each week is loosely themed. Sometimes a special guest will upload at the weekend. It’s YouTube, with heart.



As a graphic designer, Ana knows only too well the power of packaging. You know the designer has done their job, she says, when "the product is sucky, but they can make you feel like it’s the hottest thing around". No one does branding better than the super-vloggers into whose laps we fall limp, flailing their wristbands and cradling their memoirs. But the thing about packaging, she says, is it's transient. What was hot one minute is quite quickly... not. Take Comic Sans: it was funny and approachable and popular and everywhere, until it got tired and over-used and ironic and old.

And sometimes the best things come unpackaged: one of my favourite videos she's made is also the simplest. In "Finding Your Essence", she discusses the difficulty of trying to convey your truest self in a foreign language: 'Sometimes my essence and my little spark gets crowded with my insecurities, as in "Am I saying the right words, am I saying the right thing?". Style sparkles, but soul stays; Ana will be here for the long-haul.

“Plans? I don't think I have plans. I just want to enjoy myself and see what comes up and just go with it. The main plan I had was to come to London for a year, and now that that’s happened, I’m happy.” Is it the vegans? I think it's the vegans. Whatever it is they’re feeding her, I want some.
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Follow her on YouTube: youtube.com/user/AMDSLD

Follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/amdsld
Follow her on Instagram: instagram.com/ana_marta_dias

 Like Instant Stories on Facebook

A Day in Eastbourne

Monday, 29 February 2016

On the last day of August, when our skin still sparkled with summer and we thought the world was ours, we jumped in the car and drove down to the south coast. We ambled around Eastbourne, my camera at the ready and mum, dad, brother and labradoodle in tow. The English seaside is a strange place and Eastbourne is no exception. Palm trees line its promenade, like a lazy drumroll to the pier and pebble beach. Elderly couples who’ve long run out of things to say sit on shiny white benches and stare out to sea. A bag lady with a bigger bag of pennies bangs and curses at the windows of an arcade game; if she makes enough noise, the burly bouncer might even escort her off the premises! Garish typography and pastel paint make up for lost sunshine. It’s so ordinary that it’s actually sort of exotic; so naff that it’s charming. Really, it’s Brighton: only less eccentric, more geriatric, with fewer gay couples and more mobility scooters. But it’s the kind of place that can convince you that fish and chips, slush puppies, and candyfloss constitute a balanced diet, and that’s good enough for me.

eastbourne polaroid


    


eastbourne polaroid

eastbourne polaroid

polaroid of eastbourne pier

Meet Ross King

Friday, 15 January 2016

Back in September, before winter had stolen all that is sunny and good, I met up with singer-songwriter-student Ross King. Back from a year in Jordan and a summer in India and Hong Kong, he was spending a last few days in London before returning to Oxford for university.
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We walk down from Holborn to Somerset House and sit in its vast courtyard, empty and almost eerie. A nearby church strikes 8pm and its bells bounce off the walls of the quad.

"I'm going to clam up", he laughs. At twenty-two, he's only now reaching the point where he feels "okay enough about myself as a person" to give music a real shot. He launches into the topic, ardent and unprompted:

"It’s the easiest thing in the world to be a cynic. It takes so much more strength to actually create something."

He gets heated; his message heartfelt: "There are so many naysayers in the world. Your music 
should speak for itself, really. Just because you wrote one folk song, it doesn't mean you're a folk singer, it doesn't mean that's who you are".

Ross grew up in France and moved to the UK aged sixteen. On arrival, he was badly bullied: "I arrived as an outsider and unfortunately one of the things that made me stand out was my music". If to survive at school is to keep your head down, then music means shouting from the rooftops. "People are quick to make judgments, to spread things about you that aren't true. I arrived singing Jason Mraz and throwing myself into everything and unfortunately people misconstrued that as arrogance". He pauses and shrugs, adding: "Perhaps they still do".

Burning with shame, he deleted his page, his Soundcloud, everything. Slowly he started to re-upload songs under the guise of different names, always with the nagging thought that people from his past might find his music and "drag him back down to the mud". Now, he uses his real name.


Though his family "aren't musical at all", he learnt the piano young, and then the saxophone, falling for music by happy accident. Literally. He was "super into rugby" but tore a ligament aged twelve so couldn't play any sport for two years, until he was old enough to have surgery. He needed something to do - so in stepped music. He moved onto the bass at fourteen, and then the guitar. "I can play anything really and I want to play everything".

I ask him about inspiration. Recent loves include Leon Bridges, Jacob Banks, PHOX, and the Arctic Monkeys: "There's a reason great bands are considered great bands and go mainstream. I think maybe I'd overlooked the Arctic Monkeys, but there's an art and a skill to making good pop songs." Indeed. It's very easy to define yourself by negation, by the people you don't like and the songs that you hate (that everyone loves). Snobbery usually comes from a place of insecurity and music snobs, if you ask me, are the worst snobs.

Noticing that he writes his best songs when "it's for someone else", he admits that it's hard to be open and "easy to be a bit awkward about your own feelings". He wrote 'See You On The Other Side' for a friend who was going through a terrible break-up, and found the experience gratifying, more so than getting lots of listens on Soundcloud. Another he wrote on a beach: we agree that travel is a stimulus and an escape from the everyday distractions of Wi-Fi and phone signal. Technology spares us from boredom, yes, but with it comes procrastination, mindless scrolling and the Voldemort of creativity: auto-pilot.

I press him for the master-plan. When he's in Oxford he sings and plays the sax in Millie Is A Boy, a band taking the city's music scene by storm with an eclectic blend of funk and hip hop. "At the moment I've got dreams of renting a studio for a weekend and getting some of my own stuff down", he says. A few months have since passed and this weekend, he was in the studio.

"If there's one thing I've learnt about songwriting, it's that you don't say anything unless you mean it", he says. Bullies have the cheap jokes, but never the last laugh - and I mean it. Because there's one thing Ross can't do, and that's idle.



Follow him on Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/rosskingmusic
  Follow him on Facebook: facebook.com/Ross-King

Oh Wonder

Sunday, 6 December 2015

A year ago, Oh Wonder was formed. Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West came together first as a couple and then as a musical duo, birthing Oh Wonder like their prodigal first born. I don't want to jump the gun or anything, but whatever they "create", I'll embrace. No pressure.

On the 24th of November, I saw them play at Village Underground in Shoreditch. Their music was electronic and the atmosphere electric. 

Last September, they resolved to release a new song every month for a year, and they've done just that. By the new year, with only a few songs to their name, they had spread across social media like wildfire. They compiled their first fifteen songs into a self-titled debut album in September. Only now have they actually played a gig. 

In the music business, their model is innovative; create hype by dropping tracks in instalments, come the first of each month. But if their songs are stories, then they're hardly revolutionaries. Dickens' novels were serialised in newspapers; published a chapter at a time. Now, TV shows like Breaking Bad release episodes in instalments. The entertainment industry teases us, dangling new content under our noses and then pulling the rug from under our feet as we lurch in to catch it. Oh Wonder plays hard to get - and we like it. 

Light a candle. Loop the album. You won't really be able to distinguish between songs but you won't really care. They can credit their success to singles, but the irony is that they work best as an album. Their breezy ballads never reach a climax, but in succession, their crisp, clear sound feels almost cinematic. They could be more adventurous, but then they don't strive for escapism. They blissfully blend male-female harmonies with electronic pop to lull you into your surroundings. You don't want to go anywhere else when this is what you've got.


Autumn Playlist + A Little Update

Monday, 2 November 2015


So it's been a while. Call the cops! Someone sue me!
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In all honesty, I've been overwhelmed by the kind response to my previous post: thank you so much. Hiding my health from the Internet had become almost as exhausting as the illness itself. If chronic illness is climbing a mountain, then hiding it is the 75L backpack digging into your shoulders. When I finally pressed publish, I was able to shed that load: I finally feel this blog is my own, a space where I can shine light on people and places, but also share bits and bobs of my own life. "What's in the pipelines?", I hear you cry. Lots coming your way this month, don't fret! Expect an interview, a touch of travel, and a very exciting announcement.
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I know it's a silly month that limbos between all the good stuff, but happy November. Chin up, hit play on my autumn mix, and walk to the beat of those crunchy-looking leaves. Click here to hear the playlist on Spotify.

Invisible Illness Week

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Earlier this week, while I was furiously clicking between my seventeen open tabs, I stumbled upon something validating and heart-warming: Invisible Illness Awareness Week. For reasons which will soon become clear, I felt compelled to share. Now, I should outline this by saying that today's blog post will be different from my others. I'm pressing hold on the pretty polaroids and jokey prose. So if you're busy or uninterested or blissful in your ignorance, now's your chance to leave. No grudges!

Right. Invisible Illness Awareness Week is an annual worldwide campaign which seeks to raise visibility for the chronically ill and disabled; namely, those whose condition is 'invisible' to the naked eye. Invisible to any stranger or acquaintance or colleague or family member or friend. Best friend, even. BFF. Bosom buddy. Soulmate. Unless you and I are close, you will have no clue that - contrary to popular belief - I'm not entirely well. And that's perhaps an understatement. These past two years, I've been battling an autoimmune disease called Myasthenia Gravis. I've been meaning to write about this side of my life for some time now, but haven't yet for a load of reasons, irrational but valid:
  1. I honestly have no idea where to start. The task of untangling my mangle of feelings and frustrations about the topic is a long and arduous one - a short blog post won't cover it.
  2. I want my blog to be uplifting. Rationally, I know that honesty makes for better relationships and better writing, but I also don't want to bore you numb. Like any other person with a head and a heart, I try to project to the world my best version possible; shockingly, illness just isn't a part of that! Just as you might not launch a first date with a minute-by-minute rundown of 'that time you had Delhi-belly', I don't feel inclined to share the intimate details of my condition with every passing stranger. I could tattoo Hemingway's famous "All you have to do is write one true sentence" on my forehead and still I'd feel the same. Talking medical: it's not hot.
  3. Escapism. It bleeds into more than enough parts of my life already. I wanted this to be a space safe from illness, free from contamination. I don't want people to think that I'm obsessed by it, or defined by it, but it is undeniably a part of my life - a non-refundable part of the package. Take it or leave it!
  4. Vulnerability. Like exposing an open wound, honesty stings. Of course, my flawless mother preaches that no one worth knowing would reject me for something so completely out of my control but - shocker! - the world is cruel. Illness comes; and some friends go. Shoutout to all of those who stay. 
  5. There are worse things going on in the world. Well, yes. Of course there are. I'm not totally out of touch with reality! When I take a 20 minute nap, the world keeps spinning: I know that much. I need only read the papers, turn on the TV, or spend time in hospital next to someone fighting for breath, to realise how fortunate I am. My condition is disabling but never has my life felt in danger, and I live in a country where healthcare is free. But feeling guilty for sharing the little I do is unproductive and unhealthy and even pretty messed-up. I hide my health every day for fear that people won't believe me because they can't 'see' it. From now on, honesty is the best policy: there's no need to drag myself up the stairs when I can take the lift. 
A staggering 96% of disabilities are invisible. Put like this, it makes sense. Clearly, you can't 'see' a mental illness, nor can you see that someone's visually impaired (joke's on you -), or on their way to chemo, or younger than you but in desperate need of your seat. Young doesn't equate to able-bodied, and hell, 'healthy' doesn't look a certain way. 

I know what you're thinking - "Thank you, sweet guardian angel. I am now AWARE of Invisible Illnesses". And I get it: the concept seems well-meaning but ultimately a-bit-pointless. The aim of Invisible Illness Awareness Week is not to sign you up to charity sky-dives, or to fling you from a bungee in Phnom Penh, and it should go without saying that no one is forcing you to host non-profit bake sales on your front drive. It's a support group for the sick; a call to arms for empathy; a plea to dig a little deeper. My Instagram feed is in no way, shape, or form an accurate representation of my life, and up until today, neither was my blog. I still squirm at my dishonesty; that I once portrayed a trip to Morocco as adventurous and action-packed when I was really in a wheelchair. But it's not just online: the moment we step out the front door, we present to the world a construction of ourselves. So when someone has the guts to knock down the scaffolding, please hold out a tarpaulin to catch the odd brick.


Meet Antoine Truchet

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Earlier this summer, I logged onto Skype and rang up Antoine Truchet, a nineteen-year-old French photographer. Cue Skype's infamous ringtone - you know the one: the sweet sound of being summoned by aliens! At 70.4k followers and counting, Antoine is what you might call Insta-famous. And something of a globe-trotter. He lives in the French Alps and is but minutes from Geneva, Switzerland. He has just got back from a grad-trip to Ios and Mykonos and a family road-trip down to the South of France and the Cinque Terre in Italy. He plans to move to London this coming year. And he spent his early teens in Jakarta, Indonesia, a place which kindled his love of film and photography and which he still holds very close. The man is no sloth!


Antoine first set up an Instagram account three or four years ago, when he was still in Indonesia and living in Jakarta, a bustling metropolis which - with a population of nearly 10 million - is the largest city in South-East Asia. At an hour and a half from Bali, Jakarta is but a stone's throw from volcanoes, mountains, turquoise lagoons, and sandy beaches. The stuff of nightmares! He admits, grinning sheepishly, that in the beginning he posted 'mostly selfies'. But he grew up and the selfies slowly dwindled to a trickle. Now his photos are mostly landscapes, but he insists that "having tiny people in my photos makes them so much more interesting". Often, he'll stick in the silhouette of a sibling to give an otherwise simple photo a bit of human interest. Scroll through his feed and you'll see that his style is distinctive: clean and minimalist, his photos have lots of white space, and use a recurring palette of greens, blues, and turquoise. Each upload is striking, yes, but a single puzzle piece won't make a jigsaw; they're at their best as a set, their colours complementing and their tiny figures trying to tell a story. If Antoine describes himself as a 'visual storyteller', then we, his followers, must be his 'readers', tuning in each day to Instagram to find out what happens next.


You can buy followers, but you can't buy their loyalty, and Antoine admits that finding an audience on the platform took time. "I started slowly gaining more and more followers, but I still stayed around the 2000-mark for like, 2 years", he says. And then Instagram suddenly found his account: "I woke up, my notifications going crazy. The whole thing completely blew up overnight, I was gaining new followers every second", he explains, astounded. He was chosen as one of Instagram's 'Suggested Users'. If you live and you breathe, then you will know that Instagram's 'Suggested Users' feature is so sought-after that it now has the power to kickstart a budding photographer's career. For Antoine, it surely has.


Whether on the road or at home in the French Alps, Antoine is always shooting, posting new content almost daily. What keeps him motivated? "Of course it's super motivating to have this audience", he says, referring to his tidy count of 70,000 followers. But he is keen to emphasise the role of other online creators in keeping him motivated: "The main thing, I guess, is trying to find your own style... I'm still trying". He finds storytelling inspiration "everywhere" on the Internet and cites YouTube extraordinaires Jack and Finn Harries, Casey Neistat, Ben Brown, and Louis Cole among his idols. As for photography, he finds 'the whole lifestyle' of Instagrammers Chris Burkard and Alex Strohl 'really appealing' and loves the crisp and clean minimalism of Cereal Magazine. People spark off ideas, but travelling, 'exploring new places, new cultures' really keeps the flame burning. It's no coincidence that he's set aside this next year - a post-IB gap year - for just that. After that, he wants to come to London to study film: "But I need to be sure about the university. I don’t want to spend three years there and then at the end of it realise I'm not happy". Looking further into the future, nothing is set in stone - but neither is it for you or I. I can give you no spoilers because his next chapter is still unwritten; all I know is we'll be logging on, hungry for the next episode in his string of adventures. Patience - each 1:1 square at a time.












Check out Antoine's website: antoinetruchet.com
Follow him on Instagram: instagram.com/antoinetruchet
Follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/antoinetruchet

Chewy Nutella Cookies

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

I’m sure that your kitchen is flooded with cookie recipes and that already groaning pile of papers is headed on a one-way trip to the recycling. But you don’t always know what you’re missing till it pops up out of nowhere and slaps you across the face. So here I am, swooping in like the domestic goddess I was born, whisking you off your feet and smothering you in baked goods. Like Nigella - only not. I’ve adapted a couple of existing recipes for Nutella cookies, which I found either sickly-sweet or not sufficiently chocolatey. These are hands-down the tastiest cookies I’ve ever made, so I really hope you enjoy them too! You can thank me later.


You will need: 

1 egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 teaspoons of cornstarch
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup Nutella
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 ¾ cups self-raising flour
1 cup chopped dark chocolate
A pinch of salt

How-to:

1. Whisk together flour and cornstarch.
2. In a separate bowl, beat together egg, butter, sugars, Nutella, and vanilla for 4-ish minutes
3. Slowly add the flour and cornstarch, until well mixed.
4. Stir in the lumps of dark chocolate.
5. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place on greased tray.
6. Pre-heat oven to 180C
7. Bake for 8-10 minutes
8. Enjoy!


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