Pasku and I were travelling in Cuba for 13 days when I first thought about creating a different type of visual record of our trip. The cheap flight that took us to Havana meant we were only allowed to bring small backpacks (30-40 lts each). I used the baggage restriction as an opportunity to rethink its content. I usually have all my stuff with me, especially my computer and cameras, because I need them to work. Also I always go to places with internet connection and any time I don’t, it’s only for a few days. But in this case, the very limited connectivity we would have plus the limited time and the fact that it was our first actual trip together meant I was not going to be working at all. This was going to be a proper holiday for me, away from wi fi, from customers’ emails and potential customers’ questions. My first thought was to bring my phone and my pocket camera. But what good is a phone without connection? Well, I use it for photos whenever I am too lazy to carry my Lumix LX-100 around. Thanks to all the novelties inherent to this trip, I chose not to bring my phone at all, so as to force myself to carry my beautiful LX-100 (it’s really not big!) everywhere around Cuba. The results exceeded my expectations.
Looking at is hardly the same as watching.
Time is warped: the fleeting instant is captured and gets to be stared at.
The Perks of Restriction
Looking back, not taking my phone and forcing myself to use my Lumix Lx-100 for everything was the greatest decision I could have made. Cuba is a dream destination for a photographer and as as good as smartphones cameras are getting, there’s nothing like actually exposing in the good old way, having a viewfinder, turning focus and aperture dials. But the nice old school photography feeling I was enjoying was not all. Cuba arose deep thoughts and reflections in me, many of which were hard to put in words at the time. I hoped that I would later find words for those but decided that, while there, I’d stand behind my camera with as honest a look and as open a heart as I could. Not being able to express my inner ramble made me more sensitive behind the lens. This attitude would allow me to get images that now remind me of how being there felt. Not what it looked like. Not what it was like. But how it felt. Photos do that for me like nothing else. When I create content for fun, for my own memories, curiosity and entertainment; I make photos. Photos were my first visual love and first step into filmmaking. The photographer’s position is very strong: photos have less information and imply more of a cut from reality than videos do. When framing, picking the instant and the exposure, we just throw an arrow, attempt a question we never answer. Viewers are left with a lot of work on their side. Looking at is hardly the same as watching. Time is warped: the fleeting instant is captured and gets to be stared at. The only videos I was making for fun since becoming a digital nomad were my videosongs. I was not making videos memories of my travels or showcasing destinations like so many other digital nomads, media creators and bloggers do. For the first time I began to wonder why. Of course my videosongs alone take up a lot of the time that remains after my paid work, explorations and writing… but that was not all.
Photos or Videos?
In Cuba my mind got to rest from all my video work – paid work. Walking around with a camera that is equally awesome for making photos and videos, I found myself wondering which button to press on it. Thoughts and questions followed this hestiation and I came to a number of conclusions. One of the things that had been keeping me from creating more travel videos was that the niche seems saturated and I didn’t have a unique approach that motivated me. I can’t compete in being the most thorough, or the highest quality. The world is full of talented people with amazing gear, more budget, a team, etc. I produce and share my travel content for the sheer pleasure of creation and communication (and hope to inspire others to do the same). I do it to spread the love for humans, nature and diversity in the world. If I were to produce destination videos, I had to find a twist, a way that was unique to me. I didn’t want to be yet another aspiring travel content creator that made top 10 lists or shot the most breathtaking views of a geographical feature (There are so many doing that so well!). But how about sharing my view of a place without that much pressure? “I would love that” – I thought. “I should create destination videos that don’t intend to show all the famous landmarks or recognizable signs, not even all the landscapes but are just a humble token of my experience encountering a country, its people and their circumstances.” I thought it was challenging to express that while keeping the viewer engaged. However, it is something I feel like I usually do accomplish with photos. So should I just keep shooting photos?
Everything in Cuba is full of character. People fix it all because it’s not as easy as getting a new one. It’s a place where the questions of what people want and what they need (and how both categories may differ) have been addressed collectively. Cuban fields are full of oxen and carts. Coffee is ground mechanically, horses are one of the main means of transportation, 60 year old cars still run. Everything in Cuba keeps its craft. Hands are doing everything everywhere, instead of being only on touch screens. Children play with balloons, rocks, and each other. Older ladies sit in rocking chairs. There’s someting romantic about the island that chose to do things differently. The pace at which they live, the community feeling everywhere. All these had me feeling very sensitive. I wanted to express this admiration and humility. To create a tribute to the place and everything it had given me: all the perspective, all the insight, all the joy, all the questions. I was wondering how to translate this photographic magic into a video that could constitute an engaging narration somewhere in between one media and the other when burst shooting came to my rescue. I don’t know at what point in our trip, I set the camera to burst shooting. When Pasku and I would look at the photos in the camera, I would quickly spin through the burst shots to find the one that I wanted to stare at. At some point I realised that the vintage-looking motion that this fast browsing through burst shots created, made me feel some sort of inner warmth. After aknowledging this feeling, I made the conscious decision to keep shooting in burs and try making a video that would convey all the handcraft and nostalgia I saw in Cuba with humility and admiration. That’s how the first Kinetoken came to being. It felt easy and true. A couple months after Cuba, I traveled into Nicaragua for the second time in my life and created the second kinetoken, in which I decided to shoot burst in RAW, meaning I’d get to develop each frame individually and get much more image fine tuning, a lot like old school filmmakers used to tinker with their celluloids. In the Nicaragua Kinetoken, I played with some other aspects of post production and chose a square aspect ratio for the mobile era. The Mexican one came a few months later and made me see I am now finally committed to creating travel videos. I’ve decided to call them Kinetokens. Colombia will be coming soon.
Kinetoscopes were an early motion picture exhibition device that showed extremely short moving pictures like this one called “Fred Ott’s Sneeze” which was also the first motion picture to be given U.S copyright. People paid to look at this short films through a peephole. This short motion pictures are perfect middle point between photos and videos. Instead of freezing an instant for staring, they register a simple small motion to be watched over and over. I realised my memories feel closer to this type of media and that’s probably why I can’t stop making them now. Update July 30th 2018 Colombian Kinetoken is here >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>