• Shawn Griffin

Disposable Prague (feat. Vienna)


After 27 years... I finally visited the motherland...


Well,  not quite. I'm a whole lot of different flavors of European,  but Czech isn't one of them. However, as a man who's skin tone changes seasonally between "kabuki in a suit" and "sexy lobster", I felt at least in appearance,  among my people. 


I have no shame in my search history...

From the moment I touched down in Caucasia, I was instantly surrounded by the vibes of Olde Europe. Having solely explored Asia for the past 5 years, I felt slightly out of my element, like bubble tea in a podstakannik (yeah,  you look it up,  I'll wait...). The Greco-roman style sculptures adorning every corner, the non-stigmatized option of ordering wine with every meal, the imposing dread of the Catholic church looming over otherwise lively city squares...


"Hmm... That square is looking a bit too fun... - The Pope"

All of it took me into the storybook interpretation of Europe my 12 years of US centric education had bred me to expect; it took every ounce of me to not burst into a bird filled musical every time I walked down a period "Old Towne" style street.

And the local garb wasn't helping either

But I digress. This isn't a travel blog, this is a photography blog (unless you want to fund my next worldwide trip, Instagramming about my stereo-typically millennial addiction to European style street cafes, then, hell yes, this is a travel blog).

In keeping with my theme of experiencing my vacations instead of just photographing them, I left my DSLR in Hong Kong and opted strictly for taking my brand spankin' new "Simple Use Film Camera from Lomography". 

The Simple Use camera acts as just as any disposable camera. There are no settings or fancy knobs or numbers, just a button that turns the flash on and off and 3 primary color gels you can slide over the flash to give your pics more of that "moody bordello" feeling. It also allows you to reload the camera with your own film as many times as you want, although it does come with an "at your own risk" warning for doing so. Luckily... I live dangerously.


The issue I had in approaching Disposable Prague was that I was trying to photograph it in the same manner as I photographed Disposable Tokyo. The whole point of switching to a disposable camera for Tokyo was that I had photographed Tokyo 3 bajillion times (approx.) meaning that I knew the streets, I knew the way people would react, and I knew what aspects of the city would photograph well.


For those of you who have never been to Prague or Tokyo, they may as well be existing in different galaxies. So approaching them in the same way was like expecting my houskovy to be served via sushi conveyor belt... spoiler alert: it was not...  (although I may have a new business venture idea)

Prague was much more laid back and paced than... seriously anywhere I'd been before. There were definitely interesting and intriguing scenes happening, but capturing them required a different and more methodical approach. I found myself needing to camp for the right moment more frequently rather than shooting from the hip. Speed wasn't a factor in the street scenes here, so it felt out of place to try and enhance it in my photos. 


The scenes were more enhancing of the environment rather than the people within them, which I is pretty typical of a first time visit to a location. I spent the majority of the time photographing how the ancient facades interacted with the contemporary lives of the city's people. As I was staying with friends for the entire trip, it also allowed for more opportunity to capture my personal life within the city rather than focusing on the city of Prague itself. Leading to narratives of getting lost, finding cafes, and going on absinthe fueled Tesco trips discovering the next morning that me on absinthe apparently craves chicken liver and macrons the size of my entire hand...



Chronological, visual, timeline...


Prague an entrancing and visually unique land... or so I thought until I took a two-day break to Vienna and found out that... no, that's just how Europe looks like.


Also, ridiculously white...

Vienna was seemingly Prague's younger, German speaking sister who was just wrapping up another degree in creative writing and smelt of slightly more expensive wine coolers.

Granted, my main base in Vienna was right next to Museumsquartier, meaning that my exposure of Vienna was pretty strictly the outsides of museums (photographing inside of a museum seems kinda redundant). It also didn't help that one of the two days I ran out of film and, silly me, thought that film would be an easy thing to find in the city that headquarters both Leica and Lomography. So #DisposableVienna was, unfortunately, a much more underdeveloped section of my trip.


Not to discredit @yelvilaa 's tour guide skills. She killed it almost harder than she killed her, "Maria Theresa in her garden" look.

Being out in a new city with a new camera and that tiny, twinging anxiety of every social stigma that comes with being that weird guy on the street with a wind-up camera did help me come to a realization that I need to start shooting more liberally and more carelessly. I'm the kind of guy who wears snakeskin platforms to the office or serenades you with Madonna's greatest hits at a red light through our open car windows... so why am I suddenly afraid that some person on the tram is gonna look at me funny for a few awkward stops after I take their unsolicited photo?


Or, wait till you're outside; glass also acts as a barrier to social etiquette.

So my new goal is to stop taking as many photos of buildings and start getting more comfortable getting uncomfortable. Take photos of everyone! Make the subject of your photo more uncomfortable than you! Assert your animalistic territory over the whole tram car and capture every uneasy, pissed off, and confused face. Because, if I learned anything from art school, being uncomfortable probably means you're doing it right.




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