Everyday Africa: Stories Between the Headlines
In March 2012, two photojournalists — Peter DiCampo and Austin Merrill — decided in the middle of a project in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to begin a new, raw media outlet, which portrayed the mundane and casual life of everyday Africans on iPhones and Instagram. A year on, Everyday Africa curates photography from journalists across the continent, and they’re looking to involve locals, too. We spoke to Peter DiCampo to see why he think these images have captured our attention.
What made you decide to start Everyday Africa?
Austin Merrill and I were in Ivory Coast, and we were working on a very specific story on the aftermath of crisis and conflict there. He and I were both Peace Corps volunteers in west Africa, so we spent two years of our lives living in villages. We noticed all of these in-between, daily life, mundane moments, and we realized that, working as journalists, you don’t even shoot these moments. You edit them out ahead of time because they don’t fit into the story you’re trying to tell, which is kind of one of the funny parts about journalism: In some cases, it’s kind of preconceived. In order for a story to make sense, you have to look for certain things.
So we wanted to capture all these other things we were seeing as we went along, which is basically the stream of daily life. Of course “stream” is the key word, because the perfect way to shoot it and the perfect medium to share it is on places like Tumblr, and shooting it on a phone, casually. I think casual and mundane are the key words for this project.
Table Manners: Turning Restaurant Stationery into Art
When New York-based artist Jay Batlle dines out, he’s still on the clock. Of course, he’s at the restaurant to feast and imbibe and commune with friends. Upon the meal’s consummation, however, he poses a question he’s been regularly asking restaurant staffers for the past decade. They oblige, and a blank sheet of the venue’s stationary is carefully placed in his hands. He’ll return home, and on it, in watercolor and pen and wine and coffee grounds, he’ll express his thoughts — on the evening, the atmosphere, the idea of decadence and societal consumption and what fine dining has become.
Batlle (pronounced “Battle”) chronicles this gastronomic collection, The Stationery Series, on his tumblr, Restaurant Restaurant. He eventually plans to turn it into a three-volume book, but he’s not stopping anytime soon. Here, we talk to the artist about New York cuisine, Balthazar, and pouring wine down the drain.
The Last Book I Loved: Joan Didion’s ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem’
The Last Book I Loved is an ongoing series from The Rumpus to highlight emerging Tumblr writers (and the books they love). This is the final installment of Tumblr Storyboard’s version, but you can still submit to The Rumpus for publication! Thanks for reading.
I came across a Facebook post recently in which someone offered W.B. Yeats’ poem “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” as encouragement for a peer going through a quarter-life crisis. Things fall apart; the center cannot hold,” Yeats writes. It’s a feeling everyone has at some point, but for a twentysomething in the midst of an identity crisis, it sounded especially appropriate.
Joan Didion must have felt the same way when she chose the poem as an epigraph for her essay collection of the same name.
The Fine Art of Coffee Portraiture
Here’s more evidence to back up all those studies on boredom inspiring creativity: Meet Mike Breach, barista extraordinaire, who “paints” everything — and everyone — into his lattes. “I’m an esspressionist,” he proudly proclaims. Just last year, Breach was idling away his customer-less hours in the back of a hotel kitchen with only a dormant espresso machine for company. He was “so, so bored.” So he taught himself how to inscribe ornate hearts in coffee foam, with a bamboo skewer as his paintbrush. “People got so excited about it!” says Breach. He took it further; out came the teddy bears (“the girls just love those”), a portrait of that hotel boss (“I didn’t show it to him, but my coworkers and I laughed about it”), and Salvador Dalì, and Edward Scissorhands, and Beyoncé.
We’re at the Smile To-Go, and he’s frothing some milk behind the counter; the shushing of the machine almost drowns out his words. He reflects. “It’s like, if something is lacking, you’ve got to find a way to make it exciting and fun. Right? I mean, I’m so happy that my old job was so boring! Otherwise I wouldn’t be making these! And this is just the beginning. I want to start a movement.” The milk is now pillowy, foamy-soft — perfect for the latte Breach is about to pour. He stares into his empty chestnut-colored canvas, and suddenly looks up. “I’ve been wanting to try Snoop. Let’s do that, yea?”
Speaking Up for STFU Parents
When Blair Koenig started STFU Parents, a Tumblr that lightheartedly pokes fun at the myriad parental oversharers of the world, she had no clue that four years later her inbox would be overflowing with enough tantrums, dining table diaper changes, and placenta casserole recipes to fill an entire book. And yet, STFU Parents (the book) hits stands this week, complete with vomit, snot, and of course, those perennial potty-training updates. Breaking down the submissions into categories like “Mama Drama,” “Mommyjacking,” or the ominously titled “Gross-Out Factor,” it’s a cautionary tale for anyone who’s ever considered giving birth — or even been friends with a parent.
Do you just hate babies? Why start the blog?
I noticed a big influx of information — kidformation — in my Facebook status feed. I kind of loosely complained about it to a parent friend, so then she started sending me screen shots of her annoying friends, who were mostly bragging about their kids. Up until then I’d only witnessed more boring, minutiae-type updates — how many naps their kid had, how much their kids had eaten. But the updates she was getting were a whole new level.
I’m probably going to regret asking, but what’s the most revolting thing you’ve ever seen?
It’s all a matter of taste. Some people are not grossed out by snot, but personally, I think pictures of kids with snot hanging off their faces are the worst. Anyone who takes an aerial picture of an open diaper or a toilet with shit in it … I don’t even understand how a person thinks that way.
Noelle Stevenson’s Guide to Blowing Up on Tumblr
Noelle Stevenson, aka gingerhaze, joined Tumblr to share her fan art — comics based on movies like X-Men: First Class and Lord of the Rings. In the summer of 2011, she started posting “The Broship of the Ring,” a modern interpretation of the LoTR characters as hipsters and fratboys, and everything kind of … exploded. Stevenson’s online following shot way up, and since then, she’s landed an internship at a comics publisher and has signed with a literary agent.
She’s also been offered a contract to publish in hard copy her original webcomic project, Nimona — the story of aspiring supervillain Lord Ballister Blackheart, who never seems to get anywhere with his evil plots. That is, until he takes on a new sidekick, Nimona, a shapeshifter with poor impulse control who likes to solve problems by blowing things up. Nimona recently won the Cartoonist Studio Prize for Best Webcomic of the Year by Slate Magazine and the Center for Cartoon Studies. It was also named one of io9’s top ten Best New and Short Webcomics of 2012. We had a chance to talk to Stevenson about breaking out and Hulking out.
How long have you been drawing?
I’ve been drawing pretty much as long as I can remember. It was a hobby of mine as a child, and I grew up and that was still what I wanted to do.