Let's Get Physical
I never made a conscious decision to eschew digital in favor of the bygone days of simple machines and media. It’s just who I am. I don’t see the printed word as an anachronism in a world of Kindles and iPads. As an editor, books are my livelihood and my earliest and most prevalent passion. Vinyl is not the latest craze; it is the way I listen to music, a physical way of experiencing the auditory. And I still receive and send greeting cards to my grandmother in Mississippi.
I am not alone. This analog lifestyle has caught on in San Francisco, the heart of technology-centered industry, where you can’t spit and not hit someone involved in a start-up. But the desire to return to original formats – physical evidence of creativity – is among us. So, cross over my friends; dip your toe into the pool because the water is fine.
Here is a list of a few locals that are serving as the impetus for the ever so growing analog conversion.
All of the books that comprise this small library, are available due to generous donations by local authors and readers. Kristina Kearns, the founder and knowledgeable curator, has this space chock full of books – good books. “Many Americans cannot afford a Kindle… this is in part why I started the lending library. I went through a period where I could barely afford the essentials and I used the public library. I want to make good literature available for all,” says Kristina. Love books? Love Ourshelves.
Opened in August 2011 by Vince Donovan and Michael Shindler, Photobooth specializes in tintype (photographs developed on metal plates) and Polaroids. “We work in analog media at Photobooth not because we think it's ‘better’ but because it's stimulating and fun. Sure, I could use a digital camera and software to make similar images, but I would lose the pleasure and challenge of actually holding these beautiful cameras and learning to use them,” says Vince. Visit Photobooth to get your old-timey portrait taken, learn how to shoot your own vintage-style photos at one of their classes, or just stop by and see what they are currently displaying in the gallery.
This label run by Greg Gardner, a former pricer at Amoeba, has been putting out some fantastic vinyl-only releases, and even an album out on 8-track. Since 2009, Greg’s been releasing records featuring current local acts, like The Sandwitches, Thee Oh Sees, and Sonny and the Sunsets. But he’s also been building an impressive catalog of re-issues of rare, never-been-released albums by interesting artists from the ’60, ’70s, and ’80s, such as Michael Hurley, Blaze Foley, and Tiny Tim. “I initially started Secret Seven Records as a way to appease my fixation with the vinyl-format,” Greg told me. “I decided to put out an 8-track because I wanted to listen to something new on my little 8-track player that I have in my kitchen while I cooked eggs. Plus, it seemed like a ridiculous and fun thing to do.”
Stationery guru Jennie Hinchcliff started Correspondence Co-op, a monthly social club revolving around the art of letter writing. Members get together to swap stamps, start a correspondence with a previously unknown pen pal, and discuss the post office as a vehicle for artistic expression a la Ray Johnson. When asked about the growing analog trend, Jennie says, “We live in this incredible place surrounded by new tech and gadgets every day, yet as San Franciscans, we're pretty hard core about DIY and getting back to the land. It's pretty fascinating when you think about it, living with two extremes like that...” In the age of impersonal email, wouldn’t it be nice to communicate with friends near and far away with a handcrafted letter?
Visit Ourshelves, Wednesday through Sunday, from noon-7 p.m. The lending library is located in the back of Viracocha. Find out more on their website.
Get your tintype portrait taken, learn how to shoot analog, or check out the latest show at Photobooth on Valencia Street. Learn more on their website.
Buy LPs and find out what's next for Secret Seven Records here.
Get involved with Correspondence Co-op by shooting Jennie Hinchcliff an email at email@example.com, sending her a Tweet to @redletterzine, or go analog and mail her at Jennie Hinchcliff c/o Red Letter Day, PO Box 170271, San Francisco, CA. 94117.
This story originally ran in The Bold Italic's Vol. 2: What's Next? magazine, which is available for purchase as a single issue or with a subscription here.