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Monday, November 14, 2005
Greta Snider's View-Master Documentaries

Before I ever had an inkling that I was going to be a filmmaker or heard of Greta Snider, I saw a bootleg copy of Hard Core Home Movie. To be honest, I had no experience with experimental filmmaking and didn't have the vocabulary to discuss the impact of the film, except that it blew my mind. It was made with a punk aesthetic that was personal and fun, and captured the raw energy and visceral experience of going to a punk rock show. I hadn't in my short and inexperienced life seen anything like it. Since that initial encounter with Hard Core Home Movie, I have had the pleasure of seeing most of Snider's films at independent screenings, festivals and on DVD. The films have a hand-made aesthetic and are often personal documentaries offering a window into the lives of the visionaries and weirdos that populate subcultures on the margins of our homogenous consumer society.

Despite a stellar fall schedule of art openings and screenings, I was feeling extremely anti-social and unwilling to venture out into the world. What did the trick, what got me going was a phone call from my friend Johunna Grayson, who has been assisting Greta Snider on her most recent artistic endeavor. The ladies have been hard at work shooting, hand processing and assembling a series of personal portraits to be viewed in 3-D with custom built View-Masters. For any of you past the age of thirty, the sight of these nostalgia-laden plastic toys might just bring a tear to your eye.

The View-Master resembles a pair of plastic binoculars loaded with a circular reel of slides that spin around incrementally to reveal a new 3-D image each time the user pushes on a plastic spindle. The invention dates back to 1939 when William Gruber combined the 3-D technology of Stereoscopic photographs with newly developed Kodachrome film to create the gadget. Vintage "scenic reels," often coveted by collectors, depict exotic travel locales and were sold in stationary stores like postcards. By the 1950s View-Master began to use popular television shows and movies as subjects, especially Disney characters aimed at a younger audience. Today, the View-Master is used to mass market Hollywood films and the latest popular cartoon characters.

By turning the reels into an interactive art experience, Snider is transforming a mass-produced commercial product into a hand made object and capturing the personal histories of regular people, not often reflected or celebrated in popular culture. For the upcoming show, Greta approached a group of friends and asked them to choose a place in San Francisco where they would like to have their portraits taken. Not only are the reels portraits of individuals, but they also reveal the hidden treasures and underground spaces scattered throughout San Francisco. Look for Ivy McClellan's tour of a clandestine cement garden near Candlestick Park, Bill Basquin working the dirt on a plot of his community garden, and Craig Baldwin emerging from the basement of Artists' Television Access. With this latest project, Snider once again takes a potentially commercial medium and creates an intimate homemade record of peoples' personal lives.

View-Master Documentaries by Greta Snider opens as part of Copyist Conspiracy Saturday November 19, 6-9pm at Needles & Pens: a zine, DIY goods, and art space located in the Mission.

Visit Needles and Pens (at


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