Sometimes meaningful documentation means going beyond the ‘gram.
America is vast. It’s easy to get lonely. On my last trip to the West Coast, I spent a good deal of it with family — lazy lunches with aunts and uncles in Napa Valley; aimless wandering with my cousin in Seattle — but mostly, I was by myself. I have traveled by myself before, but never this far and never for so long. The solitude gave me power and independence that I didn’t want as much as I thought I would.
On long waits in airports and train stations, where the Wi-Fi was dodgy and the company even more so (at the Amtrak station in Seattle, there was an entire family who waited for our train barefoot and no one gave a crap) I would scroll through photos of my brief encounters with friends and loved ones. There were some of me walking around The Castro with my friends, enjoying the warm sun and ogling at the frat boys who played beer pong in the park. Some of my aunt and uncle grinning in front of a huge seafood platter in San Francisco, telling ourselves, “We couldn’t possibly finish this!” and finishing it up 20 minutes later. Then there were the almost blurry photos of Rattlesnake Ridge in Washington State, which I climbed with much resistance. My cousin negotiated the hike with ease, but I’d pause every few minutes and kept telling myself that I was climbing towards the most beautiful Sephora in the world. (Hey, it worked. I reached the top.)
It was one thing to share photos with family on Viber — the most tito– and tita-friendly messaging app — but another to have a memento to remember your trip by. I thought it would be the best opportunity to bring the HP Sprocket with me, a handy photo printer that wirelessly connects (via Bluetooth) to your phone. After all, it was lightweight and small — about the same size as your regulation power bank, and sleek enough to fit into a small pouch. The best part about its handiness is that you won’t need to lug around a separate camera just to be able to print pictures; your phone (whether in Android or iOS) is the only other thing you need.
I started my HP Sprocket adventure by downloading the app — simple enough and free on the App Store. More than a tool to connect your phone to the HP Sprocket, the app also allows you to customize your photos with colorful frames, stickers, and filters. You can also save the customized photo on your phone so you can share it on social media (which I did with my dog’s photo, of course.) Sprocket prints everything in 2×3 inch photos that you can easily peel off. Printing is also a breeze because it’s ink-free; when you purchase your first HP Sprocket, it comes with a 10-pack HP ZINK Photo Paper, which is smudge-proof and tear resistant.
If there’s anything that the HP Sprocket needs more work on, it’s high-resolution printing. Much like most instant printers (whether in-camera or otherwise), the HP Sprocket’s picture quality isn’t its greatest strength. After all, if you’re seeking out high-resolution photos, then best to use a camera and printer that can handle such printing requirements. No, the HP Sprocket is for capturing moments on the fly, much like the way I thought of printing out photos as a last-minute gift. Before I said goodbye to my cousin in Seattle, I printed out a few photos of our brief trip. It cost me very little, but meant more than picking up a shot glass or T-shirt that probably wasn’t even made in the city I bought it from. It was also the perfect cure for homesickness on my days alone in Portland, when I stayed hostels for days with a bad internet connection and no one to talk to. I decided to send a card to my aunt and uncle in San Francisco, as a little thank-you for their hospitality. With the card were, of course, a couple of photos of our time together. I felt a little good, knowing what it would make them feel.
This is why something like the HP Sprocket matters; not because of what it does, but what it can evoke in people: a wistfulness about printed photos, a solid memory of a time well-spent. In a huge place like America, where you are a mere speck in even the remotest of cities, to be able to print out a photo kind of feels like being anchored by something more tangible. And for a moment, you don’t feel so lonely anymore.
The Sprocket, which comes in black and white, is now available in the Philippines through Lazada.