My hiatus from photography was closely tied to a hiatus from my previous life; my previous me. To ponder the significance of the hiatus, consider that in 2012 I completed over fifty rolls of film. In 2013 and 2014, I have yet to break a total of five rolls. I neglected a lot of what made me healthy. I rarely played my instruments, I frequently over drank and often under ate, exercise was sporadic and unfulfilling. A commanding theme of students’ responses to our schooling was a feeling of abuse. Sixty to eighty hour work weeks bookended by exhausting weekends, cramming in as much fun and forced happiness as one is capable.
It’s been evinced that the stability in my life is in fact instability. Embracing this has been an effort. Accepting what is as opposed to what I think it should be, or what I want it to be. I must also learn to accept my cameras, my lenses, my films. Embrace the imperfections, appreciate the character.
One-point-five years later, a renaissance of film. Many developments have occurred in my emotional relationship with film. Some good, some bad, some regression, minimal progress. The stress of professional schooling requires an outlet, which has been missing almost entirely for too long. And so a new roll was ordered, chemicals. And the spools are loaded and entered into the backs of cameras, replacing spools which might have been loaded years prior. Where this goes is uncertain; probably another hiatus…just a matter of when.
I’m all done developing for 2012. Well, I have about two finished rolls to develop and a bunch of color; but I left my equipment at home to take a break while I’m visiting folks. And so: a random smattering of images from my life of 2012.
I’ve had a bit of a medium format renaissance, mainly because my aunt gave me a trash bag filled with film. Most of it is expired, but who’s to let that stop them? I’ve been through a few rolls in the last month or so.
This frame is rather simple, and it’s a simple scene. This is Lake Desolation, not far from my folks house. A great place for a leisurely drive or not so leisurely bicycle ride (due to the 1200′ climb). Note the scanning artifact; gotta work on that.
I use film. But this is a blog. So obviously, I must digitize those negatives somehow. It’s kind of like a romantic relationship that you can’t quite quit and aren’t sure how serious it is, so you just refrain from speaking of it. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the whole issue. I only just recently increased my scanning resolution, yielding ~30mb files for a 35mm frame; a 14 megapixel equivalent. Why? Really, because I have the hard drive space and I don’t want to be bothered with re-scanning in the future. In college I didn’t want to take a formal course and be judged on my technique, which might include reducing dust and artifacts. Now, my digital processing mainly pertains to removing those blemishes in addition to a bit of tone control. Those artifacts in a digital representation really bother me. I suppose a lot of it has to do with the fact this is my only form of processing or presentation after the frames have been developed. If nothing else, these unorganized thoughts exemplify my unease with the situation. Alas, I offer before (infant scans) and afters.
I tend to enjoy the things that I like concurrently. So when friends, appropriate beverages, fires, and photography come together…interesting things happen. Sometimes I feel weird bringing such a large camera to an event, and putting a different sort of effort into my frames. Most people are taking photos with phones and point-n-shoots, with desire for looking good rather than a good looking photograph. So I feel like an ugly ducking for a while; until I realize we’re all there to have fun…and until I’ve had an appropriate beverage.
Some of the frames from these instances are less than ideal. After all, I’m there to spend time with people I enjoy. Photography in those instances is second-hand. Nonetheless, it’s still enjoyable and even though I’m not concentrating as hard on the exposure, I still get good frames. So, who’s having the next party to which I will bring my camera?
I was really excited when my father asked if I’d be able to hang out with him for a few days in NYC while he was there for a meeting. It’d meant that we hang out and have fun at night, and I’d have most of the day to myself to do what I pleased. I chose to take that time to relax before pending exams, and to exposure a few rolls. I wanted to try my hand at street principles I mentioned before. I have to say, photographing with the Bessa R and the heretofore unmentioned Canon 50/1.8 is a blast; a breeze with the Carry Speed sling strap. My desire to be surreptitious overcame my intent of image capture, and prevented me from slowing down to really think about my frame (as I had talked about in regards to medium format). From my first roll, I came away with a lot of frames with motion; due not to slow shutter speed (I successfully hand-hold 1/30s with a 50mm lens) but due to nerves…I was trying to put the camera back down as soon as I could.
I also learned that pre-focusing is not equivalent to zone-focusing. I tried to pre-focus and anticipate how far I’d be from what I wanted in focus. This led to more unsharp images. I had challenged myself to peer through the viewfinder for my frames, and that was good. Next time, I’ll have to take a pause and actively focus.
Other than the mentioned ailments, I think my frames came out more or less how I had planned for. This is encouraging. Although it’s a good reminder that I photograph to photograph; it’s a real pleasure and is certainly relaxing. Developing, editing, self-critiquing etc. are distinct processes that do not diminish the photographing experience.
I have a very odd relationship with medium format film. I love the technical advantages it offers: quality, depth of field, relative grain size, etc. A lot of my medium format frames come out looking great, and I suppose this is due to the restraints imposed by the camera I use. I have a Seagull TLR with no meter and no prism finder (finder image is horizontally reversed). This necessitates more thought and effort put into making a frame; otherwise we’re using up one frame out of the twelve in a $5 roll. Not exactly economical.
I was so excited to use my new medium format TLR when I bought it back in 2008. So much so that I messed up my framing, which lead to some overlapping frames. (The Seagull TLR I have allows for 6×6 or 6×4.5. I prefer the square 6×6.) Looking at the large waist-level focusing plate was ephemeral; elemental. I loved it, despite the lack of meter and the frustrating horizontal reversal of the finder.
Overlapping frames from my first roll of 120.
I suppose those frustrations, and a constant cognizance for economy, led to only a handful of rolls exposed over these years. (Can you believe I had one roll in the camera for over a year?) But medium format is always on my mind. Always wanting to expose more frames. Thoughts of what to photograph. I have this restricting urge to only photograph meaningful frames with 120 film. After all, it’s an expensive roll with few frames. I’m more willing to fire the shutter without looking through the viewfinder of a 35mm camera; it’s only one frame of up to 36.
From a more recent roll.
In retrospect, some of my better frames have been exposed on medium format film. I’ve been trying more frames; and plan to soon make the plunge into color, and pay a lab to develop for me. Let’s see where this leads..
Back when I began taking photos I would typically see a situation I wanted to photograph, and take it in whichever way I could that was as unobtrusive as possible. In public, this led to a lot of reflection images, stills from behind a stranger’s back or distance between me and the subject of interest.
My earlier days of street photography.
My first real exposure to somewhat invasive street photography was when I was studying art in Italy and was being exposed to various forms, media, et cetera. I became more curious about art in general. I came across a video of Bruce Gilden (e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRBARi09je8) and thought it was hilariously ballsy. Recently I’ve been observing self-proclaimed streetogs such as Eric Kim and Kaiman Wong, and it has encouraged me to actually try what they do to see if it fits me. I’m not quite as up-in-your-face as Bruce Gilden, but I do like photographing in public and I’ve been getting closer to the strangers I photograph. It’s fun to exercise different techniques and set-ups. Mostly, I’m just looking for what’s most enjoyable to use while yielding good results.
A walk around NYC a few weeks ago. Zorki 6 and Industar 50/3.5.
The Zorki 6 offers a compact solution with a quiet cloth shutter (something many people make a huge fuss about) and excellent lens selection (it’s Leica screw mount after all). I purchased it from someone in Brooklyn with an Industar 50/3.5 that yields excellent results. Subsequent light leaks and a desire for a light meter under darker situations (as well as other woes associated with using a half-century-old device) left me in desire. A recent sale of deprecated videography equipment funded the purchase of a used Bessa R, which has satisfied my steepened demands of a photographic tool. Its shutter is significantly louder, but I’ve realized that doesn’t bother me (it’s the mirror slap of SLRs that has always bothered me). The Bessa has lifted many of the limitations I felt imposed by my equipment, and has made a significant step (may I say a significant few steps?) towards removing the camera from my photographic vision.
Hanging out in a friend's future neighborhood. Bessa R and Industar 50/3.5.