Like everybody else with much reduced horizons I’m looking for things to photograph around the house; I am allowed to go for my daily walk, but stopping to take photos is somewhat frowned up as not being in the spirit of the thing. So I’m largely falling back onto my two old standbys of photographing the garden and photographing shadows. One of the nice things about our house is that the west facing windows mean the low, bright, sunshine in the late afternoon often casts amazing shadows…
It is a fact universally acknowleged that one of the two main uses for the Internet, a technology which can communicate instantly across the globe, is the sharing of cat photos (the other being starting fights with random strangers). The reason is, I think, more than the fact that moggies tend to be very photogenic…it’s that generally their desicsive moments are less than, well, ‘moments’ and more like descisive hour or twos. Unless of course they are doing something very, very photogenic and you have to go and get a camera, in which case they’ll decide that they need to move just as you set the autofocus point; another reason I suspect for their popularity on Instagram as generally you can grab your phone and get the shot. Which is what I did here, black and white cat, white windowsill: monochrome conversion, who needs it?
With the new scanner, I can continue my occasional walk down photgraphic memory lane – yes it’s a ‘photos from my past’ post
Oddly enough, this pack of negatives were actually dated, so I can say with confidence this is 1980, and also therefore that it’s taken on my K1000 (though I can remember which camera I used when I took them). If you notice the super hard shadows you can also tell it’s done with flash, which was a more primitive technology then than it is now (also I wasn’t very good at it). They lived a couple of doors down the road and I needed to shoot off the last few frames on a roll of film. I wanted to take some more of her later on but she wasn’t up for sitting. Biscuit was also the first Weimarana dog I ever met, they weren’t as common then, and was a fairly pleasent pooch…though he is one of the only dogs to have bitten me, albite accidentally. The lack of dynamic range, and with photoshop I’ve managed retrieve a lot of dynamic range which gives you an idea of how far out they were, was due to a misreading of the temperature when I processed the film.
If you’re British, and of a certain age, you’ll remember the commercials for the Olympus Trip with Brian Pringle as the wedding photographer and David Bailey as, well, himself. If you don’t remember them, or just want a rip down nostalgia lane, you can see it on here on youtube. I never owned one in the 70s mind you, way out of my price range.
But a while back I found myself thinking of getting a nice film compact camera, something I could put in my pocket. There was also an element of the fact that we’re going to Berlin later this year and I rather liked the idea of shooting film in that most creative of cities, on a vintage camera. Sort of get in touch with Bowie changing popular music, that sort of thing. So when I found myself thinking ‘vintage point and shoot’, well there really was only one camera springing to mind. An Olympus Trip. I checked on eBay and they were consistently available, and I read some online reviews by people who said that a good one really held up well and produced some great photos, almost certainly due to that bit of Zuiko glass at the front. So I started following them and set myself a ceiling price of forty quid and it had to be a decent one. I missed several as they were going for forty plus, and I’m in no time pressure, when somebody advertised one going with a Yashica 35 (for which I also found postive stuff online), so I set a celing of fifty five on the grounds there were two of them and got them for fifty one. The whole thing being made even better by the fact that while they weren’t tested the seller said if they didn’t work he’d take them back for a refund.
Well the box arrived, and the trip wasn’t in good condition, it was pretty much factory new! Not a mark on it, no scuffs, dents, none of that stuff cameras pick up in the process of being used. It felt mechanically okay so I stuck a roll of hp5 in it and saw what it could do. I was blown away, the results were great. The selenium light meter coped admirably with snow, which is a challenge for anything and I got crisp and clean images well on a par with those I get from film SLRs. There wasn’t any flaring, but I checked and the light seals are shot and will need to be replaced. I even went out and got a genunine original skylight filter and a lens cap for it to protect the glass.
Okay, so Bailey really used a Rolleiflex for most of his stuff, but he didn’t really care much about the hardware so I can believe he might well have shot with one…well I want to believe he did anyway.
I’m a fairly regular, though by no means exclusive, film shooter; of course coming from the pre-digital days what all the hipster types are calling retro I’m just treating as normal. I’m not especially brand loyal, but I do tend to buy HP5 like I did back in the 70s. Side note of course, back in the 70s I mainly bought Kodachrome….all hail Kodachrome….bring it back….pause for nostalgia.
Okay, nostalgia break over and back to the post. I was looking on the Lomography site and found they were offering a film called Berlin Kino 400. Now I’m self-knowing enough to realise that this is buying right into the whole aesthetic of an arty, edgy middle europe, the one in which Bowie re-invented himself and wrote Heroes, in which people created art communes in the shadow of the wall, of students sitting around talking about important things, etc. Heck I know what’s going on here! On top of that the reviews and sample images from people who’ve tried it were positive, and now I can do my own monochrome processing (you did read my blog post on that didn’t you?) it’s more economical and fun. Also, got to admit the packaging is gorgeous (it’s actually a colour pack, but hey, it’s a mono film)!
So I bit the bullet and ordered 5 rolls of it, I’ve never actually bought film by more than a single before so this was a bit of a first; I have ‘stock’. My wife is very good about not commenting on the erosion of the top shelf in the fridge door to film too..
Well, the thing is of course, I want to use it for, well, photos which have the air of something Bowie might have appeared in while heading to the studio, photos with an edge, perhaps a bit of somewhat run down industrial (I do like a bit of run down industrial). I want to consider the images I want to make, and then go out and make them. I want to look at them and be pleased with them and how they fit in with my vision. But, and there’s a but.
What I really need now is somebody with the right sort of 70s or 80s continental art student edgy look: the Cotswolds is a bit from the Brandenburg Gate for that.
Should you not have guessed, we’re into ‘photos of my past’ territory again with this one, and I can date it pretty much spot on to 1979. What you’re looking at here is the remains of the front end of a Honda CD175 in blue, which you can’t see in this photo, not a million miles away from this one. It’s in this state after a reasonable speed impact with the front end of a Renault something or other on the Jacob’s Well road near Guildford. This is apparently a well known accident black spot due to it’s tight bends and poor visibility, a fact to which I can heartily testify. Now, to put the record straight, this was totally and entirely my fault, something on which the police had already decided leading to a £60 fine and 3 points on my licence. Luckily I walked away from this, well I walked out of the casualty department which is broadly the same thing, and never got on a motor bike again.
If this is 79 then my guess is that we’re in the first years of the Pentax K100 and I think, from the depth of field on this, that the standard 50mm lens was probably quite far open. I’m taking a punt on FP4 as that was rather my monochrome film of choice at the time. I rather like the effect of the high contrast monochrome on this with the shiny chrome, the deep shadows and the pebble dash of my old mum’s kitchen wall in the background. There are actually lots of fun textures in this and what looks like a bit of motion blur on the wall but not on the bike, something I have no idea how I achieved (to label this ‘intentional camera movement’ would be taking ‘stretching the truth’ right out to ‘downright lying’). All in all, I’m rather taken with this image now I’ve re-discovered it after so many years!
This does not mean I’m actually devoid of inspiration, well no more devoid than normally I might say.
I have, in the bathroom, where I can see it from the bath, when brushing my teeth or doing other things one might do in the bathroom, two things. One is a calendar and the other is a large cork board. The calendar serves no calendric function whatsoever, it’s there for the images. The ‘rule’, which I imposed on myself, is that the calendar must be purchased from the sale ones left after Christmas from Cirencester Waterstones. This means that the choices isn’t unworkably large but also that it rather self-selects for the less popular ones. Over the years they’ve been varied: Hopper, Vintage Vogue covers, Matisse and Kandinsky. This year it’s monochrome photos of New York, chosen because this year is going to be, for me, the year of monochrome work.
The cork board has pictures from magazines, postcards, packaging, etc which I like and which get pinned up to be inspiring. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever produced work which has been actually inspired by anything on it, but I’ve wanted to. I was looking at it the other day, and thinking it needed a revamp, when I decided that actually what it wanted was clearing off entirely. An Amazon prime order of a couple of old fashioned scrapbooks and a couple of evenings with a pritt stick (and yes, it was a genuine one, none of your own brand imitations) and all the images were transferred to the books and the cork board is now bare, it’s a huge, slightly intimidating, sheet of, well…cork.
Oddly though, while slightly intimidating it is, in itself, actually inspiring. It needs some images, it needs me to start seeing images in magazines and packaging and deciding they’re going to be in line with the whole ‘year of monochrome’ thing. I’m going to need to start seeing different images to put on the board from the ones I’ve done in the past.
So while the inspiration wall is bare, it’s not bare of inspiration.