film 14 / on construction

An old work friend recently gifted me a couple of rolls of expired film, including two rolls of Ilford FP4+ (ISO125) that expired in 2008. I’ve only shot one roll of expired film to date; a roll of 20 year old Fuji Xperia 200 my dad sent me last year. It was pretty degraded, and the results were blah and unshareworthy. I was not won over. Can’t say I’ve had the best experience shooting Ilford films in the past either, but I’ve not shot FP4+ before and I’ve got the time and inclination to experiment, so….

Since I had two rolls, I sent one roll to one of my analog mates in Berlin, so we can each have a go and compare results. After a brief exchange on the topic, I decided to shoot my roll at ISO80, to compensate for potential degrading of the film. It was supposed to be sunny this weekend, so I thought it’d be fine to shoot it. In the end it was more cloudy and sunny, but I went ahead and shot it anyway.

I was going to develop it using Ilfosol 3 (which is the first developer I started out with last year); thought it’d be fitting to use Ilford’s own developer. I opened to bottle to find it had turned the colour of Coca Cola since I last used it a few months ago, meaning it was probably stone dead and useless. I didn’t want to take a chance and use it, so reached for my go to developer of choice these last months; Rodinal (@ 1+24 dilution, 7.5 min dev, 20°C), and my usual Ilford stop bath and fixer. I didn’t expect much, given the age of the film, but I got a few decent shots I think. Some were quite “soft” (but I like that), while I got quite good contrast on others. The light conditions were pretty varied with clouds blowing through.

It was slightly surreal walking around this area again, and seeing how much it’s changed from my last visit only a few months ago. Starting about 5- or 6-years ago, it’s been in a state of constant construction, with new builds spreading along the railway line, doubling back and encroaching upon itself again. Bulldozing whatever was before in its wake. It weirds me out, the speed of it. Like mushrooms appearing overnight. “Regeneration” is the hashtag of choice, used by marketing agents / property investors, who I always picture in my head as cartoon wolves greedily rubbing their paws together with dollar signs in their eyes. Gentrification is another. When I first moved to London and was getting to know the different neighbourhoods, an acquaintance who lived in the area at the time told me it is “a good place to get mugged/stabbed” (and he did, multiple times – get mugged, not stabbed). No one wants to be mugged or stabbed, but the transmorgification into a place where one rental agency describe the places they rent as follows: “Our apartments are co-designed with the likes of John Lewis & Partners, Hay and Samsung. You can enjoy roof terraces, landscaped gardens, cinema rooms, gyms in your building, flexible work from home and social spaces, and even a 24 hour concierge – all included in your rent.“, is unreal. You can’t help rub your eyes.


Having declared my ick for the weirdness of all this grey concrete, reaching up towards the grey sky, I have to confess I like looking at buildings mid-construction. I like to see them in their skeletal stage. Before all the walls and holes are plugged and plastered. Like dollhouses with temporary miniature hivis-wearing occupants, threading and layering and wiring away. Constructing what they will likely never occupy. And what I can’t afford to occupy either for that matter. Nor would I want to. Or can I ever imagine myself occupying this cardboard box homogeny with “on-site amenities”, where each window is overlooked by a hundred others. A lot of these buildings have balconies; you will never see people on them. You never do in London. Send me a picture of a balcony in London occupied by something other than a bike, plants or laundry. I challenge you. That’s an aside. The ever-growing, partially occupied, as yet unscuffed and unweathered high rises make for good subjects to photograph though. Lots of linear lines.

I watch construction workers file out of sites, some, two-by-two with heavy tool-filled tog bags between them. Scuffed, weathered. What a thing, to have hands in the actual construction of a building. That will stand in major city for many years. That will be occupied by people. Who will live their lives in it. Random thoughts these, floating through my daydreamer head, sitting on a bench listening to construction sounds. I’m rambling. I’m definitely rambling.

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