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film 5/

Since my last post discussing my film development efforts so far, I’ve developed 3 more films. Film 5; a roll of the humble Fomapan100 which I accidentally shot at 400ASA in my Konica C35, deserves a post of its own.

Conditions were partially cloudy if I recall correctly. I had a roll of Lomography Metropolis 400 in the camera and was changing films on the street, and totally forgot to adjust the ASA setting (this has been happening to me a lot recently), which you have to do manually on my C35. You can compensate for this during development though (I’m learning!), and the Massive Dev Chart recommended an almighty 26min development time using Rodinal 1:100. It was so worth it though, because I love the results. Londoners, do you recognise the locations?

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work in progress/

In spring this year I decided to learn how to develop film myself. I was mostly motivated by the cost and time involved in having film sent away for development, but also by a general leaning towards DIY and learning new skills. (Boy have we have time in lockdown for learning new skills.) I’ve always loved chemistry, although I was never super in the lab to be honest. (Where my <20% yields in organic chemistry club at?) I got a basic starter kit off eBay, and got the chemistry from Ilfosol, using Ilfosol 3 as developer. (I’ve since ordered Rodinal as well, but not tried it yet.) After having developed my 4th film two weeks ago, I decided to log my results/experience so far, so that I can look back on this post a few months from now, and hopefully see progress.

The first film I developed was a roll of Adox Silvermax, which I shot in winter/early spring this year with my Konica C35. The results; when I finally had the negatives scanned a few weeks ago, blew me away. Not bad for a first try, I thought (beginner’s luck and all that):

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Definitely a film I’d buy again, and if I’m honest, my favourite black and white film I’ve shot to date.

Next one along was a roll of Ilford Delta 100, again shot on my Konica C35. Most of the roll was a little blurry / overexposed, and the negatives are so unworthy of archiving that I actually shredded some of them. I think this was a results of how I shot, rather than how I developed the film. The only thing worth noting about the development is that I had a hell of a time getting the lid off the film canister, and ended up breaking my nail. I think I also struggled winding the film onto the spool of the developing tank. I’ve since realised the spool can be pulled apart to remove the film more easily if you misalign it when winding it up. I err, didn’t know this before. Learning, learning. This is also the first film I scanned myself with my newly acquired Plusktek Opticfilm 8100.

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Things started to go downhill with the third roll; Kodak Double X 250, shot again, on my go to Konica C35. The results I got were much more grainy than what I expected from this film, and I guess this is where I need some eyes / advice from those more experienced in developing than me. I love the composition, the graininess has very much grown on me, but yeah, not what I expected:

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Things went straight down the crapper with the 4th roll, Lomography Lady Grey 400 shot on a Franka NX-40 that I picked up in a charity shop ages ago. I’d never used the Franka before and the film had been sitting in the camera for a while. It’s worth saying that the Franka is only a simple plastic shell camera with a fixed plastic 50mm lens, and a maximum aperture of f6.0 (lol). I was hardly expecting crispy crispness. I bought it on a whim because “looked cool”, and I liked the name and giving to charity and all that *shrug*.

Getting the film out of the camera was problematic. I strained rewinding it, because the film advance wheel did not seem “pull back” when pressing the button for this function, and I could feel the film tearing across the spokes. Oof. To prevent the film breaking (this has actually happened to me more than once in my Lomography Fisheye), I decided to open the camera inside my changing bag, pull the film off the spool by hand. I had to be a little forceful, and then rewound it into the canister by hand. Probably a mistake, and probably where the film got scratched (oh, yeah, scratches for days). Although I also considered the scratches might be from squeegeeing the film by hand before hanging it to dry. I ended up with quite grainy results again, on a film not known for high graininess. The pictures at the start and end of the roll seem more so, than the ones in the middle of the roll. I tried to read up a bit on why this might be, and it sounds like I might be over agitating while developing (this is entirely possible). Also seems like a higher dilution (eg, 1:14 >1:9) is recommended. Also worth noting that I ended up with some ugly watermarks on the film. I’ll be using some distilled water and something like Ilfotol for my final wash to try and prevent this next time. I didn’t have any at the time, and I’m impatient, so I (don’t judge me) gently wiped the film down with nail polish remover; the closest thing to pure alcohol I could find. Did I mention the scratches on the film? Here are some of the results anyway:

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I’ve decided to shoot some rolls purely for the benefit of troubleshooting and practice. Will report back, but in the mean time, any feedback / advice is welcome.

 

a treasured thing/

A few weeks ago, I was scanning in some old family photographs; something I’ve been meaning to do for ages, and noticed writing on the back of some of them. These were old “heirloom” photographs – pictures of my grandparents when they were young, of their siblings, and a few rare ones of their parents (my great grandparents) – proper old stuff.

One really stood out to me. A picture of my grandfather, with a note on the back saying “This is my husband to be. Please send the picture back to me again.”

The word ‘kiekie’ for ‘photograph’ made me smile, because of the association with that generation (not a word commonly used today), but also because of its onomatopoeic value, mimicking the sound of a camera shutter “kie-kie”.

I realised that my grandmother must have sent this picture by post to someone; maybe one of her sisters, and asked them to please return it to her.  It must have been her first and only picture of her fiancee at that point.  I can image her holding it to her chest.

I often see piles of old photographs in markets; family pictures, baby pictures even, and wonder at what point they were abandoned to strangers. When the ones they were valuable to were no longer there? Would my sister’s kids see any value in pictures of people they never knew? I doubt it. I knew some of these people as a kid though, and to see their faces is to almost hear their voices; my grandmother shouting “bok” (a term of affection) across the yard to call my grandfather.

We share pictures within seconds across continents now, often of truly inane stuff (I’m guilty myself). It is a great thing to me, to still have photographs be treasured things with notes on the back saying: “Please send this back to me.”

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in the (mind’s) eye of the street photographer

My intention wasn’t really to use this blog to write long pieces, but hey, I felt inspired, so let’s go with it.

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After spending months in lock down*, stuck in my local neighbourhood, and having grown very weary of the sameness of it, I’ve finally starting doing small trips to Zone 1 again. I’m still keeping clear of crowds as much as possible (always generally avoided crowds anyway – hah), still minimising my time on the underground, and still keeping my distance. Basically being as safe as possible, whilst trying get out for a bit.

As you enter my Tube local station, a sign asks whether your journey is “essential”, and on my first nervous trip after a 4-month break from public transport, I really felt it was. If not physically essential, then a necessary vehicle to go and do something that I know will improve my mood / mental well being; the explorer needing to explore and see new things.

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On Sunday I went back to a location I visited last week. Not an area I know very well, but the diversity of people, the colours, and the architecture drew me back. In the pre-10am Sunday morning quiet, and with the sun dipping in and out from behind some patchy clouds, I ventured off the high street, and let myself wander between high rise apartment blocks. And right away I fell into my ‘looking at things’ trance. I don’t know how to explain this state of mind, but I become both visually hyper focused and partially  “blinded”. Strangers have to pull me back by the sleeve of my shirt from walking out in front of cars. I step off curbs, while looking at posters in windows 10 floors up, and stumble inelegantly. My own mother could walk by me, while I’m pondering a note on a lamp post, and I wouldn’t see her. No, really, friends have accused me of this. 🙂

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I walk along a building, with its lawns at the same height as my shoulders.  When I look up, the seed head of a piece of wild grass, looks like a bouquet being handed from one figurine to another on the windowsill of a flat. It amuses me, so I look at it for a while, standing there smiling, before taking a picture. I notice a “Neighbourhood Watch” sticker in the frame; a curtain twitches, and I move along. A few doors down, a huge plant pot is decorated with a seafaring theme; ships and mermaids with “jelly bellies”, suggest there once were plenty of fish in the sea. In a documentary I watched some months ago about alarming fishing stats, the host bleakly said that one day our children will ask us where all the fish are, and we’ll have to say “we ate them all”. I can already see the headline in some shitty news paper: “THE MERMAIDS DID IT.”

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In a large window of an apartment opposite a cool, green square; three cool chairs. I wish I was in there, drinking tea in the sun. In the street below, a silver cover has been blown off a silver car; a half-disappointing reveal. Brown leaves are nestled around its wheels; silver, black and brown together. Fox colours. It occurs to me I haven’t seen a city fox in months. Maybe because I haven’t been out late, or coming home late this summer. That’s usually when we cross paths; post-gig and post-bin dive.

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When the sun starts to come out, I head back to the high street, and building watching, turns to people watching. I loiter around a major crossing; a high rise in progress offers a great back drop for people crossing the road. A guy in light blue 70s shorts, and long blond hair approaches on a skateboard; perfect subject. I have two beats to lift my camera, but a cyclist stops right in front of me at the crossing, making the shot impossible. Rargh. I can’t hang around too long after that missed opportunity; it’s hard looking inconspicuous / not like a dummy just standing at a crossing. Motorists look at you like “are you going to cross or what?”. You could take your phone out to “look busy”, but someone can cycle or scooter by and grab it, and the point is to look at your surroundings, not your phone anyway. You don’t want to look like a lost tourist either, because that just makes you look vulnerable on a busy city street. After three changes of the lights, I cross, but not crossly. It feels good to be out and seeing things.

A block further, I get to another good spot I discovered the previous week. It’s equidistant from a pub and a bus stop, so I can pretend to be waiting for a bus or to go grab a pint (read: more likely just use their loo). I’m just people watching really. In a building across the road, placards in the windows a few floors up spell out “NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE”. No one else seems to notice it.  After a good few minutes, the perfect moment / subject comes along; success. [After having the film developed later in the week, it turns out it was taken on a double exposed frame, so this shot I was waiting whole minutes for was a bust – it happens. It was so perfect in my mind though.]

I catch glimpses of my reflection in shop windows as I continue up the road; not as invisible as I’d like to be. And old lady in bright summer shorts gives my legs a good look; paler than hers. Sorry, I’ve been inside a while. Outside a 1 POUND DISCOUNT STORE, I spot a well dressed older gent I saw a few blocks back, and whilst keeping an eye on him, I miss a dip in the pavement and almost fall on my face. A boy leaning against a wall across the road, looks at me quizzically. I saw the same kid last week in the same spot. It’s weird how you remember some strangers. It didn’t click then, but it clicks now whilst writing this, that the sameness of my neighbourhood these last months to me to me, must be the sameness of his neighbourhood to him. He looked so bored when I saw him the previous week. I laughed when my parents visited me in England for the first time, and wanted to do simple things like walk to the supermarket with me, but I also totally get it. It was a novelty. It wasn’t their local shop.

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I think as a photographer, I definitely look at things in a different way. More acutely. More dreamily? Maybe because I’m a writer, I create a narrative around things too. I think a lot of people generally enjoy seeing new things and places. At a time when travel options are limited, I find that, in a city like London, it can take as little a going to another neighbourhood to find a whole new world.

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*If you are reading this blog years after it was posted, you may not get what “lock down” refers to. In 2020, the world was hit by a major pandemic, caused by a novel virus. To help prevent the spread of the virus, it was recommend that people stay at home as much as possible, and restrict travel beyond their local area. I was at home, did not leave my local neighbourhood, and did not use public transport from the start of March until early July. I wrote this at the start of August.

 

 

berlin on film // haiku challenge

In May this year I responded to @berlinonfilmmag’s haiku challenge, and spent quite an enjoyable few hours, trying to write some haikus to go with some analog shots I have taken in Berlin in the past. I decided to share some of these in this post.

I even made an attempt at writing German versions for each one, with the help of Google translate, but in order to meet the syllable requirements of haikus, these became a grammatical offence to my German friends, so I will spare the readers. Although……one of my more forgiving German friends said it is so bad it is almost sweet and endearing. Let me know what you think of these.

This first image was taken near a very popular tourist attraction in Berlin. In a different frame, you would see many people.

My Frame vs Yours:

Tourists out of view
We frame things differently

I like this angle.

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I have been to Berlin many times. Some good friends live there, and this image was taken, coming out of the station nearest where one of my friends live. The first time I arrived here, I felt so disoriented. Now I know this area pretty well.

“From Where Do I Go?” to “Feels Like Home”:

I felt so damn lost,
arriving here the first time.
I could live here now.

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As a photographer, and a tourist, I like to do my own thing.

I’ll Go This Way:

Going your own way,
Is usually better,

than following crowds.

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Near the Berlin wall memorial:

You Are Free:
Emerge into it
Your are free to move around

Nothing prevents you.

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I think this is at / or a stop near Bülow Straße:

Stations Are Reflection Posts:

Easy to reflect,
on your life and other lives
while waiting for trains.

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Go check out: Berlin on Film on instagram for more images from Berlin.

dialogues with solitude

On Thursday last week, I went to The Photographers’ Gallery (TPG). A lot of great work on show at the moment, but I was most struck by the exhibition of David Heath’s Dialogues of Solitude. Like so many of these exhibitions at TPG, I’m discovering the work of a photographer, I should know, but don’t. Oof, and what great work. I love great portraiture.

With only 15 mins before closing, I only had enough time to study each picture long enough to recognise myself. These are the best portraits; where the emotions is so there, so recognisable.

Afterwards I walked around Soho in a light drizzle. Confidently, coolly through streets I know well. And yet, I feel like I must have looked slightly hunted / haunted / lost. Like one of DH’s subject’s.  Sometimes the crowd(ednes)s makes me feel anxious. Like I’m fighting my way through lines of wet curtains.

At Curzon Soho, a film called Birds of Passage is showing. I’d love to be able to fly. Instead I got the Bakerloo line.

split cam / film 1

Results from recent experimenting with a new toy cam I acquired recently. Very basic plastic camera called “split cam”. I bought mine at the Photographer’s Gallery in London for £7, but I’ve seen them go for as much as £30 on “gifts” sites. Don’t be a dummy and pay £30. I was too impatient to fill a whole roll before developing. I’m pretty pleased with the initial results. Let me know what you guys think. Do more?

 

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