Another Street Sign

With the way the talking heads in the media are ranting and frothing at the mouth about religious fundamentalism you would be pardoned if you thought it was a new phenomenon. Of course it’s not, the ebb and flow of violent pious beliefs is a historical fact.

One day’s crackpot is tomorrow’s martyr.

On a lighter note; a sure way of recognizing a photograph shot with a medium format film camera is the so-called waist-level shot – so named because the camera is held just above the waist and you look down into the viewfinder to focus and a fine example of what happens is this picture.

The picture was shot about 22years ago so it is also a fine example of the continuity of religious bigotry.

If there is one thing that I find exceptionally hard to understand it’s the large swaths of angry people who believe that their belief in a loving god demands that they abuse and persecute those who don’t have the same beliefs, when in fact such overweaning narcissism is an anathema to all religious teaching with the possible exception of Satanism.
Bronica SQA, 80mm, Kodak Tri-x, asa 400

A Tale of Resilience

One of the major differences between film and digital photography are the stories one can tell. In the digital realm to tell someone that you underexposed 10 or 12 photos 2 or 3 stops without noticing just means you are not very good at what your doing.

Alternatively, mistakenly putting a 50 ASA film in the camera and metering for a 400ASA film will extract humorous groans from those who have also done it. It becomes an more interesting tale when you compound the mistakes. In this picture which I shot two weeks ago I never noticed that the film was not the much faster HP5 that I thought it to be and I consequently metered and developed it as if it was. But what makes the tale interesting for those who like such things are the extraordinary details. Such as because the film was over ten years out of date I was reluctant to buy new developer and the internet said that Rodinal  film developer could be kept for a few years before it went off. I had an open bottle of it that had been hanging around for about a year and a half so I thought  why not give it a go, even though the chemical’s colour had shifted from light amber to almost black.

The fixer (just as old) smelt a little, but what the hell.

The end result is that the chemicals did their job and properly developed the film , but due to the massive underexposure  when I shot the film the negatives are seriously thin and it took a slow 3200 dpi scan to get a sort of image.

Considering everything, a 4-second handheld exposure, terrible lighting conditions, gross underexposure, old out-of-date film and failing chemicals, I was surprised to get anything and yet I still got a picture. And it looks like a very old photograph  straight out of the camera, which is cool.

Film, it’s amazing stuff.

Bronica SQa, 50mm wide angle, f4, 4 second exposure, Ilford Pan F, ISO 50.

Street Signs

Still with film in the land that time forgot.

Here is a little proof that the Catholic pedophile story was out in the open a long, long time before the early part of this century when the avalanche of abuse stories could no longer be ignored and the world was forced to take notice.

Like yesterday’s photo, this one was also taken in 1994, that’s about seven years before the Australian police and politicians caved in to public pressure and decided they could no longer ignore the fact that boys had been repeatedly abused by the clergy, who under the auspices of the courts had been operating as their legal guardians.

I met and talked to this man after I saw him three days in a row moving slowly up and down a street in Perth, Western Australia. He told me that he was being treated as a crank and trouble maker by the authorities, and while the police at first had tried to stop him from carrying his sign they had soon realized that due to lack of interest from passersby it was easier to just to ignore him.

Castledare, Clontarf, Bindoon and Tardun were all Catholic boys’ schools. All of them had been quietly closed by the 1970s without any priests being charged, that was to come later, much later.

 

Bronica SQA 80mm lens, Kodak Tri-x, asa 400.

On Film, Ism’s and Rituals

Once a site of resistance, the Peace Wall in Prague is now a place where insignificant individuals desecrate symbols of resistance for reasons of narcissism. Let’s face it, the mass of tourists who feel a need to write on walls such as the John Lennon Peace Wall are those who come late to history via a homogenized journey but want others to think they would have risked life and limb if only they had been born earlier, or in a less salubrious location, or under an oppressive regime, or didn’t have to go to uni, or….

The folk law version I heard from the locals back in the mid 1990s was that during the communist era someone did the original graffiti/paintings and the authorities painted over them, and then more were done, the authorities would removed them and back and forth it went. Finally someone who was caught repainting the J.L. mural was badly beaten, which resulted in the violent protests of record.

Ironically, Wikipedia gives a different, more homogenized and palatable version, but by the 1990s tourists had begun to do what organized oppression could not, they were taking the wall away piece by piece, paint chip by paint chip as souvenirs to put away and forget or were tagging what was left with rather stupid minutia.

The wall looks much different today, I guess because it’s now a site of entertainment, an ode to the corrosive power of any dominant ism no matter the label

The reason for these pictures is that I have begun to regress and have once again fallen in love with film. Not for the nostalgic reasons so popular today or because film is better, but for the ritual of loading film, taking light meter readings and being restricted to the amount of shots (12 in the case of this camera) to a roll of film. These actions slow everything down, makes me more selective and contemplative about composition and why I want to shoot the image. It also costs 30 to 50 cents a shot and a lot of work goes into making the final picture so each image is important. The process is therapeutic you might say, in its own odd way.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lennon_Wall

Bronica SQA, 80mm, Ilford HP5, developed in Rodinol. 1994

Reality Biting

There is this enduring myth in many parts of the world that Germany or Germans in particular are brutally efficient and that the trains always run on time. I say myth because today I experienced the reality, and the reality was time consuming, irritating and uncomfortable.

I caught the 10:15 train from Berlin Zoo to Frankfurt/Oder with arrival at my destination expected to be 11:32.

In a small town called Briesen the train stopped; an announcement told all that the train would no longer continue and that all passengers should leave the train.

Exasperated like everybody else, I wanted to know how we could continue the journey. The ticket collector had no idea; in fact, no one had any idea what was going on.

As I was only day tripping I thought what the hell I’ll have a look at Briesen.

That took 15 minutes.

Now what?

As you can see by the clock in the photo I’m almost an hour late already and there is no train in sight.

Deutsch Bahn did belatedly offer a bus service, but by the time this photo was taken no bus had arrived, although another Frankfurt/Oder-bound train had disgorged its bewildered passengers to gather with the others waiting with wilting hope for alternatives to materialise.

It seems very clear to me now that ‘ruthless efficiency’ thing was something belonging to German folklore. Although maybe I’m being unfair to Germans in general, it could be that efficiency and good customer service are not part of Deutsche Bahn’s mission statement, which means disrupted journeys and customer confusion is not their problem.

I finally caught a train returning to Berlin at 12:45.

It began to rain at 12:30.

There is no protection from the weather at Briesen station

 

Fujifilm X20, f4, 1/100sec, ISO100

Working the Room

Photographing Literature festivals rarely offers the opportunity of a great picture for the obvious reason that in most instances the main performers are doing nothing more than reading poems or short excerpts from books, which are interesting intellectually, but not visually. The light is generally bad or terrible for photography and the photographer should be unobtrusive and as quiet as possible, which means no flash, not moving around to get a better angle and shooting as few frames as possible.

Preplanning where you will stand is of paramount importance.

This poet, Jayrome Robinet, gave a wonderful performance, made all the better for me by providing the opportunity for a wonderful picture.

85mm, f4, 1/80sec, ISO10,000.

An Advantage of Age

In a world where the old is thrown away for the next new thing, I think we may be missing out on some of the sensational things that the old things can do best.

This bucolic rural image of country Germany was shot with a 10-year old 5d, no, not a 5D mk11 or mk111, the ignored first model. A camera that has so many stains on the sensor from years in the tropics that it’s unadvisable to shoot with an f-stop of more than f5.6.

Coupled to old faithful is a cheap Sigma 28-300mm zoom I use when on holidays, it is also an old lens (about 15years old, but glass, not plastic). The picture may not be as tack sharp like it would be if shot with my 6D and a pro lens but would such equipment really help me get this image like I wanted?

The original picture, which has had a minimum of post processing, was easily made to look like it was shot in the early 20th century. The picture is about memories, looking back.

What I am trying to say is, don’t get rid of the old equipment, it may just be what you need to get what you want.

 

5D, 28-300mm, f5.6, 1/600sec