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.


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


Exposing Experiments

I’ve had a friend who is also a photographer visiting me in Berlin the last few days, so naturally we talked about photographic trends like the ubiquitous selfie/selfie stick and all the other happenings in the photographic world.

As we discussed these things we looked at images I had shot in Vienna and when we saw this image (which was grossly underexposed in the shadows and consequently never processed) we both agreed that it was a shame the underexposure made it useable and yet it was indicative of the quintessential Vienna café society I had heard so much about.

After she had left Berlin I thought I’d process the picture just to see what would happen and found the result very interesting.

What I’ve learnt.

Digital sensors are so remarkable it’s very hard to make a picture with the coarse grain of high speed film in camera . Normally lots of post-processing is required.

To get a photo with soft, course grain, that resembles high ISO film, early experiments have shown that it is imperative to grossly underexpose to create the film like characteristics that the digital revolution disposed with.

The whites are already in place so only the mid-tones and blacks are going to be excessively noisy/grainy, which is what I’m after

Post-processing of this image was very basic; I increased the brightness until I had details in the dark shadow areas, cropped, toned it and added a faux border for effect. Even the most basic free software can do this.

50mm, f3,2, 1/125sec, ISO100

Cultural Differences

I’ve been preoccupied with doing other things than taking pictures today so it’s necessary to retreat to the archives.

This picture was shot in California in about 2005 (I’m ambiguous about the date because it’s from unlogged film stock, which means I was on holidays), and I thought it ironic at the time and a real sign of cultural differences.

I’ve never seen such a sign anywhere else in the world.

Under new management, new ownership, yep, all the time, but new corporate ownership, how is that a benefit to the customer?

It simply means that any guarantee problems you had with faulty items just got so much worse. That you’re going to hear a lot more from a recorded voice saying “please stay on the line, your call is important to us” and yes, that call is important to them, because it’s a revenue stream.

Canon Eos 5, Foma Classic Pan ASA400

Post Processing, Free Alternatives To Photoshop.

I write a lot about using Photoshop and it’s come to my attention that not everybody either has this program or can use it with any ease. The good news is that there are some very good alternatives out there, and the best news of all is that some of the best are free.

A couple of years ago I taught digital photography to a group of children ranging in ages from 10 to 18 (all at the same time). It was a three-day workshop, at the end of which a small book was produced. What amazed parents the most was the creative output of the children and what they had done with their images. The program we used was Picasa, which is offered free by Google. This program is not only easy to use but also excellent at organizing your pictures. It’s made for people who know very little about photo editing software and for most people it’s also all they need.

This image was converted to black and white, warmed toned and cropped using Picasa.


70-200mm,f8,1/640sec, ISO100.