Photography is subjective.
One of the great “knocked down to size” experiences for a photographer is to show work he or she is proud of to someone who isn’t “into” photography and to have it flatly rejected. I asked a roommate to compare crops of this image, and she had no opinion between the two. Did she love them both madly? No. She didn’t find either remotely interesting. In a way, it’s like having something very personal taken from you. Maybe it’s like watching your child get picked on (I wouldn’t know, but that tired simile is just trite enough for my liking).
When I told her I thought this particular crop (or one very much like it) was funny, she made a face. Not a “you’re right, it is funny” face, either. An “I don’t get it, you’re a narcissist and no one else thinks your baby is cute” face.
This photo also raises an ethical issue I try carefully not to consider: This is a child. It isn’t my first candid street shot of a minor, and it certainly won’t be my last, but these always make me nervous. I know my legal rights, and this is well within them. Not only that, I can resell prints of this image to anyone I please for any price I please (as long as it isn’t destined for commercial use) without so much as a feeble attempt to locate this girl. However, I am terrified that some crazy helicopter parent is going to bash me over the head with an “I have to capture every precious moment of my child’s entire life to sit collecting dust on a shelf underneath my television” video camera one of these days (which, to be fair, would hurt a lot less than my K1000). I hope that doesn’t happen. However, I am also tired of every parent that sees my camera clutching their toddlers to their chests and glowering. There is this terrible assumption that photographs of children are used for some vaguely evil purpose centered around the great evil, the Internet. I’m not sure what evil thing I’m supposed to be doing, but rest assured, I am not doing it. I need a t-shirt that says that. In neon yellow. Any maybe a helmet.
Kodak Tri-X 400, Clayton F76+ 1+9.
Photography is. . .
Especially film photography. Especially especially when you develop the film four or five weeks after you shoot it. Not only did I forget most of what was on these rolls, I had a rather rude awakening to what worked and what didn’t. It’s this processing (literally) delay that is so alluring about film. Once I’m detached from my images, it’s much easier to see what I did right (usually by accident) and what I did wrong (usually what I thought I did right).
The other thing that’s surprising about photography (especially when there’s a delay) is that it often allows you to revisit what you saw in a breadthless instant and mull it over for as long as you’d like, reinterpreting it as you see fit. When I shot this frame, it looked like this. I wasn’t impressed, and passed over it multiple times when trying to find the “keepers” from my D.C. set. When I was looking for something to put up here to kick off my photo week, something about it caught my eye. After some adjusting and cropping, I figured out what it was: The expression on the soldier’s face. A few more crop attempts, a little digital burning, and a lot of dust spot and scanner artifact removal (CVS insists their scanners are clean and it’s an artifact of the scanning process, though I only half believe them), and this is the result.
When I first saw the scene, I was drawn to the soldier’s expression. You can tell because it’s what I focused on. However, I thought the other soldiers in the background added more interest. Upon further inspection of the frozen slice of time I took, I realized that all of this was distracting, and rearranged the slice accordingly. Now it says what I want it to, and probably what I wanted it to all along. Unfortunately, because the scan was intended for a 4×6 print and I’ve lopped of two thirds of it, it’s pretty pixelated by now. Bear with me. This one’s on my list for a high-res scan in the future.
Old faithful (for photographers in general, not me) Tri-X 400, Clayton F76+ at the normal dilution, which I’m pretty sure I’m never using again. 1+19 is smoother, scans better, and costs less. Sure beats turning the contrast all the way down in Lightroom and throwing away 20 milliliters of developer every time I develop a roll. If I could only use my fixer at 1+19. . .
Photography is . . . .
Sometimes, one finds oneself capturing a historical image using a historical process, and the resulting image looks so bad some might assume it is, in itself, historical.
Also, photography is sometimes frustrating. That is to say, photography sometimes puts one in frustrating situations. After lugging all of my camera gear around hot D.C. all July morning (more or less stripping at every x-ray machine to get all of my film and lead glass accessories through, and trust me, there are a lot of checkpoints), I get to see the Constitution. The real one. And by all my camera gear, I mean a 35mm SLR, a pair of filters, and a few rolls of film. While this is not much in the grand scheme of photo-things, when one is both coming from digital and chasing around sixty high school students, it’s enough.
Anyway, in order to preserve the Constitution, there is no flash photography permitted. Despite this, since recent advances in camera technology have automated the act of recording an image to the point that few people even know how to control their cameras, a flash goes off at a rate of approximately once per minute. Every time a flash pops on a $59 Wal-Mart digital camera, everyone looks at me. “That guy has an old camera, and old cameras have flashes!” Not only do I know how to enable or disable a flash, my Ricoh doesn’t have one. If I had an enormous flash on the hotshoe whirring with 8000 volts of document-destroying firepower, it would’ve been fair. I didn’t, and it wasn’t.
Now that I’ve sorted out and tagged the scans of the D.C. negatives, I didn’t have to go back to the book o’ negatives to figure out that this is Kodak T-Max 400 (though you’d never know it by the image) developed in Clayton F76+.
D.C. III. Something about the focus and depth of field of this one is very appealing to me. Is it a little bit funny to you? It is to me.
It never ceases to amaze me how much I can learn from looking at my images after I develop them. Looking at this picture, I can count four things that I will do differently next time in less than five seconds. For me, film forces this kind of reflection, while digital doesn’t seem to. Perhaps it’s the removal from the act of shooting (this was shot in July and developed this weekend), or perhaps it’s the economy that a limited number of frames forces. In any case, I am certainly learning.
Kodak Tri-X 400, Clayton F76+, awesome drugstore commercial negative scan (one of these days. . .).
Washington D.C. in July number two, a crop from the Vietnam memorial. While the bright sunlight really wreaked havoc on some of my other photos, it did make for fantastic reflections here. This is colored and processed in an attempt to connect it with yesterday’s D.C. photo. I just might have more of these up my sleeve as well.
Kodak Tri-X 400, Clayton F76+, the usual suspects.
The set of Washington, D.C. images to which this belongs is actually among the first few rolls of true black and white I’ve shot (in fact, the second and third rolls, not including C-41 black and white films). I was very nervous to develop them and held off for more than a month for fear of damaging them, but it turned out that the results were less spectacular than I had hoped for. Apparently the work I’ve done since has taught me a lot, particularly about shooting in extreme sunlight at mid-day. Unfortunately, sometimes you can choose your times and places, and sometimes you can’t. D.C. is an extremely interesting and photogenic city, and I hope that I’ll get another chance soon (would snow be too much to ask for? Does it snow in D.C.?).
This is from the T-Max roll. There was only one narrow angle from the top of this building that wasn’t covered with dirty glass as I recall, and this was snuck through the gap. It actually came out much better than I expected, which makes up for all of the shots I don’t like from this day.
Kodak T-Max 400, Clayton F76+, a little toning for interest.
Another fun title. The more I look at it, the more I like the results from my Tri-X roll from early in the summer. The images aren’t fantastic, but I like the character of the film. I’ll have more to look at soon, as my second roll from the summer’s D.C. work trip is now developed (one roll of T-Max 400, one roll of Tri-X 400). I hope to have them scanned later today and ready for consumption tomorrow.
Also, I have a cart full of Plus-X and Tri-X ready to go because I ran out of fixer this week and need to meet a $25 minimum for my order. I’m interested to see what the Plus-X is like.
Kodak Tri-X 400, Clayton F76+.