Melting Moments

This week I popped an old roll of TMax P3200 into my cheap old EOS 30v. Since my last GR1 died I’ve been using this as my every day carry. Once again I left the 40mm on there and threw it in my bag, mostly when heading out to dinner, so I was glad I had that last roll of 3200. However when I processed it the other day, I noticed something strange on the negatives. 

They were mostly black, not the frames themselves, but the film all over. As I looked closer I noticed a strange bubbling pattern within the emulsion, almost like oil spilled in water. I tried to re-fix the film, not feeling too hopeful. Another roll I was processing for a friend in the tank turned out fine, both P3200 and developed for the correct time. I hung them up to dry, and later on cut and sleeved the roll so I could scan it. Once the first frame went through the preview, I realised it wasn’t a loss.

The warping within the emulsion had managed to wrap around the faces in my frames, to blur the edges and change the scene. I took this roll as part of a larger amount of film to Japan a few years ago, never shot it, and brought it back. I loaded it into an XPan I had loaned and never shot it, so I rewound it. Maybe the film was fogged, maybe it was heat and humidity. Whatever the case, I love these mistakes.

When it comes to why I shoot film, I don’t have much to say on the anticipation of it. Some people love being surprised by what they’ve shot, waiting for the photos excitedly. As if they don’t know what’s there. I think that’s all a crock. I don’t shoot film to be surprised by the photos, waiting for them to come back from the lab. I know what I’ve shot. I’ll shoot a roll, wake up the next morning and process it. However, I love the accidents. I love when the auto advance jams and the exposures have blended. When the shutter sticks and gives you a much slower speed, turning everything to a blur. The light leaks because the gaffer tape came off the back off your camera. I’ve never cared for technical perfection.

Something that always comes to mind is that classic line from Fight Club.. “I felt like destroying something beautiful”. 

Once I learned of the work of those Japanese photographers involved in Provoke magazine and the movement surrounding it, I felt a new connection to that quote. Over the years, my shelves have filled with the works of Moriyama and the likes. Volumes of images that on their own may not say much, but speak a whole language throughout a book. I was drawn in completely. Early on I joined a Flickr group labelled “Firstly, throw out the world seemingly certain.” The idea of which was to not think visually, but to feel with a soul and show the soul. To destroy the word ‘photograph’ - and in a way simply replace it with emotion.

Ever since then, I’ve found that the photos I take reflect an emotion reminiscent of my mindset while shooting. It’s almost a subconscious happening, something that is translated physically as I take each photo. Blurred frames of a clouded mind. Rolls of simplistic, still life scenes. A focus on light and shadows when things slow down. Being someone who suffers from migraines that often affect my vision, I feel this is even more prevalent. That, and the fact that if I take my glasses off I can barely see 5ft in front of me. Funny, that the sense I cherish the most is my weakest. 

The idea of ‘are-bure-boke’ that stemmed from the era of Provoke, roughly translating to ‘grainy/rough, blurry, out-of-focus’, is one that has formed the basis of my photographs. When I look through my negatives, I look for a feeling. I’m not interested in printing for mid-tones or total sharpness. I want my blacks to be black, and my image to resonate. Crush the shadows and print what I see, what I felt.  

 All that said, I love getting into the studio and setting up lighting for a portrait. Metering each light and watching everything come together. The process is exciting, there’s always more to learn. And there is a need for a digital camera in my life, for my work. But if I can leave with a blotchy pack film polaroid, or a quick 35mm snap that’s when I’ll be happiest. It’s often those frames that I’ll publish over a final digital image. I love looking through Leibovitz’s work, flipping through the pages and hanging on the photographs from behind the scenes. The iconic B-roll images we remember. Keith Richards sprawled on the floor of a makeshift studio. The almost unfinished photos that feel so perfect.

Finding perfection in imperfection. Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.

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