My folks had discovered an actual camera store in Dover, New Hampshire at some point and when I told them about the Brownie, they were kind enough to stop in and pick me up a couple of rolls, ready to meet my sander and get resized to fit. Now with everything I needed to go put this old beautiful box into action, only one question remained: Color or Black and White.
Black and White film holds a special and dear place in my heart. Many years ago, a much younger and substantially more awkward version of me could often be seen stalking interesting shadows and high contrast compositions with my trusty steel body Minolta. It had belonged to my father when he was young and now I had taken to it with enthusiasm. It shoots 35mm and though it only has one lens and is not a snazzy SLR, (i.e., Single Lens Reflex, meaning that the range finder lets you look right through the lens of the camera and not out a separate little range finder in the upper left corner of the camera) it still took the best Black and White photos I’d ever seen. I spent many a happy hour, late at night in the campus dark room developing and making prints of my black and white images.
Color though, offered another, special possibility.
In this crazy-fast, laser like perfected digital age, the phones we have crammed in our collective pockets can take pictures of stunning resolution and clarity and for some odd reason, this ability has kicked off the craze of the “retro-ing” of pictures. The ability to saturate the colors, fade the edges and fake a little light bleed at a corner here and there has become increasingly popular. I have to admit, I find it somewhat perplexing.
I’m looking at you, Hipsamatic and Instagram.
Without a doubt, the images made with these bits of software do indeed look genuinely old school and the filters and effects used on each uploaded image are often dutifully stamped into the accompanying text of the Facebook post by the shooters.
Lens: Edward Q
Film: Kobe’s 1971
…Or some such thing.
I mean no offense to the legion of happy iPhone photographers out there, but when I see these images, my mind quickly drifts to of all the actual filters and lenses that still lurk to this day in dark and dusty, forgotten drawers and backs of closets in homes across the world. They sit unused and unloved and it somehow seems a cheat to let the computer oldify the photo if you have the tools to do it the right way from the very beginning. To me, it feels like buying carrots at the store, sticking them in the ground only to pull them out and call them homegrown. Sometimes, doing something the hard way makes the end product that much better.
To my mind, anyway.
It also makes me slower on the draw, so I guess victory can be claimed on both sides.
Carefully loading the black box with my precious eight frames of ISO 200, color film, I carried the Brownie out side, trying to look at the world with my dusty, rusty photographer’s eye. Something I hadn’t done in far, far too long.
What initially came thundering back to me was the realization that I had eight shots and that was it. For the first time in a long time, I had to really consider my shot rather than just blaze away. It was going back to hunting with a muzzleloader after having used what is essentially, a machine gun. I had become used to snapping off a double fist-full of pictures, looking at what I had, and the culling the duds. In the end, I’d still have three or four pictures that were worth keeping of any given object or situation. Unless your funds are limitless, it doesn’t work that way with film.
I thought about subject
I’m drawn to photographing stuff. I like stuff! It doesn’t move, it’s timeless and you can fiddle with it to get the best effects. The problem is that it can also be impersonal. A photo of a boat on a beach is great and all, but it doesn’t get coveted by your great grandchildren, it doesn’t solve a family mystery and it probably won’t be attributed to you if you’re not there to claim attribution. This time around, I was shooting for something to go in a family album. I was remembering the picture that Great-Grandma took of her child and husband
Scooting around in the flower garden next door, a fancily dressed fairy princess and a serious butterfly hunter caught my eye. My son, Shortstack is six now and his sister Lulu Belle is four and to our great relief and enjoyment, they are each other’s best friend as well as sibling. I also tend to have a slightly biased eye when viewing them. They were the perfect subjects
In this case, their near constant movement would only add to the image. It is how I see them nearly all times unless they are asleep. Blurry.
Holding the camera at chest height and looking through one of the range finders, I lined up my subject.
The shutter swings. SNAP!
What a sound.
I catch her again as she flies along at the edge of the garden.
After a few seconds of cajoling and kindness, I get both of them to stand still long enough to line them both up, capturing a moment of their youth to celluloid.
SNAP! Number three out of eight taken.
The day is beautiful and breezy as the chilly afternoon wind kicks up off the Atlantic and blows the treetops. The three of us head out for some adventure and the Brownie comes with us.
As my two dear children enjoy their time with some kites at a nearby field, I stand off to squeeze them into the tiny field of my camera lens.
Sun at my back and turning the Brownie on its side, I look through the landscape range finder and take one more picture, just to be safe.
SNAP! Number five.
The kids are very interested as I take each photo and are more than a little bugged that I can’t show them the image like on my phone. I wonder if they think I’m making it up. To temper them I take a few more with my digital and we talk about which ones came out best.
That evening, I can’t resist the siren song of low angle sunlight and I joyously give in and search out my last three images. These are for me.
In the end, it wasn’t that long a wait to get my film back from the photo place in town. The hardest part was just getting around to driving it over, and then back to pick it up. I had forgotten how exciting it is to open that little glued envelope. Things could go so wrong. You won’t know until you fan them out and see for your self. There is no going back.
The Garden Series:
The Kite Series:
There they are. All eight in all their glory.
I still have the roll of black and white, but that will have to wait for another time and a different method of printing. The photo place I had brought this roll to only develops and prints black and white about every six months, so I’m left with a problem. I could leave my used rolls of film with them and wait like a patient little soldier, or…
It’s a thought to terrifying to think.
I know how, after all.
There’s really not that much to… developing it all… my self!
All I need is an enlarger.
Oh, and a developing can.
Well, I need the chemicals too. And lets not forget the baths and a timer. Not to mention tongs, a water supply, drying racks and a bunch of other minutiae I’m no doubt forgetting.
I wonder what corner of the basement would make the best dark room?
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