Meus heróis morreram de overdose Meus inimigos estão no poder
I think of this quote every time I deal with Internet drama. Right now, I’m dealing with Ted Chin, the photo stealer. Under the guise of IgersSF he has finally found my film instagram accounts and has blocked all of them from his account and the IgersSF account. Nevermind, like the president of the US, he is using that account for nefarious purposes. That doesn’t change the fact that he is still a photo stealer and a douchebag. I thought I could start using Instagram under the radar again, and just focus on film photography – a niche that he neither respects, nor cares about. He’s one of those douchebags that espouses the idea that it’s a waste of money and outdated.
On top of blocking Ted also does another super douchey thing with the IgersSF account where he follows my friends anytime they tag me. IT’S THE BIGGEST DOUCHEBAG SOCIAL MEDIA MOVE EVER. GO AHEAD, BUT I AM GOING DARK SOON AND YOU WILL HAVE TO DEAL WITH ME IRL WHERE I CAN NEVER BE BLOCKED.
Who is Sergio Larraín? He is considered Chile’s greatest photographer (1931 – 2012) who made street photography “using shadow and angles in a way few had tried before.” The great French photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, after seeing his London photographs, gave him an invitation to join and work for Magnum. He accepted this invitation. After a brief & meteoric rise as a photographer in the public eye for a few years in the 1960s, he became a meditation hermit in the mountains of Chile.
Many photographers believe that his photos hinted at what could’ve become an even greater career, and that his true contribution to photography is his exploration of the photographic experience. By photographic experience, I mean that sort of experience that is a pre-requisite for a great photo. The way Larraín describes it is as follows: “Freed of conventions… the images arrive like ghosts.” (Sergio Larraín by Gonzalo Levia Quijada, Agnes Sire et al., henceforth SL.)
…the images arrive like ghosts…
How does one arrive at this preternatural state for doing photography, i.e. the photographic experience? In a letter written in 1982 to his nephew (from SL), he gives photographic advice akin to Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet.
Find the right camera: fits you, comfortable in hand, has only the features you need – no extras.
“Act like you’re going on an adventure.” He suggests a city that is not a home town and doing what the Germans call a spazierengehen, a wandering about without a destination.
Develop your photos. Throw all the prints away except for the best one. Put that one on a wall.
Take a break. Study the works of others. Expose yourself to only good art. At this point, “the secret will slowly reveal itself.”
Let nothing conventional distract you.
“The conventional world puts a veil over your eyes. It’s a matter of taking it off during your time as a photographer.”
Then “the images arrive like ghosts.” The attainment of the photographic experience will lead to your good photos.
In my next blog post, I will being looking at Sergio Larraín’s book, Valparaiso.
For this review of Minutes to Midnight by Trent Parke (2013), I’ll be using the index created here. In a previous blog post I talked about the stylistic and technical aspects of the work, where the filmic qualities and the chance a film process introduces are paramount. This review is just my interpretation of the book, and no doubt won’t be the last, but just one voice in a really, really long conversation.
The work starts off with a description of a UFO sighting. I quote it here at length.
—- start of excerpt —-
Witnesses reported watching a ball of light move across the sky
For up to five minutes at about 5.50 am Saturday.
“It was a perfect spiral of light,” one Redcliffe witness told The Sunday Mail
“I realized soon it was not the moon but that it was shooting like a comet from the southern sky and off into the northwest.”
Another Brisbane resident said: “There was absolutely no sound in a perfectly clear, darkened sky before dawn.”
The weather bureau said there were no weather conditions which would explain the light.
A defense spokeswoman also said she had no explanation.
The sunday Mail. June 5th 2010. Queensland, Australia
—- end of excerpt —-
As I ponder this and turn to the first picture (1) which is of moths to light, I stare it at for a bit. The photo now seems to resemble an alien planet. Photos 2 & 3 just seem like a capture of amusements, but then in photo 4 we get a bit of long exposure. I feel like the aliens have arrived.
Photos 5 through 14 are scenes of life in the Outback, or the rougher parts of Australia. Photos 15 through 21 seem to be taken in Sydney and its environs.
Photo 22 is an homage to Robert Frank’s photo of the same: a car covered in a white tarp, except the atmosphere feels very Ridley Scott Prometheus.
Photos 23 and 24 are night scenes that seem to harbinger more alien action in later photos.
Photo 25 seems is a car turning up dust. Is it an escape from the aliens?
Photos 26 to 29 all seem to suggest some sort of alien visitation.
Photo 30 is the child hurt was very visceral.
Photos 31-43 seem to have life under the aliens tropes.
Photo 44 is of the author’s pregnant wife.
Photo 45 is of the author’s new born son.
Photo 46 seems to suggest a future family life with the aliens.
Photo 47 seems to suggest that the aliens have left.
I can’t help but conclude that Trent Parke told a tale of fiction using completely straight photos, but like any art, this work has its own kind of truth.
When I saw the squalor that the aborigines were living in in the beginning I couldn’t help but feel a retched sort of optimism. Human beings have survived all sorts of invasions of each other. Shouldn’t they be able to survive an alien one?
I’m taking a bit of a break from my review of the book I mentioned in my last post. It is the weekend after all.
Last night I went to the “cage match” at the Harvey Milk Photocenter. Basically, a photographer sends a photo to the @streetfotosf account and then a bunch of prestigious judges brutally and honestly judge the photos on a scale of 1 to 5.
The main lament of the judges was that they weren’t being shown something new, except for one judge who was okay with a “seen-before” photo with emotion or a mood.
We are awash in images seen before, but in film this trend takes a different twist. Americana, or anything basic but nostalgic seems to be the trend. The images all seem to say, “Behold, I can time travel, and look, it’s not digital: it’s film.”
This does not a photograph make, if we define it the way the “cage match” judges define it: Something I haven’t seen before.
Laundromat by u/Blueberry-STi via r/analog
But what do we mean by “something I haven’t seen before?”
Milan Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being is a novel that presents a tension between every moment being unique and never happening again (and thus unbearably light), and every moment as something that’s happened before (Nietzschean eternal return).
Our judges notion of “something I haven’t seen before” is somewhere in between. What is this in between?
If we define a photograph as an image that we have not seen before, we’re hard pressed to recall any film photographs that fit this except for say experimental art in the vein of Irina Chernikova’s abstract experimentations.
Another trend is the use of Portra 400. By far and away it is the most hashtagged film on Instagram just recently breaking a million hashtagged photos this year. A distant second is Ilford HP5+ which as of this blog post is at around 459,000 hashtagged photos. This isn’t really scientific because I’m not taking into account hash crashing, but Portra’s dominance seems to be confirmed by YouTubers like Willem Verbeeck who feels it’s the standard.
How does one find a start for a photographic review? The first and only major blocks of text in Minutes to Midnight describe a UFO encounter by a set of witnesses. Will the photos be a fiction or a factual set. Will the photos be like the UFO, somewhere in between requiring interpretation?
In Gadamer’s Relevance of the Beautiful he starts off with an analysis of Hegel’s turn of phrase for art: “a thing of the past.” How could Hegel say such a thing? Gadamer grapples with this and parsed Hegel as saying that art, gods and cultural significance used to be one. Christian, medieval art has this unity, although the god of Christ requires no architecture. (Matthew 18:20) Of our time (nihilism & many cultures in one state at each other’s throats – in a word, Balkanism), Gadamer must ask, “But what is all this compared to the alienation and shock with which the more recent forms of artistic expression in our century (20th) tax our self-understanding public?” (p. 7) Gadamer is asking this in 1977, a time of stagnation and malaise for the Western powers with conceptual art ascendent and eclipsing the “revolutionary” art of the 1960s. We still live in a time of “the conflict between art as the ‘religion of culture’ on the one hand, and art as a provocation by the modern artist on the other.” (Ibid.) (Perhaps a 21st century Gadamer might have written of our fractious time “religions of cultures.”)
In Trent Parke’s Minutes to Midnight we see the tension between this “religion of culture” as he is steeped in the tradition of street photography, and the provocations. Of the former he creates an homage to Robert Frank in Photo 22 of a car that is covered by a white tarp.
Trent Parke also provokes us by using film and focusing what in the 20th century were considered flaws: grain (most of the photos esp. photo 33) & motion blur (about 14 photos has this). The 21st century with its focus on hyper sharp images, megapixels and clean high ISO shots is anathema to what Parke has accomplished: giving film photography’s flaws a valence.
Grain occurs when a film is pushed or under exposed.
I focused on the aesthetics and style of Minutes to Midnight. In my next post, I’ll focus more on individual photos and how they relate to the UFO encounter.
This index of Trent Parke’s Minutes to Midnight is in preparation for a review of this great work published in 2013. Trent Parke saved up for 5 years to go on a road trip of Australia. During that time his partner got pregnant and birthed their son – both moments viscerally captured. Trent Parke used a high contrast black and white film with very rich, dark tones. Here is the index.
Moths to light
Children all with balloons except for one
Beauty pageant contestants on cars
Motion blur of pedestrians et alia on George St.
Club Hotel Wiluna
Aboriginal community? Some people lying on the pavement like dogs / with dogs.
Diving into a reservoir
A dragon fly caught on a spider web
Guys driving in a car with an open beer container
Festival at night: XXXX Land
Crowd under tree roots, motion blurred… has a Prometheus aesthetic
Woman with infant; motor bike
People at a beach; some reconnoitering from afar
Dead cockatiel on road
Child in a field
Sydney Harbor with a blistering, lithium-like light reflected
Soap bubbles in plaza
White silhouette (famous photo)
Street on a rail line
Car covered in a white tarp (Robert Frank homage)
White linens on a clothesline at night
Child watching TV at night
Overview / Aerial of a car kicking up dust through a curve in the road
A marsupial jumping through the trees at night
Man in the garden with leaves floating about (prelude to alien abduction)
Spider webs, brush, twigs, barbed wire
Horses at Twilight (ocf)
Child with bloody elbow, screaming
Dog with dead furry creature in mouth
Bats with wings in flight back lit
Two page spread: grainy silhouettes in park
Burning kangaroo corpses
Couple sleeping in the back of a pick up truck
Dead, marsupial fetus
Two page spread – black
Night: bright white silhouette amongst leafless trees
Raining on farm hands
Kissing in a mosh pit
Swimming / underwater
Pregnant woman underwater
New born in water
Swing set with children at night
Bats flying at night (long exposure with light trails and motion blur)
Lately, I’ve been walking around looking for moments of emotion in my street photography. One time on Montgomery Street while shooting with Matt Sanchez a couple listening to someone with a sagacious, feminine tone of voice. I turned and could see them smiling and lunged like a fencer so that I was in front of them no more than a yard. I snapped a photo.
This photo was shot with a 28mm & Ilford HP5+ and you can see my shadow. With a bit of cropping you got a couple happy at getting some good news. Most critique groups automatically discount smiley faces but I love them. Why?
It’s more important to shoot what you feel than what you see, because ultimately what people remember about your photo is how you made them feel. Emotional memory is the secret to making memorable photo.
After the Ricoh GR III came out, I’ve been looking for something with a similar form factor but in analogue format. The original Rich GR1 that uses 35mm film is now way too expensive ($600 and up as of June 2019). All film cameras seem to be jumping up in price, but the one jumping up the least and offering decent lens quality is the Olympus XA.
As you can see from the sample files, it works quite okay for photos where you don’t need 1/1000 of a second or faster. When you need that quick street shot, you often end up with motion blur.
Olympus XA with motion blur
Kodak Tri-X 400 especially when pushed one stop offers a nice bit of contrast with rich blacks, and grain that doesn’t detract or is too noticeable. I’ve used other film stocks like Ilford HP5+, another great film. Since the Olympus XA already has soft lens look wide open, that in combination with a flat film like HP5 makes it a tough combo to use. If you’re going for a dreamy and grey effect though it could be worth a shot. For me, Tri-X is the film to use with the XA.
There are many ways to buy a film camera. One could buy one new from either the Lomography store or Leica store. However, in terms of image quality and value, it is hard to beat buying a used film camera.
In this blog post I will show you:
1) How to inspect a used film camera
2) How to negotiate a fair price
3) Where to look for a used camera
I will also list my favorite used cameras.
1) How do you inspect a used film camera? This is really tough to do without a decent return policy. First make sure that whoever you bought it from allows returns. Before you buy off eBay, make sure that the seller allows returns. On Amazon, returns are easy to do. On Craig’s List you are on your own.
a. Inspect the body for fungus. I bought a camera with fungus once, and lost $200. What was worse is that the fungus in this camera infected my other lens, so I was out another $100. Fungus on a body will look like white dots like powdered sugar.
b. Inspect the lens for haze or scratches or fungus.
c. Does the aperture ring on the lens move smoothly with uniform clicks?
d. Does the shutter change firmly but easily?
e. Does the light meter (if it has one) work accurately? You will have to compare this with your own digital camera, or the “Manual” camera app.
f. Test focus. When you focus the lens to 1 meter, is it focused on 1 meter? When you focus on infinity is it focused on infinity, e.g. not blurry, or the rangefinder patches line up?
g. Shoot a test roll of film. If you have a 50mm lens and up do the yard stick test. On this roll of film photograph a yard stick. Focus on a number using the widest aperture. When you develop the roll, you will test and make sure that the number you focused on is in focus and nothing else. If it is not in focus then there is either a back focusing issue or rangefinder calibration error. On the test roll of film, whatever you think should be in focus should be in focus. There should be no weird spots (dirty lens) or strange haze. Photos should neither look too light nor too dark if exposed correctly. This may point to an issue with the shutter, the aperture blades or the meter.
h. Film should advance easily. When the film is rewound, rewinding should come easily, too.
If your film camera passes all these 8 tests, then it is a keeper. If not, return it and try again.
The Olympus X-A – Scott Behr is a master with this camera and his work can be seen on Instagram. I own two of these, and you can get them for around $100.
The Canon AE-1 – With a decent 50mm, this is all the camera you’ll ever need. This is an SLR camera with a very bright focusing circle. Way easier to focus than my Pentax K1000. If I were to get another film camera it would be this one. It sells for about $150.
The Pentax K1000 – Another decent SLR, but not as easy to focus as the Canon AE-1. The main advantage is that it doesn’t need batteries to shoot. The battery is only there for the light meter. The shot at the very top is from this camera.
San Francisco Bay, 2014, Lubitel 166, Ektar 100, f/8, 1/500
The Lubitel 166 – You can get this medium format camera which makes beautiful portraits for around 60 to 90 USD. It’s great for street or portraits or group shots, but boy does it suck for landscapes. The lens simply isn’t sharp enough, or maybe I have a miscalibrated version.
So now that you’ve got a film camera, it’s time to shoot some film. In my next blog post, I’ll go over what films I use and why.