Most Important Picture This Year, and It’s Not Mine!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Mike and Dawn, whom I had made contact with via Flickr. Mike and Dawn had expressed an interest in learning how to develop their own black and white film. I had a extra tank and reel for developing film, so we agreed to a trade; I got a bunch of film in return for the gear, and I had them over to give a quick tutorial on developing film. While the negatives were drying we went on a pleasant photo-walk in Bluffers Park, and by the time we got back the negatives were dry. On the way home, Mike and Dawn bought the chemicals they needed to do their own developing, and late last night I got the following email:

“Well John, I did it! I have developed a roll of film! Holy cow it’s easy! I can’t get over how simple it is! I just processed a roll of Arista Premium 400 Professional… I’m just ecstatic about it!  The roll came out great! I follow the directions for the developer (Kodak TMAX) which is 1+4… just fantastic! 
I will be scanning the images in tomorrow, as I just don’t have the time tonight.. 

Thank you so much John!”

It brought such a smile to my face, to see the thrill in Mike’s words, and I don’t think that digital photography can deliver the same thrill; it really is magic.

Mike posted this image of Dawn and baby Noah on Flickr, from the first roll he developed himself. What is really special is that it was taken by Mike and Dawn’s three-year old son! It is great to see the tradition continue to the next generation! This makes it for me, the most important picture this year.



Another One-Frame Story

I had another shoot with a model recently; Megan is an aspiring actress, who may be getting a shot at a TV pilot! The photo shoot took place in downtown Toronto, at Massey Hall. I’m starting to think that to be a good model is to be a good actress/actor: there is always a special depth of expression and subtlety coming out of people with acting experience.

Outside Massey Hall, Toronto

Mirror, Mirror

If you stand say five feet away from a mirror and focus on your reflection with a  manual focus the lens will focus not to a distance of five feet, but rather 10 feet. Even though the mirror is a flat two-dimensional surface, optically the virtual space behind the mirror must be accounted for. I remember being amazed when I learned this fact many years ago. Mirrors have always seemed otherworldly to me.

This image is a reflection in a polished metal sculpture in downtown Toronto, and is a heavy crop from a much large frame. For me it still has the magic of a mirror though.

Reflection in sculpture

Unstuck In Time

In Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse Five, the main character Billy Pilgrim has come “unstuck in time.” He jumps around forward and backwards in a nonlinear fashion. It struck me the other day that being “unstuck in time” is the phrase that best captures what I am trying to do photographically; using a mishmash of techniques and materials from almost every era of photography, capturing modern subjects in vintage-looking retro-styled images. I like to pay homage to the various eras of photography, but I refuse to be help captive by the purists of the present or the past. Like I’ve said before, I want it all 🙂

The image below is another case in point; a thoroughly modern young woman, captured by a film camera older than she is by at least a dozen years, the film then developed and post processed using digital technology for a look that hopefully refuses to be pinned down in any era.

Quiet Intensity

“Can You Still Get Film For That Camera?”

When I tell people I still shoot film, and show them a film camera (normally a medium format or 35 mm camera) I often get the question “Can you still get film for that?” and people are surprised when I tell them that getting film is no problem. A case in point is two films I tried out this past weekend, Fomapan 100 Classic, and Ilford SFX Extended red sensitivity film.

The image below was taken using Fomapan 100 Classic. This is a Czech film, medium speed, with a classic tonality and grain structure. I developed the roll using the classic Rodinal developer for extra sharpness and definition. I’ll becoming back to this combination a lot!

Trestles in Riverdale Park, Toronto

The second film I tried for the first time this past weekend was Ilford SFX film; not quite an infrared film, but with an extended red sensitivity, which when coupled with a red filter gave a lovely almost porcelain look in the skin of the model in this image (NSFW). No post-processing was required for this tonality, and this is another combination I’ll be going back to in the future!

A Scene From A Play

When I asked accomplished actress Andrea Brown to participate in my Women and Cameras series she did express the concern that she did not have any modelling experience. I don’t think she had to worry 🙂 As the shoot progressed, we developed the idea of parodying the concept of the ideal woman as espoused by women’s magazines of the 50’s/60’s: emancipated, but still having to look perfect while exercising their freedom. A bit of a contradiction. Andrea was able to construct a character on the spot, and so each frame was like a scene from a play, as she applied her amazing acting skills.

Andrea Brown and the Detrola 127 camera

Everyday Item

I’ve walked past this fire hydrant many times on the way to work, and always found it interesting, because of its texture and symmetry. I took this picture with a Pentax ME Super 35mm SLR and 50mm f2 lens, a combo I got on eBay for not much more than the price of a couple of disposable cameras! It is the beauty in my recent Beauty and the Beast post. It’s a lovely camera to hold and use.

Fire Hydrant #1