I like to keep it old school. I can’t help it. There are things I like about modernity and the digital world. Like cell phones, earbuds, and this laptop I am tapping on. As a generation X-er, we tend to have diehard strong bonds with our analog media and art.
Case in point, there are currently three separate record players in my home. My favorite piece of art is an Old Master’s Style nude oil painting, in a heavy gold and velvet frame, painted by my mom. I still own cassette tapes. I kept one of my 8-track tapes that I used to play in my first car, a 1969 Pontiac Firebird. And then in my second car, after crashing the first car, my mom’s 1979 Pontiac Trans Am. Picture a 6.6 liter engine protruding out the top of the hood with a flashy gold, metallic bird decal surrounding it. Very old cars, very very big engines. Blondie, Joan Jett and Van Halen. Real books. News…papers. It’s about the touch, the look, the sound and the feeling. You get it.
I want to keep analog with me.
I realize that digital art and photography will always be centered from here on out, because it is cheap, fast and accessible in a world that demands it economically. So, I will not shy away from being knowledgeable about how to use it. I provide it and will continue to learn to sharpen that delivery for photography and video. But I will always keep some solid space for old school photography and paint.
Caption: Image of woman standing on a beach with “Love” written in the sand Example of Professional Kodak Portra 400 film shot in a Minolta XG-M camera, developed and digitally scanned by Photolaboratory in Berkeley, California.
It’s a slower process, but the look and distinctive feel of newly optimized 35 mm film (like the latest Kodak Portra series!), and even the newer Polaroid films, still cannot be replicated by using digital. There’s a difference. Some people may want to argue about that with me, but I encourage you to take a look at pro photographers who are currently rocking the next-gen analog game. Check out one shot of documentary photographer and filmmaker, Tariq Tarey, or his website. His portraiture (many of them featuring refugees and immigrants in Central Ohio) will stop your breath momentarily and illustrate my point well.
For those of you under 35, and never having touched analog photography or spending much time around it beyond watching Carol or collecting old Star Wars stills, can you see what I am talking about? You get a different feeling when viewing analog stills or films. Tarey’s work is spellbinding, and to me, drives home how the incorporation of analog in these modern times can deliver a show stopping effect, while also serving the intention of a higher purpose.
The reemergence of filmmaking using traditional film is also rising from the dust, with redesigned technology of movie cameras, hybridized to include newer lenses, revamped old-school films, with the convenience of new digital displays. This resurgence got me so excited and helped catapult me back into sharpening my own skills again in analog photography.
Caption: A small boy holding a swing out of the way as a teen girl jumps off a swing set in a park. Shot with Kodak Professional Tri-X 400 Black and White film in a Minolta XG-M camera, developed and digitally scanned by Photolaboratory in Berkeley, California.
This resurfacing passion recently led me to an established photography lab I found in Berkeley, California, called Photolaboratory. I will share more in later posts about why I like this lab so much, but for now all you need to know is that their shop cat is named Metal. Meta for short. He was great company as I was waiting, let me love on him for a minute, before he asked me to open the front door.
Meta and his crew developed some 120 film and black and white processed some prints by hand from my old Jem Jr. 120, an old American, all metal box camera. One of my latest analog film projects is about teaching myself how to paint on surfaces of hand developed, black and white analog prints. My goal is to reach a point where I can offer “slow” portraiture with a modernized vintage styled print option, by providing a variety of possible blends of captures and treatments.
Last year, I was advised by one of my photography friends to toss this old camera when I asked about how to refurbish and clean it up. He said it was probably useless and only worth about $10. I immediately noticed my defiant spirit rise up inside, making me even more determined to make the thing work!
Cut to another friend in the photography world (also into vintage photography equipment), who advised that I carefully take the camera apart, as much as allowable, clean the lenses, dust out the whole body and just go for it. So I did.
Here’s a snippet from my first test shot!
Caption: Profile of a young woman with a scarf on looking down. A cropped test shot from Jem Jr. 120 camera. Shot outdoors with tree dappled sunlight around noon. 5 ft. distance from subject. Aperature f/11, Auto exposure of 1/30th sec. (Ilford FP4+ 120 film), lab developed and digitally scanned.
There are some bumps to iron out! The limitations of the set depth of field and limited shutter speed, which offer literally two choices: 1/4th of a second or wide open- for however long you want to hold the clunky metal lever over, and then let go of it… without shaking the camera.
Note the flecks of dust (still trapped in the lens) and the scratch down the side of the image. Did I mention there is no formal way to dock this thing onto a tripod? Learning how to shoot a box camera is about as challenging as learning how to drive a stick shift. I’ll get it eventually. Please send rubber bands!
I’ll be sharing more about this project in my upcoming blog, Back 2 My Senses. Get on my News list if you would like the opportunity to access the more unfolding of the analog story!
Caption: Image of young woman standing on a beach adding “is Love” onto previous word “Love” in the sand. written in the sand Example of Professional Kodak Portra 400 film shot in a Minolta XG-M camera, developed and digitally scanned by Photolaboratory in Berkeley, California.