The Lockdown Diaries Part I

Now I realise that this title might sound like the beginning of a series of posts that will have even more episodes than the Avengers film franchise, or for those of you who are my age, even more films than in the Sly Stallone Rocky series, minus the boxing. And I’ve purposely not indicated how many episodes there might be, so like that I’m covered and I know you’ll just keep coming back for more.

As you might have guessed, and I think I’ve already said before; let me just go back and check… Yes I have said before, my big lockdown project was to eat cake, drink tea, take a couple of photos and get this film photography funk over and done with, like flared trousers in 1980.

With the help of YouTube, calming myself the “f” down, and a couple of purchases on Internet, I sorted myself out. Now I knew that I could take a reasonable photo. But developing was a different matter. I had lost confidence, and it was time to grab the bull by the horns, which is easier than grabbing it elsewhere, and just start at the very beginning, which as Julie Andrews reminded us, is a very good place to start.

When you take photos with an analogue camera, you need an analogue camera, check, some film, check, and then you load the film into the aforementioned film camera, and go out and take some photos. I did this in my village, and you’ll be able to see where I walked: the vines, the park, and the prairie where there are lots of ponds, with lots of ducks who had been doing what ducks do in the Spring and swimming with the ducklings and being fed bread by my daughter. The noise of the frogs, the animals, and not my fellow villagers from the Vendée, was deafening!

When you get back from your walk, you disappear into your bedroom and set out the developing kit, minus the chemicals, on your bed, and hope that you still remember how to get the film from inside the film canister, onto a plastic spool, which goes into a drum, and then a cover goes onto the drum to keep everything away from any light. Oh yes, you do this by putting everything you need into a developing bag, and doing all this by touch and without seeing what you’re doing. If this sounds like a lot of faffing about when you can just use your phone to take “pics”, well you’d be right, but I’ll get back to you on that, later on.

You take this “drum” into the bathroom, and put it on a shelf and then prepare you chemicals. You will need a developer, a stop, and a fix, and I’m not talking about smoking a cigarette that makes people laugh. The developer will make the pictures (in negative) appear on the film. The stop, you’re not going to believe this, will actually “stop” this process, and the fix, will fix the image on the negative by disolving the excess emulsion that was on the film. Then you have the cleaning process which will allow you to have some wonderfully clean negatives that will dry, and then can be cut up into strips, and then put into sheets that will protect the negatives.

But enough of all this negativity! Let’s make those negatives into positives… Bloody hell I’m sounding like some American self-help book! I do this by scanning each negative which will make a positive, and I end up with a picture on my computer. Yayyy, go me. Good job I’m not called Nads!

As you can see I’m really into recycling in a big way, because I’m sure I’ve used that joke before.

I then class these photos by camera used to take them, and by date. It’s my OCD going into overdrive again. My house is untidy despite the efforts of my long suffering wife, but my hard drives are so well organised, that a librarian would be proud of me.

After this I get to play with the images on my computer and then after minimal editing, I publish them, either on Instagram, on Facebook, or here.

So I have these images ready to share with you. But further up I talked about faffing about and why don’t I just used my phone like everyone else. Well? Firstly I’m not like everyone else as my parents will tell you. Some people will say the film photography is about slowing down. You take your time to think about the shot, you look at the scene before you and take the time to decide what elements are interesting, what to include and what not to include. You think if this picture that I can see I my mind’s eye is worth taking and worth the expense and time to develop it. But that’s only part of the story. I like the process of capturing the photo with film. You click the shutter, wind on the film, don’t look at the back of your camera to check if your picture turned out OK or not, and hope for the best. With time, this becomes “normal” and might teach you some patience. I also like using the old camera. It’s looks better hanging around my neck than my phone. When people see you using a film camera, people look at you as if you are more worthy, and a craftsman exercising his craft. There’s the touchy feely side of actually going through an analogue process and manipulating something tangible and getting a result from that process, instead of just creating an electric image. The quality of those images with the famous “grain” may not be as sharp as some digital images, but they have a certain quality about them that cannot be produced digitally. There’s also the thing about converting nearly all my digital into black and white, so why not just cut out the middle man and do everything on black and white film?

The two main film cameras that I use are the Canon AE1 Program, and the Pentax ME Super. I have others of course, but these are the main two and the following photos were taken on the Pentax using a 50mm F1.7lens and Ilford HP5 black and white film.

I hope you enjoy my efforts.

À la recherche du temps perdu…

At the moment I seem to be suffering from nostalgia. A longing for things past that I wish were present. Not in the sense of the good old days in the way certain of my countrymen seem to feel Brexit will bring. It is of course impossible to bring back the past. And in some respects I’m very happy about that. Those of us who have been through puberty will be quite thankful not to have to repeat the experience.

I’m talking about the nostalgia where the mind wanders. Where the mind meanders through the memories that are stored there. Some, quite rightly too, are suppressed, and not to be delivered on a plate to some head shrinker. Others rock us like babies in our cribs. Days where things seemed to be different and before we made those decisions, wise or not, that made who we are today. And those decisions that were made for us by others, and that we wished had been made differently.

My mind is in the past. That past can be yesterday where I was very grateful to have the warm air from the car heater hitting my face, or it could be my very origins, where a 16 year old girl was forced by her elder brothers and sisters to abandon her child and give him up for adoption.

Smells can trigger these memories that seem to jump back at us and surprise us. The smell of ink for fountain pens, bees wax, and incense, that take me back to boarding school. Or the smell of lasagna that takes me right back to sitting in front of the TV when I was a teenager, avoiding tensions with my parents. The smell of bitter beer that accompanied those first visits to pubs. The woff of cigarette smoke that reminds me why I gave up smoking. The smell of ground coffee and hot pains au chocolats which signalled breakfast on a Sunday. The smell of military clothing. I’m sure mud has a smell. The smell of cordite and gun oil when out on the ranges. The smell of nappies from when I would change my son. The smell of good pooh and bad pooh. Yes, it does exist. The smell of wood when I worked on machines making door frames, to the smell of metal. Yes, metal does have a smell. I work in a store in the factory where I stock hinges, screws, etc

Taste can work in the same way. If you’ve read any of the other articles, you will have heard about my weakness for cheesecake. But I was just trying to recapture a dessert that my mum used to make and would sometimes disappear from the freezer. If anyone says anything I will deny everything and blame it on my imaginary friend…

But I think the moment that brought it on this time was when my old German teacher, known to everyone as Slick Rick, and even to this day remains particularly slick, sent me a section of an old school photo that I appear on. I was 16. About to sit my GCSE’s. And thought that I could still do what my mum wanted me to. I didn’t of course know what she wanted. To be honest, neither did I. I had an idea, but it wasn’t set in stone yet.

A right motley crew, and it seems so long ago…

At 16 I would never have imagined the life that I have now. I now live in France but at the time saw myself living in Germany. My German was better than French thanks to this brilliant teacher who managed to install a rare passion for the language. At the age of 18 my German was practically fluent and I felt so much at ease. But time has a strange way of sending you down another path. Some call it destiny, some karma, some a vocation. I have no idea. But here I am in 2019 transported back to 1988.

Yup, nostalgia gets me everytime and I wonder where that lost time went.