Saturday, 8 November 2014

Photographic Inspiration #2- Nan Goldin (Domestic Violence Trigger Warning)

I first discovered Nan Goldin's work when I was at university. What drew me to her was the way she took snapshot photography and made it raw, colourful and sometimes overwhelmingly beautiful. Because her subject matter was her friends it allowed her to capture a certain kind of intimacy and sense of interaction that a lot of staged photographs cannot manage. Everything feels like a story but everything feels alive too.

The first book of hers I saw was The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. Probably still her most famous collection of photographs. They feature sex, drugs, AIDS, violence and tenderness and make it all infinitely interesting to look at. The subject aren't always easy to see but to do so allows us a voyeuristic insight into the lives of men and women who were living the 70s and 80s to the fullest.

I once saw an exhibition at the Tate Modern called Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera which she was a part of. The show featured a roughly 45 minute slideshow of The Ballad of Sexual Dependency in a darkened room with a music soundtrack and for the whole time I couldn't take my eyes off of the screen. No matter what the image. 

Nan Goldin, Nan One Month After Being Battered, 1984

She is still working today but for me the photos that make up her Ballad of Sexual Dependency are the ones which hold the most intrigue. There is something in them that I know I could never achieve. A sense of place and time and a grittiness that comes only from living your art. 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Introducing the Vivitar 35EF

In the last of my camera introductions for now I bring you the Vivitar 35EF.

I bought this camera at the same time as the Holga and was informed by the guy in the junk shop who knows nothing about photography that it was the better camera of the two. Oh boy was he wrong. I mean yes it has an inbuilt flash but that is about as snazzy as it gets. Otherwise the focus settings are set out as 1 person, two people, three people, mountain. Very helpful. Actually they do correspond to actual distances but those are only vaguely accurate anyway. So basically it is guess and shoot. But don't set it on mountain for everything. I made that mistake and unlike on the Smena 8M, infinity does not let you focus on all distances. Stupid lens. Other than that, everything else is automatic. There is a little display in the useless viewfinder and as long as the needle is somewhere in the yellow area (indicating the f/stops) then you are good to point and click. If not then you should use the flash I guess.

I have to confess, I got a little bit of a mental block on using this camera. I just had a feeling it might be crap and so I didn't shoot most of the first roll of film for this reason. I ended up giving it to BadCatt to go through instead. The end results were everything I shot was blurry/ overexposed because a friend of mine usefully opened the back of the camera whilst it was loaded. BadCatt's were better but the actual camera itself seems to take very average images. I have a roll of Agfa Vista 200 in there now so I might go off into town today and shoot through the roll in the interests of experimentation and also because I feel a little like I can't just give up on it after one bad roll. There is an interesting quality to the way it shoots with flash and I'm sure I can find some purpose for it.

I'll leave you with a shot of me where I look like I'm in a 1950's girl gang taken by BadCatt.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Charity Shop Bargins- The Paterson Colour Darkroom

On a recent visit to a second hand shop I spied a familiar logo out of the corner of my eye. On closer inspection I discovered that the logo was attached to a pretty big box labelled the Paterson Colour Darkroom.

As I rummaged through it I realised that it was a pretty complete set of equipment for a colour darkroom. it did't contain trays but did have:

  • Working enlarger

  • Spare bulbs
  • Darkroom Lamp
  • One development tank for negs
  • Development tank for paper 
  • Tongs
  • Horrible old powder developer 

  • Thermometers
  • Frames
  • Measuring beakers
You get the idea. There was masses of stuff. I asked about the price, assuming it would be pretty expensive but they wanted £25 for it. Deal! So now I own a big box full of amazingly useful stuff that I can't use because the woman I live with would hate me setting up a darkroom in her house. Although when I move elsewhere I will definitely be finding somewhere with a windowless bathroom so I can try the equipment out properly. 

Monday, 3 November 2014

I Weren't There Guv'

Photos from a rooftop that I certainly WASN'T on. Definitely. You can't prove anything. The camera threw itself up there and took the photos before jumping back down into my bag. That is my story and I'm sticking to it.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

How Not To... Develop B&W Film

No video this time, just a little step by step guide on to how not to develop film based on a recent experience.
  • Don't load the film onto the reel perfectly until the last few inches at which point it crumples and tears.
  • Don't throw your thermometer repeatedly under water when trying to take temperatures if the thermometer is digital and may object.
  • Don't start by pouring in the fixer. Especially when you're running low anyway.
  • Don't then panic and splash ridiculous amounts of water at the tank usefully remembering the thing you once read which said that even a spot of fix in with the developer can ruin it.
  • Don't then forget for a while that you will need to grab some new fixer because instead of sensibly pouring it back into the jug you disposed of it.
  • Don't then let yourself be so distracted that when you do get the developer in you forget to agitate the tank evenly for the first 3 minutes.
  • Don't splash chemicals on your skin in your haste to remove the developer and stop the process.
  • Don't then get the lid stuck on the tank so that when you try to remove it at the end of the process you spend two minutes doing more damage to you than it.
  • Don't become angry and sulk at the tank after it does eventually open at detriment to your final rinse.
  • Don't then be surprised when it turns out that your film developed unevenly in places.   
Final uneven images. Half were okay but half had some ominous shadows going on in places. Lucky for me they ended up looking quite interesting anyway.