Friday, June 29, 2012

P67 - The (Model) Number Of The Beast . . . (Unless You Count C330F Too)

Morning m'Dearios. 
This week your Cap'n has been reading about the terrible tale of the Somerset Nog. A horse (half Suffolk Punch/half Dachshund . . well, it gets very foggy on the moors) so long and overburdened that it snaps in two and founders along with its cargo of day-trippers in Ganderpoke Bog. They do say though, that if 'ee passes Ganderpoke Bog at midnight, you's can still hear the two ghostly halves of the Nog singing a lament.
It fairly wrings your withers to read about it. 
So let that be a lesson to you all:
Don't overburden your Nog.


***


My apologies to you all in advance, but this weeks FB is pure photography all the way, so hold onto your hats, tighten your belt and make sure you've got a pair of flat shoes on . . .
It will bore you to hell unless you like talking about cameras. Normal, less techie, service will be resumed next week.
When I started taking photographs seriously again, after a hiatus of about 15 years, I resumed using what I thought would give me the best quality (as our American friends would call it) bang for buck
I eschewed restarting with 35mm because I had used it fairly extensively at college and wasn't really wanting to go along that path again. 
At college, I had actually had the most photographic enjoyment at the time using The Beast - a Mamiya C330F. This is a camera so heavy it requires a team of sherpas to move it about. I think back in the '80's a large number of them were seen in use by the members of the Russian weight lifting squad at the 1988 Seoul Olympics . . . .




Sherpa Ten-dzen transports a Mamiya C330F to secret Russian training camp circa 1987



Honest, it feels like it weighs about 20 gravities, but it produces very nice quality photographs, and is actually about the cheapest way you can get into interchangeable lens medium format photography without selling your kidneys.
Having fond but painful memories of the Mamiya though made me search in another direction, namely Germany and the Rolleiflex. They were light and beautiful and the camera of choice for lots of well-known photographers. I couldn't afford a 3.5 or 2.8 F model with their exceptional Planar and Xenotar lenses, so I opted instead for a Rolleiflex T.
It wasn't cheap, but neither was it a fortune. What it was however was a stunning piece of 1960's engineering with a range of accessories that worked and fitted beautifully. In other words it was the bees knees.
I have spent many long hours wandering near and far with my Rollei and despite a few teething problems to start (film transport going funny) it has served me well (and still does actually). They are a very adaptable camera - portraits, landscape, pretty much anything you can think of a use for a camera for, and with a bit of free thinking, you can get there. 
However, as time went on I started looking seriously at the likes of Wynn Bullock and Ansel Adams and wondered whether upgrading to a larger format would make some of their vision rub off on me (it didn't by the way). So after much thought, I decided I was very hungry and needed a bigger doughnut.
Enter The Beast # 2. 
I saved up all my pocket money (and Christmas money too) and bought a trip into larger format heaven - a Pentax 6x7.
This camera looks and handles like the fat boy brother of the largest 35mm camera ever made (a Nikon F2s?).




Smuggled prototype photograph from Pentax HQ, showing proposed sizing of the original Pentax 6x7 (with new Mk II lens range) in proportion to average human being size. You can clearly see a plan for world domination here.


The Pentax is solid and heavy, has the loudest mirror slap you have ever heard and the shutter flings itself across with such violence it will actually torque the camera even though it is secured to a tripod. In your hands it can kick like a .22 air pistol. 
It was widely used by fashion photographers (Mario Testino and Bruce Weber are two who come to mind) namely and for that if you are using fast film, or flash, but definitely in the higher range of shutter speeds, I can see it working, but for quieter landscapes it is quite a proposition. The incredible thing is though, that for many it is the landscape camera of choice . . or was, in those heady days of using film. 
Personally, I found it difficult and I had to adopt a totally mad method of taking photographs with it.
Apologies if you love and use your P67, the following might tickle your funny bone . . . 
Note: if you are using the Pentax for anything other than hand-holding it at about 1/125th with the lens stopped down a couple of stops, then try this method of using it on a tripod . . it works. 
So here we go - Rogers' Pentax 6x7 Tips.

Rogers' Pentax 6x7 Tip Part 1: Firstly you fix it to your tripod like you are expecting rough weather and phone 999 (or 911).

Rogers' Pentax 6x7 Tip Part 2: Compose your photograph - I recommend the waist level finder actually, because you do not get the full frame when you look through the prism finder. Make sure all emergency services have arrived and are ready and on standby.

Rogers' Pentax 6x7 Tip Part 3: When you are happy, zip up your flash suit, make sure you are in eyeball contact with emergency coordinators and then LOCK THE MIRROR UP AND SET THE SHUTTER TO B. If you do not do this then you will not get a sharp photograph.

Rogers' Pentax 6x7 Tip Part 4: Use your lens cap the way they used to be used - in other words keep it in front of the lens. You can actually use your hand too.

Rogers' Pentax 6x7 Tip Part 5: Hang on to something immovable and release the shutter. This is difficult to do - I found a bicycle chain around my ankle and then secured around a bollard or tree quite good. A cable release is essential, however I have used a pencil. Ear defenders are recommended. The shutter noise will scare birds and small children so sand-bagging the camera can work too. Don't worry though - the emergency crews should be in place to deal with any mishaps.

Rogers' Pentax 6x7 Tip Part 6: Remove your lens cap, but still keep it tightly in place until you are sure there is no movement or vibration from the camera. Very gently move the cap out of the way for your timed exposure. Count off your exposure. Place lens cap back in front of lens tightly and quickly. Release cable release to close shutter and unlock mirror.

Denouement: There you have made a nice photograph with the Pentax.
Kindly ask emergency teams to stand down, but remain in field radio contact with them as you have another 9 frames to use up.


I simply had to adopt this method because it was easier than that well known P67 tip of forcing all your weight down on top of the camera whilst it is tripoded to stop the torque ruining the photographs. I had had to do this a number of times until I came up with the method above believe it or not. It didn't half get some funny looks!
Unfortunately for me, because of my financially necessary photographic bottom feeding, the Pentax I had bought had probably been done to death by its previous owner(s).
It's reliance on batteries was also a pain and proved to be part of its downfall in my eyes. At about -4C, and a number of miles away from anywhere, it just refused to work. I was livid. It is no joke removing a small battery with freezing fingers and shoving it into your pants and clasping it tight in the crease where lower groin meets leg to get a little life back into it. This does work very well by the way, but I wouldn't recommend it if you are photographing in a city . . .
After that trip into the depths of a Scottish late Winter/early Spring I had a wonderful time with a few films being exposed correctly with a perfect frame count all the way through (10 frames on 120 film) and then it started misbehaving again: missing frames and locking completely, resulting in a blue darkroom fog of unloading the partially wound film, respooling it and starting again (!)
Enough was enough and I returned it to the vendor for a refund - they were good enough to do so after my 6 months of using it. I often wonder what happened to it. Knowing the secondhand market, it is probably still around with the problems of the transport still unresolved. 
Old and knackered cameras rarely die, they just keep getting shipped around the country.
For all that I seem to be criticizing the Pentax, I actually think that the problems of the early 6x7's were partially resolved in the later rebuilds - namely the Pentax 67 (see what they did there) and the Pentax 67II.
The superb photographer Steve Mulligan regularly uses a brace of P67II's for aerial photography and I simply don't see how they could have sold so many if they were rubbish.
There is a small whining voice inside me that says, I would love to own one again, simply for their sheer heft and the quality of the lenses. This being said, the lens I had (and could afford) was an early 75mm f4.5 Super-Multicoated-Takumar, and I thought it was a tad soft (there seems to be a concensus of opinion that it is one of the sharpest in the range, so maybe I had a not so good example). 
If I were to go for one again, it would be as late a model as possible with either the 90mm or 105mm lens and the 55mm wide angle. But then again, I would still face the same problem of not being able to see 100% of what I am photographing - a point which annoys the hell out of me.
My notes from when I returned the Pentax read as follows:

Basically no matter how good looking and likeable the Pentax 67 system is (and it is) - never get another one!!
The flaw of the system is the shutter (which is ridiculously loud and heavy in action *
If you want a 6x7 go for a RB67 or Fuji or something but not Pentax.
* The camera will torque no matter how much effort you put into restraining it. Only the lens cap/mirror up method works, but then we were let down by the lens.

The madness of bigger doughnuts did sort of resolve itself from this. The money I got back from the Pentax and lens and all the doo-dads I'd bought for it - strap, UV filter, waist-level finder, plus a trade-in of a nice little Petri rangefinder, enabled me to take a giant step forward.
I got the Supersized lunchtime special doughnut; a camera so large and bulky and yet so wonderful that I still own it. A Sinar F.
It is so much a character of his own, that he will have his own dedicated FB sometime soon.
But back to the Pentax, why does that niggling voice keep going? 
Why would I want to get another one when the original proved to be so unreliable and challenging to use? 
I think it could well be, that I like the idea (but maybe not the practicality) of having one again. Yes it was difficult to use. Yes it wasn't a ready companion miles away from anywhere, and yet, it was a character all of its own. A camera that you had to deal with on its own terms and not your own. A struggle to use, and yet a pleasure too. I hope he is still around out there, giving some bargain hunter pleasure and not pain!
The photograph below was made with the Pentax, at a place called Mossburn Ford in the Scottish Borders. The path Alec Turnips and myself were on passed through someone's garden, before meandering away and up a hillside. In the garden were some overgrown sheds with this incredible collection.








The photograph was made on Ilford FP4 at EI 64. I metered it with my Gossen Lunasix S meter (a totally wonderful light meter) placing the top left corner on Zone V. Exposure was 2 seconds at f16.
It was developed as per Barry Thornton's instructions - basically Ilford Perceptol at 1:3 and 20C, for 14 and a half minutes.
The scan does very little justice to the print, which somehow manages to 'breath' in the greys with a luminosity that is always very difficult to get a hold on.
I call it 'Grandfather's Chair', because of that old candlewick bedspread draped over the chair. 
It looks to me like a figure is sitting there - possibly the ghost of someone's Grandfather, still clinging to the unloved remnant of his favourite chair. 
Allied with the movement from the weeping Willow, and I think an air of strangeness has been imparted to it.
Of all the photographs I have made, it is the only one I have framed and on the wall in my study.
(Ab)normal service will be resumed next week.
God bless and thanks for reading.




Friday, June 22, 2012

Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Woman

Ahoy Shipmates!
This week yer Cap'n has mostly been eating radishes, and I was sorry to see that's another half-year gone in. Those decks need sorting before the Winter storms are upon us again.
That time of year can be difficult round these parts and we's not getting any younger.
It'd be nice to think that at some point we can lash the Shippe to a nice dock in sunnier climes and sit all day drinking hot rum.


***


Florence Jane Hawley, or just plain Aunty Jane to me, was a remarkable woman.
She was a friend of my parents, having met them during that great melding of social classes and mores, the Second World War.
Jane (and I am sure the reason she dropped the Florence was because of the wartime cartoon Jane) was a Warwickshire lass, from farming stock. What she didn't know of country matters wasn't worth writing about. What she knew about the world was based upon wisdom and a quick sense of humour.
I believe she met my mother whilst doing quality control at Philips in London on vacuum tubes and light bulbs. This is stretching my memory a bit as neither her nor my Mum are alive, so I have no ready-reference. All I do know is that she was there when I was born, and I was there when she died. She was a constant in my life, even (and especially) when she lived in Scotland.
She left Ealing in London in the late 1960's, taking her cat Coco with her and never came back. There can be no denying it - she had gumption, for it was a brave move at the time. This was years before the English invasion of Scotland, but she was totally accepted in the communities she lived in (Moffat/Beattock and Leadhills) simply by dint of the fact that she was an incredibly personable person. It was something else to see scraggy wee kids who'd swear at anyone, humbly refer to her as 'Miss Hawley'. She had them in the palm of her hand simply by treating them with respect and letting them have the occasional treat from her magical workshop - her kitchen.
I remember us visiting her in her flat in Ealing quite often when I was very small; her kitchen there was literally a cupboard with a small worktop Belling (which had two rings and an oven/grill) on one side and a sink on the other. There was room in that kitchen for one person at a time and even then, you couldn't swing a cat. Yet from this place she fed the four of us, and to say the food was incredible would be an understatement. This never changed with Jane. Meals could take her hours to prepare and yet were always astonishing and made from the simplest of ingredients and in the smallest of places.
I have distinct memories of food from all of her kitchens. But perhaps the greatest for me were the sweets and cakes from her miner's cottage in Leadhills. It was a tiny terraced place, squat (because of the inclement weather - usually misty and wet) and prone to having sheep jumping over from the hillside that rose hard and steep at the rear of the cottage, onto the roof and clattering off again with a 'Bahhh' and a thud! 
The kitchen there was blessed with God's own cooker - a solid fuel Raeburn. 
This heated her water, cooked her food and generally imparted a benevolent ambience to the whole house. It was a warm salve to a chilly soul on a Winter's day. It wasn't only the centre of the house though, for it could be coaxed into producing a selection of cakes that wouldn't have embarassed today's 'celebrity' chefs. In a word they were remarkable, and there were always plenty of them. I have fond memories of my friend and I walking the hillsides and mine workings at Leadhills and returning to a Sunday teatime sitting with no less than seven different cakes!
But I am going to take us back further now, to a holiday I spent with her in what I think must have been around 1969. I have no idea why Mum and Dad weren't around, but they weren't. Jane had recently moved to Scotland and was house-sitting for friends of Mum and Dads (Trevor and Olive Mainwaring) whilst she was looking for somewhere to live. The cottage was Lochwood Toll which is just down at the crossroads from Lochwood Tower. It was springtime, but still cold. Regular FB readers will know that I was tempted to start a lifetime of countryside walking by the bribe of a Penguin biscuit, and this holiday was when that happened. 
My one abiding memory of this holiday is a trip we made to Dumfries. To get there we had to take the bus, and as Jane never drove, that meant a rather long walk up through the Lochwood Oaks (a SSSI, if anyone is interested http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/INFD-6UEHPF). 
It was bitterly cold, but we made it, did what we had to do in Dumfries and then came back. 
The bus dropped us at the road end on the Dumfries to Moffat road and we started walking. Snow had been threatening and as we started heading it came on thick and fast. 
This presents no problem if you are young and fit, but to a 9 year old serial non-ambulent and a woman in her late 60's laden with shopping, and no proper cold weather protection, it was something else. Such was the directionality of the snow that we were literally one half snow covered and one half clear. I have never seen snow land on me the way it did that day. It also draped itself around the already weird figures of the oak trees and all we heard was the whistling wind and the crunch of our feet, the oaks creaked and bent and threw shapes down over our heads like the looming figures of twiggy giants. It was hard, especially for someone as unused to walking long distances as I was, however we made it back to Lochwood Toll Cottage, and got changed and dry. She had laid the fire in (it was an enclosed early multi-fuel stove) and it was quick to take up, and we sat and had a delicious bowl of bob-a-nob soup to take away the extreme chill. Bob-a-nob was her own invention. A thick vegetable broth with bready-sausagemeat meatballs in the bottom. Just the thing to get one feeling normal again.
Something changed in me that holiday: I believe I grew a little.
I stayed with her again a year later - this time along the road in the wee cottage she had bought - Rose Cottage. This season was inclement, warm and sunny, and I now relished our walks to get anywhere.
The mobile library, grocer's van and fish van were all great novelties.
She was good enough to let me be my own man and me all of 10 years old. I wandered up through the Moss and Forestry Commission land; took to the quiet lanes and explored; watched Coco hunt; helped liberate shrews from behind the refrigerator; watched the slow decay of hung pheasants that the local game keeper brought over; looked longingly at the .410 shotgun stored in the long casing of a Grandmother clock; learned how to tickle trout. You name the countryside pursuit and I was probably either doing it, being told about it, or was thinking about it. Most importantly I learned how to be independent.
It was a formative holiday.



Jane in the garden of Rose Cottage before she got her green fingers on it.


I could write a lot about Aunty Jane. She and I were quite similar people in a lot of ways.
I wish I could bake like she did though, and I also wish I had some of her incredible ability to create gardens out of nothing.
She died, in a nursing home in Moffat at the age of 99. I was with her and it felt like a privilege for me to be there. 
In an old button box in her room, I found a packet of photographs of her transition from a young woman to an older woman, and the instruction manual to a Kodak Brownie No.2 **. And, amongst it all, one great and surprising photograph. 
It is incredibly flimsy - it has the same feel as cartridge paper and yet the image is there.
I am wondering whether it could be Printing-Out paper as it has held onto some old fingerprints which you wouldn't have got with a silver gelatine print.
Her hairstyle I would say dates it to roughly the mid to late 1920's or possibly early 1930's. 




The camera should be a Kodak Brownie 2. It appears to have a winding key as opposed to winding knob, which would date it to having been made anywhere between 1905 and 1931. They take 120 film and the negative size is 6x9cm.



I think you could agree that this is an incredibly artful self portrait.
I have had to up the ante a tad in the contrast stakes as the photograph is a bit faded.
I love the way the light from the window has washed out the detail of her face. I also love the way she is poised in that pose. I am also amazed that there is no real motion blur, as on a Brownie once that little silver lever you can see on top of the camera is pulled out, and you've pressed the release the shutter is open and remains open until the exposure lever is pressed again (just like T on a modern shutter). There appears to be no cable release as there was no socket on the camera anyway and judging by the instruction book, the exposure could have been anywhere between 12 seconds and a minute. How did she do it?
The other really surprising thing about this is that Jane is using a tripod - to me that states an intent to make more of using the camera other than just as a device for snapshots. There are artistic ambitions there. And though she maybe put  photography aside in her life, the artist in her came out in other ways: in cooking and in gardening and in helping a young man get a sense of his place in the world.
Jane's photograph brought to mind another photograph from roughly the same time, though this time made on the then new-fangled 'miniature' camera, the Leica.
It too is a self portrait and it too utilises mirrors, but it has been granted the status of high art and is in the Museum Of Modern Art Collection in New York. It is by a young woman called Ilse Bing and it is called 'Self Portrait With Mirrors'.






It is a fine photograph, though as you can see roughly one third of the frame on the right hand side has been removed from the print, because it is a large section of wall and someone at sometime has thought it better to be cropped.  I actually prefer it as a full-frame photograph.




One does wonder what Jane's self portrait would have looked like taken on a Leica and processed and printed with care and then turned into high art. The tilting we can see in Jane's picture, the result of a not properly levelled tripod is markedly different from the precision view which Ilse's photograph has, but then the viewfinder on a Brownie is a tiny squinty window and hard to compose with. 
I think its slightly off-kilterness adds to its charm. 
Jane's portrait surprised me, not just in its honesty and ambition but also in its physicality. For something so flimsy to have survived so well makes one wonder how many lost gems there are out there, made by amateurs. I will return to this at a later point as I have a box of stereoscopic photographs made at the turn of the 20th Century and one of them is fabulous. 
But in the meantime, if you get a chance or if you are fortunate enough to have been bequeathed a box of very old family photographs, take some time to look through them with an open mind and an eye for fine things - who knows what marvellous images your forbears might have made.
God bless and thanks for reading.



Florence Jane Hawley


** http://www.brownie-camera.com/53.shtml

Friday, June 15, 2012

Oh What An Atmosphere . . .


Greeting m'Hearties.
Yer Cap'n is a tad perplexed this week.
You see the cost of grog has gone up so much recently that I am between meself knowing what to do. At this rate if I keep dipping me hands into me pouches until there's nothing left how will the Goode Shippe FogBlog set sail?
What would you do me hearties, because my heart is fair sore with the thought of it.
All this sailing the seas of yore is a mighty expensive business.
It's enough to make an old sea dog go new-fangled or take to the shore . . .


***


Well folks, if you are still out there and reading- my good greetings to you - it takes some commitment on your behalf and I appreciate it.
I had no idea what I was going to do an FB about this week . . . certainly come Monday morning there was nothing in my head, and then come Tuesday the bare bones plopped out and have fleshed themselves into what you read at the moment. Funny how that goes. Anyway, in the midst of this terrible summer we are having you can count on me to remind you that come this Thursday the nights will be fair drawing in . . yep - hard to believe we have even left Winter behind and here we are heading for another.
As I get older I find Winter a more anxious time, and that is because I have to commute (albeit a tiny distance). I hated the massive snow we had in 2009/2010 - it was incredibly difficult getting around - I certainly don't want a repeat of that. So here's to an unseasonably dry and warm Winter! The Cap'n will tell you all about the Jetstream in unbelieveable detail if you prod him hard enough. Certainly any time I have asked him, he has looked up from his charts and asked "Are you sure?"
Anyway, whilst you are in Barbeque season, here's a little chiller to remind you that it is coming again . . .


***


I consider myself extremely fortunate to live in the house we currently live in. It was on the market for a long time before we bought it, and had been viewed by around 16 separate parties. It rambles over a goodly space, namely the lower part of the main body of the house (all mouldings and stone and high ceilings and quality woodwork) right through to the servant's quarters at the back (flush door mouldings, single brick-work and a general trimming back in level of fitting). Indeed where I write this is a converted scullery, with a closed-up hatch to my right through to the old kitchen. My feet are currently on the ghost site of a large Belfast sink  . .I think you get the drift. Anyway, it is a wonderful home and has an incredible atmosphere and we are lucky to live here. It was built in 1888 and the presence of the previous occupants is, at times, very present. Nothing bad I might add, the house loves a good party - there are no ghostly figures hovering and pointing the way to lost staircases - nevertheless a house as old as ours does carry a weight, and we are but caretakers of the shadow of all those years.
Allied to this, is that I live less than 100 yards away from what I think is one of the greatest of the 'unknown' Victorian Necropolis'.
It is really quite a place and isn't sanitized in the way a lot of modern graveyards are; it is real and honest and brutally shocking for the sheer numbers of children lost. In viewing the graves you get a total picture of Victorian society from top to bottom with all except the incredibly poor being interred there.
We go from Shipping Magnates and Industrialists and Newspaper men, to Hotel Owners and Mechanics. From Plumbers and Roofers and Firemen, to Butchers and Soldiers, Sailors and Wine Merchants . . I think you get the idea.
It is an incredible place and though I have walked there consistently for the last 20 years, I still discover new graves, new tragedies.
In modern graveyards I find a great deal less of the raw, brutal truth of death, for we as a society have moved so far away from it, that when it comes it terrifies and shocks and renders us into a state of helplessness. We are not exposed to the shell of the corpse. We do not accompany our loved ones in their moment of passing. Everything is hygenic. We (mostly) do not want to be exposed to it, and yet I feel to be there when someone you love dies is a great privilege.
I am not making light of it, honestly I am not, but today death is something we almost put aside. It seems that people are not prepared for it, when as the saying goes the only two things of surety in life are death and taxes. That is not to say that it wasn't a tragic thing for our ancestors, of course it was, it is just that (along with everything else in industrialised society) there seems to be such a smoothing out of things these days. Dealing with death is quick and efficient. You phone the undertaker and everything is arranged. Maybe it is better that way?
But this is getting away from my point. In previous eras death was not only accepted, it became romanticised, and especially so in Victorian times, where the whole concept of tombs and shrouds and the grey shades of spirits as they searched in their loss amongst the broken stones of a darkened graveyard was really something. Much great art was created with this feeling as the underlying influence.
These days such things get lumped under 'Gothic', but the modern sense of the word is too loose, too 'pop' cultured.
Proper Victorian Gothic was a serious and sombre affair closely linked to Queen Victoria's lengthy period of mourning. Many of the graves I look at in 'my' graveyard are laden with terms of heart-felt endearment and an unquestioning acceptence of God's part in one's fate.
There is much talk of Clay and Sleep and Eternity; and also of Awakenings and The Hand Of God, as not just the leveller of a person's life, but as a gentle and benevolent helping hand to Eternity. There is talk of Love and Loss, of Longing and Tears, but above all else there is a quiet and waiting dignity to the place.
The expecation of arising from the dead is at times palpable.
In short the place has an atmosphere and this is why I am drawn to it.
I have walked there in all weathers, at all hours and at all times of year. But I have yet to make a photograph there that completely encapsulates the spirit of the place. In fact, I often walk there with no camera at all.
I have been haunted there.
My imagination has taken flight.
On a Winter's Evening at dusk, in the cold and semi-quiet, the feeling of being surrounded by the dead (and not just cold bones, but waiting spirits) is really quite something. And there, you see, I am romanticising. It is easy to do if you are of an imaginative nature.
I love the place - it is my little piece of countryside in a big city.


***


To my eyes, there are two works of great art which more than most others, somehow manage to convey the spirit of the quiet earth of a twilight graveyard. They were created out of Gothic Romanticism and Symbolism.
The first is by Arnold Böcklin. He was a Swiss painter of enormous skill, though largely unknown these days. Isle Of The Dead was loosly based upon the English Cemetery in Florence, which was near to his studio and was also the place where his daughter was buried. There were five versions painted. I have chosen the third one because it is lighter than the others and I prefer it.
Apparently:

An early version of the painting was commissioned by a Madame Berna, a widow who wanted a painting with a dream-like atmosphere.



And to quote Russ Abbott, 'Oh what an Atmosphere'!
It is one of those paintings that instantly tells a story and sets one's imagination up and running. To my eye it is utterly contemporary, and yet it beats modern painting in one way - it is totally heartfelt. It is coming from a deep and rigorous understanding of death and one's place in the scheme of things.
It is the purest distillation of everything Gothic.
The figures in the boat will never turn around, and yet your eye is caught, and from landing on the figures (especially the shrouded one) initially, it starts to wander around the rock tombs and the cypress and the landing. And then all sorts of questions start to arise.
Why are there so few tombs?
Why the water?
Who is the figure in the back of the boat?
And then an obvious one . . how can someone paint with such skill and remain un-lauded in modern times?
Well, he was one of Hitler's favourite painters (apparently) and one can't help but wonder whether such a tainting could be the reason no one is interested in him these days . . . It certainly is a huge weight for a reputation to bear isn't it.
To give Herr Böcklin his due, apparently:



"Prints of the work were very popular in central Europe in the early 20th century — Vladimir Nabokov observed that they were to be "found in every Berlin home." Freud, Lenin, and Clemenceau all had prints of it in their offices."



Just imagine  . . Freud AND Lenin.
I think from that, one can take the power of the painting for granted.
By all accounts:



"Böcklin himself provided no public explanation as to the meaning of the painting, though he did describe it as “a dream picture: it must produce such a stillness that one would be awed by a knock on the door."



Oh boy - in this age of ever present noise and iPods everywhere and traffic and aircraft, and no one listening to the sounds of nature and birdsong ever - just take a moment to imagine that knock. It would echo through your soul.




Arnold Böcklin's "Isle Of The Dead" - 3rd version



The second painting is curiously by an even lesser known genius of the brush, Ferdinand Keller.
Herr Keller was a German 'historical' painter who, like Böcklin, was lauded in his day and yet now is virtually unknown. 
The majority of his work seems to have been of historical scenes - a style very much in vogue in the late 19th Century. 
But it wasn't until 1900 that Böcklin's work hit him and he produced the painting below:



Ferdinand Keller's "Böcklin's  Tomb"



Two things strike you about this painting, the first to me is the deep air of melancholy. It is stunningly beautiful, but also although of a similar style, very different to Böcklin's  work. The second thing that strikes me is the use of colour. 
Were I to make colour photographs I would want them all to look like this. It takes great skill to paint so beautifully. I love the distant mountain, I love the Cypress, and I love the water. The sense of loss is palpable.
Just as with Böcklin's  painting, I think this one strikes deep into the earth of archetypes and legend. 
Böcklin's  influence is writ large, yet it is it's own piece. It is so Gothic it hurts.
A wonderful tribute and a stunning work of art.
Which brings me back to Herr Böcklin. 
I can only say one thing - what a bloke. He deserves to be better appreciated. In this age of instant art  and a billion new images and technological fadgetry (fad and gadget!) to work in a quiet and unassuming way and produce work of timeless power - that is something.
Art, Death, Philosophy, Psychology and Dictatorship? Name one modern artist who could claim to influence such things these days.
And now, like a crowbar in a marquetry workshop:






The above is a photograph I made on a Winter's dusk. It was bitterly cold and I wanted to try out my new secondhand late-60's Schneider 90mm Angulon lens on my Sinar. It is a very fine lens considering its size which is tiny. It does get soft at the corners but stop down enough and that is gone. Were I to buy another 90mm it would have to be something more modern with a wider aperture. I find the combination of a wide angle lens and ground glass focussing at a maximum aperture of f6.8 in twilight conditions, damn near impossible!
My notes say: "Nice neg - shame about the bush!"
The convergence was intentional.
The negative was made around 4pm on the 27th of December, so pure twilight (or gloam if you prefer).
It was made on Ilford HP5 at EI 320. I placed the stonework on ZVI, but have printed everything down. Exposure was an incredible 145 Seconds at f22 and it was developed in Barry Thornton's 2 bath developer. Had I developed it in HC110 I would have had better contrast, however Barry's developer has kept the sombre mood.
The building you see, though a Mausoluem, was never used as such as it was used for groundsman's equipment like lawnmowers and such. It appears to have not been used for a long time as the roof has collapsed and rot is slowly eating everything.
I hope you think I have captured a bit of atmosphere. It is only a pale shadow compared to the masters' work above, but at least I have tried. Maybe one of these days I will get there.
However, for now, I am happy with the result and in hindsight, I think some of the gloom and chill anticipation of the Resurrection made its way through the lens and onto the film.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Stay Gonk

Mornin' Varmints. 
Today yer good Cap'n be land-based for the weekend, holed up in port with nothing to do but twiddle me thumbs and whistle a happy tune. 
Can you feel it friends? 
The world is poised. 
Something huge is in the air and I can't put my finger on it. 
It is worrying. Like a hurricane coming in and not a breath in the sails. 
I don't like it at all. 
Even my stump has stopped itching . . . 

***

In much the same way that my generation seems to have destroyed the creative heart of a generation of human beings in letting them think that silicone-based gaming is a great way to spend days and weeks, so we have also created, photographically, a very dangerous precedent in the way that the camera phone has now become the primary way of making images.
Remember this is image capture, it is definitely not photography, and whilst profits might well be great for the lumbering technological behemoths, for the name of photography, things couldn't really be much worse.
As I have mentioned before, mankind is essentially (these days) lazy. The point-it-at-the-subject-and-press-a-button generation haven't the slightest clue about what they have just done:

"Ha ha ha ha, that's funny" 

as one youth said to another as a smart phone was passed around, smudging the screen with his greasy fingers..
It is a slice of time, but it definitely is not a photograph and has nothing to do with photography.
Even compared with digital camera capture it isn't a photograph.
A camera (yeah even a digital one, hardened FB readers take note) is a specific device. It used to be (when people weren't mad) designed for making something of permanence whether you realised it or not.
There was a massive difference between a Kodak Instamatic and a Leica, but they both did the same thing.
Both could be crass.
Both could be beautiful.
But both told the truth, for despite the possibility that someone somewhere might have done some very creative darkroom work, at the end of the day in that cylindrical, light-tight cassette, there was an end product that couldn't really lie: the negative.
I think the root of my problem with all digital capture is that I don't trust 01010101000010101 (Binary Storage) and yet here I am out-putting my heart to the world in the self-same manner.
Am I a hypocrite?
Well it certainly looks that way.
But the thing with the humble negative, is that you can hold it; you can store it in nice little archival sleeves; you can shove it in a plastic bag along with your holiday photos; you can scratch it; drop tea on it; sneeze on it; fingerprint it. In fact you can make a total mess of it, and, short of setting fire to it, something will still be there.
My friend spends a great deal of his time making images of truly ancient artefacts in appropriate settings. They really work, because somehow, and I don't know how he does it, he manages to coax the dormant soul from these objects, however, he finds himself often in the multiple back-up position because they are all digital images.
It is like in the Young Ones when Neil started talking about emptying his pencil case in an exam hall:

"I sat in the big hall and put my packet of Polos on the desk. And my spare pencil and my support Gonk. And my chewing gum and my extra pen. And my extra Polos and my lucky Gonk. And my pencil sharpener shaped like a cream cracker. And three more Gonks with a packet of Polos each. And lead for my retractable pencil. And my retractable pencil. And spare lead for my retractable pencil. And chewing gum and pencils and pens and more Gonks, and then the guy said “Stop writing, please.”"

So my friend has hard-drive backup, a lucky backup hard-drive and writes to discs too, as well as storing on memory cards.
It is overkill, and I call that a bit of a nightmare, but it makes him feel secure so that is what counts.
Actually before we move on, I must have a little aside into the world of Gonks!
There is strangely precious little material about these wonderful creatures out there.
The designs I remember my sister having back in the 60's are nowehere to be seen.
'Proper' 1960's Beat Gonks seem to have been lumped in with 1970's and 1980's fairground prizes, which were not Gonks!
I will be categorical on this. 1960's Gonks were hip and often round, had hands, wore smart 'clothing' and often had mop-top haircuts. In a word they were so Sixities, that they couldn't have existed at any other time.
1970's and 80's fairground prizes were often just fluffy objects with rattly eyes or beaks or both. They tended also to be furry, which no 1960's Gonk would be seen dead as.
I remember one in particular that I won at a fair in the early 70's that actually seemed to be made of cat fur. Whatever it was it certainly wasn't synthetic.




(Quite posh Gonks [Gonkus groovitimus]  and a description of what it is to be 'Gonk')



They were really quite the thing at one point. There were a couple of albums and also a film.
I think they were originally designed as a fun accessory for Swinging London and ended up going nationwide.
The film 'Gonks Go Beat' was a reworking of Romeo and Juliet and featured The Graham Bond Organization, The Nashville Teens, Lulu and the Luvvers, and The Trolls (?). It is noteworthy for the fact that it features Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce (later of Cream) and features two things that I find amusing - firstly a statement addressed to Jack Bruce after a groovy piece of playing:

"Next time I want to hear those big, big sounds that bring the coconuts down "

and Kenneth Connor standing next to sign that says:

BEATLAND - IF YOU'RE WITH IT, YOU'RE IN. 

Here's the not so groovy cover to the dvd release:




(The above is not the original design but a noughties cut-up. 1960's design wouldn't have been half so messy)




(That's more like it! Why would anyone feel the need to mess about with this?)



We're nearly coming to a point though folks, so bear with me, as, at this point in this painful interlude I have to say that 1960's Gonks need to be distinguished from a separate species, the Scottish Gonk (Gonkus hootisii) which started appearing roughly around 1970. These were definitely Scots, and never seemed to make the journey across the Border. Certainly for me they were a thing of remark during our holidays. 
They were basically tubes with arms and were often 'weaponised'. 
Mine had a spear, some had clubs. 
All had furry heads and tartan bonnets. There were millions of them every place we visited . . and now all I can find in a world-wide pantheon of information are just two pictures, of which I shall use just one . . .




(Gonkus hootisii [disarmed])



The above is a posh one and should be distinguished from the more common or garden variety which did not have legs. Actually, I would say this is a picture of a Proto-hootisii . It must be a very early one as the latter ones became cheapened, dispensed with legs altogether and just had the tube body all the way down. Please note, he is also missing his spear!
Alas the genus mutated beyond recognition and this is what the later species looked like.





(These are obviously convict Gonks. Banished to Australia they were later rescued and photographed in their sorry state. Apparently they date from the late 1970's and are of the sub-species Gonkus fairgroundicus.)


In researching all this though, worldwide there is precious little information on them. I checked for the latest version of the Gonkipedia but it didn't exist. 
They seem to have been one of those moments in time that has passed into legend . . . 
An Atlantis of the 20th Century? 
A Beat Sasquatch? 
The Big Grey Gonk of Ben Macdhui? 
Who knows . . . anyway  . . .



***


Phew.
There I feel better for that. 
But what has this to do with photography? 
Well, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
To coin a rather well known song:

They paved paradise 
And put up a parking lot 
With a pink hotel, a boutique 
And a swinging hot spot 

Don't it always seem to go 
That you don't know what you've got 
Till it's gone 
They paved paradise 
And put up a parking lot

They took all the trees 
Put 'em in a tree museum  
And they charged the people 
A dollar and a half just to see 'em 

Don't it always seem to go 
That you don't know what you've got 
Till it's gone 
They paved paradise 
And put up a parking lot

Hey farmer farmer 
Put away that DDT now 
Give me spots on my apples 
But leave me the birds and the bees 
Please! 

Don't it always seem to go 
That you don't know what you've got 
Till it's gone 
They paved paradise 
And put up a parking lot

Late last night
I heard the screen door slam
And a big yellow taxi
Took away my old man

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

© Siquomb Publishing Company 



I had no intention originally of including the whole song, but felt the words were entirely appropriate. Joni's concerns are nearly 50 years old, but their truth rings down the years.
And ever onward we go!
Why on earth would anyone earth want to make an image with one of these:








When they could use one of these instead:








Excuse me for shoving a Leica M3 in there, but it is such a beautiful thing to look at and by all accounts a beautiful thing to use too, though I have never held one. (I also rather like the IIIf which is more 1950's looking but still beautiful nontheless.)
My point is, that much like Gonks, cameras too have become homogenised. They have been turned from lovely square but round-edged Spangles, into the half sucked and spat out 'things' that used to mysteriously appear on pavements when I was young. 
We are in danger of lumbering ourselves with something which in design terms is non-specific, 'user friendly' (though that is a matter of much discourse) and in a word characterless.
I just hate how the world seems to do that. 
Beat Gonks become generic 70's furry animals. 
Genius pieces of mechanical and optical design become a tiny lens in a piece of metal and polycarbonate with 0's and 1's removing all the passion. 
Artisan bread becomes Warburtons and Kingsmill. 
A lovingly crafted pint of Yorkshire Bitter becomes a bottle of Bud. 
Pizza, the poor man's food made with flour and yeast and simple ingredients, becomes a cheese crust, multi-layered monstrosity baked on an Industrial scale. 
I could go on, but I won't. 
All I can say is that we, as photographers, are in serious danger of becoming last centuries thang. Professional cameras shoot in HD video. So do phones and the boundaries are becoming so blurred that what was a camera, is now a video camera and will probably soon be a phone too! And before you know it, it will be its own capture and processing lab, hard-wired to your eye and central nervous system, automatically snatching images of anything and fixing any mistakes to some pre-set criteria of preferences, so that the world looks perfect
Gone is any creative involvement other than just pressing that button or blinking that eye.
A one-hundred-and-twenty-fifth of a second slice of time, chosen and fixed with permanence within a piece of emulsion is fast becoming something so hopelessly antiquated that it will, before we know it, be cast upon history's scrapheap of useless and arcane knowledge.
Mark my words friends. 
It is coming.
AND FAST.
Pick your bogles while you can they don't stay fresh for long.






The above is as imperfect a photograph as you could ever wish to take. It is definitely not homogenised. It is a real piece of film that has been totally abused. I love it.
It was made on C41-process Colour film, which I developed in Black and White specific chemicals, namely HC 110, Dilution G, for 18 minutes at 21C. Apparently you're not supposed to do that. The film's nominal EI was 200, and I rated it at EI 100 simply for the fact of its age. It was Agfa Vista Colour 200, which expired in June 2005. The photograph was made last month, namely May 2012. The colour cast was very great when I removed the film from the fixer so I agitated it for about 15 minutes in a very weak solution of Potassium Ferricyanide bleach which sort of worked, I then re-fixed it. This explains why the grain structure is so soft.
It was made on a £5 charity shop special - a Nikon AF600 point and shoot. I used the Agfa film because it was there and I wanted to test whether the camera was functioning properly. It is.
Stay Gonk my friends (preferably Beat).

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

A Hero Passes By

This is an unusual aside for FB, but here it is nevertheless.
When I was 12 a story I read hit me right between the eyes and nothing was ever going to be the same again.
It was called The Scythe and it was by Mr.Ray Bradbury, who has sadly passed away at the grand old age of 91.
Years earlier I had been astonished at the sight of Captain Ahab lashed to the giant whale in Moby Dick and had never noticed when Ray's name came up as writer of the screenplay.
It took a number of years in those pre-internet days to put the two names together . . .
To say that I am in part a product of Ray's writing would be an understatement.
For a large part of my teenage years I lived and breathed him.
I was a creature borne of mists and ghosts, of open graves and winged creatures shadowing the moon at Halloween. I was an invader; a defender; an innocent and a cold intelligence millenia old. I was Montag; I was Douglas; I was a dinosaur killer; a watcher of terrible unfoldings; a post-nuclear shadow of sorrow enfolded in dank fog. I was all these and more, for in Mr.Bradbury I found a soul mate.
He wrote like the distillation of all my hopes and dreams and fears. Succinct and never rambling, I could count on Ray (in the passing of a couple of pages) to open up my mind and send a shiver of wonder down my back.
It is a puzzle why, as a nation, Britain has never really seemed to be taken with Mr.Bradbury. The man was an American literary giant alongside Hemingway and Steinbeck.
Was it because he was tagged at an early stage in his career as a 'SF' writer? It was a shadow that dogged him all his life. And yet how many stories like these did he write? Precious few. He was by his own admission a fantasist. He dug over the grave earth of moonless nights, and found beauty. He took us to different worlds, both physical and inner.
To myself, aged 12, reading The Scyth on the number 114 bus, he brought together all the elements of all the authors I had been reading (Poe, Romer, Moorcock, LeGuin, Lovecraft) and in a few pages distilled them into a heady brew of wonder, terror and revelation. I loved him for that.
His short stories especially are a pleasure to read and the pleasure is instantaneous and then in a handful of pages they are done and a small seed of wonder has been planted in the reader. They really are incredible works. His novels read like a blanket of maps, pieced and stitched together with great care, to be draped lovingly over your bed when it is just you and the night and your bedside lamp.
And that, sadly, is that. I doubt we'll ever see his like again.
R.I.P. Ray.
I shall leave this now and go and pick up my battered copies of Farenheit 451 and Dandelion Wine and The October Country and The Silver Locusts and go and sit on my porch in Green Town and remember a man who enriched my life.



Friday, June 01, 2012

Infamy, Infamy . . They've All Got It In For Me

A-har me beauties. The teapot of life is overflowing and there's fresh scones on the gridle.
This weekend's tickling of the trout of memory be such a wide-reaching article that it could well change your life, or maybe even your point of view.
Come and join us and get some folk down by the docks as the Goode Shippe FB wends its way into port! 
Hang up some bunting. 
Dress up yer babes in their Sunday best, because when this comes into town, you don't want to be seen to be wanting!
And as for your Your Majesty . . if you fancy comin' and havin' a chat with the Cap'n then feel free, though in truth, the lack of an invitation to the Goode Shippe FogBlog for the flotilla on Sunday was a bit of a let-down.
Never mind . . I've got rigging to mend anyway.


***


A few months ago, I discovered something very interesting about myself.
It was something I genuinely didn't know and it took me by surprise because the thing I discovered was quite big.
Well it seemed quite big to my mind.
Apparently, I was part of a movement.
And it wasn't just any movement like 'moaning old gits vs. society in general', no, I was part of a movement that was named with a rather important word:
Culture.
Not only that, but it was preceded by a weighty word from the 1960's and also hyphenated:
Counter -.
Not only that (as if it wasn't enough) but that world-weary and heavy word was preceded by something even weightier from a far earlier time. A word smelling of cloth and sweat and the adoption of violence for the simple reason that your livelihood was being threatened by change:
Luddite.
But just to make sure that I (and the likes of me) weren't going to smash the servers and chain ourselves to the ping-pong tables at Google, they preceded that with a hyphenated disclaimer:
Neo -.
So there you have it, I, to my surprise, was a member of a 'Neo-Luddite Counter-Culture'!





By this I am being defined as a person who eschews modern gadgetalia in favour of good old fashioned methods. And to an extent this is true, but to an extent (and just because I hate being pigeonholed) I'll beg to differ.
This hankering after a golden age of LED's, and Selenium Light Meters and Gramaphones and Valve [Tube] (and Transistor) driven technology can, as far as I can tell, be traced back to a certain musical movement, that for all its down-at-the-heel appeal and dark thoughts of a future devoid of joy (ok . . nihilism . . . to an extent) still has echoes ringing down towards us - namely: grunge.
If you've never heard of it, then fine - here's a potted history:
Checky shirts; making music for the sake of it rather than for chart powerplays; old and often cheap guitars because that was what you could afford; a feeling for melody and the power of a guitar amplifier; turning your back on the traditional music industry (a bit of anathema that one, because it became an enormous multi-billion dollar behemoth); Seattle.
There, a potted history for you.
The most famous band being Nirvana who you will probably have heard of, but prior to, and alongside them, there were a ton of bands. Here's one of the earlier ones - Mudhoney. Their 'Touch Me, I'm Sick' single predated Nirvana's first SubPop singles club release (Love Buzz) by a number of months.


(You've got to love the look. They could be anyone, and that was the beauty of grunge!)


If I remember rightly from my reading of Guitar Player magazine at the time, there was a word that started to appear like an infestation of fleas. It was quoted with regard to guitar design, and these days  has become so far reaching it is now a by-word for anything that looks or feels old (and by old I mean 1960's and nowdays that has transgressed into the 1970's too) . . careful though, it's dangerous and over-used . . . so dangerous and over-used that I am not sure I should tell you about it . . . oh go on then:
 . . . RETRO.
The savvy guitar companies of the time (ever the drivers of taste believe it or not) were so incredibly sussed that they realised quite quickly that all these kids with dollars to spend, were actively turning their backs on the generic Floyd Rose Tremolo equipped guitar with pointy bouts and spangly colours and were buying instead the likes of Naguahyde covered 1960's surf specials!
It really was something else.
A world packed to the gunnels with cheap and ugly, (sometimes) awful playing and sounding instruments had opened up, and more importantly was being actively sought. Guitars that had languished in the back of pawn shops and cupboards were suddenly dusted down because they harkened back to a golden age of finger-clicking, goatee-ridden, Chelsea-boot-wearing hipster, Way to go Daddio!
Ever wonder why the key films that slopped a massive splurge of homogenised 60's 'cool (Austen Powers) into society at large were made? I can't prove it, but I have to draw a conclusion somewhere . . . it has to be down to guitar design and the search for all things older than the 1980's.
So, thank you Mr.Cobain*, for Kurt's far-seeing use of a Fender Jaguars and Mustangs and old-ish effects pedals started the fairly large moss-covered boulder (that had been sitting at the top of a mountainside) rolling, and checky shirted youths everywhere went in search of something 'retro' to prove how cool they were.
Well-read and intelligent older guitar collectors realised that there was a pretty penny to be made from this yearning for something from rock and roll's golden ages . . . and thus a grasping, lucrative sub-section of guitar collecting was born.**
Actually, you have to admire the guitar makers, because they managed to turn around designs pretty damn quickly, and before you knew it, designers worldwide were using it - 'retro' was being applied to everything from toasters to TVs, haircuts to watches. 
Here's some de-evolution . . .



                   
                       





(To the left a Hamer Scepter from the late 1980's (actually a very well made instrument and typical of the sort of instrument yer average pre-grunge player lusted after) and to the right a collection of Vintage Silvertone guitars from the 1960's . . .David and Goliath anyone?)


But all this is rather drawing aside from my main theme, which is me being a member of a counter-culture. Well, in the same way that the back-turning, and head shaking happened in the field of guitars, slowly, it is happening in photography.
For the general everyday photographer digital and all that that involves rules the day.
Camera manufacturers are selling incredibly high powered computers with bits of glass on the front and whilst that is fine, you only have to look at the rise of 'Lomography' as a by-word for anything made with film to realise that there is a pretty serious depth of feeling in the world for all things of a pre-digital age.
And having  poked away at old and crumby cameras for quite a while now, I kind of feel like one of a semi-elite group of elder statesmen of Neo-Luddite Counter-Culturalists.
I love that actually - it makes me feel important (which I am not in the slightest).
It makes me feel that in using film and old cameras I am somehow bracing up the old world (where people did things with the help of machines) against the new world (where machines seem to do everything for you)!
I can wear my cloth cap with pride Mother.
But tell me lad, is there Trouble at t'Mill? You betcha. Trouble down t'Pit too? Och Aye.
You see, we . . that is you and I dear reader, if you like using film, are dinosaurs.
We are perceived as eccentric.
Pursuers of art in an old-fashioned way.
Upholders of the faith.
Defenders of the realm.
And despite our obvious (ahem) charms, we are now being priced way beyond any sense of reason out of our passionate vocation. It is quickly coming to the point where every roll of film is a definite consideration, and where every frame is a financial burden.
I could happily shoot 2 rolls of 120 film of a weekend . . and that'll be £10 please (unless you hunt around) plus the processing costs. It's a lot of money. 35mm is approx a fiver a roll on average; 5x4" sheet film can vary wildly between 60p a sheet and an eye-watering £1.40-odd for Black and White film . . colour is even more expensive in sheet film. At those prices you are being driven into the arms of the digital behemoths. A point of fact of this is that in 2008 a box of 25 sheets of Ilford Delta 100 5x4" sheet film was £15-£18 on average .  . that self same product in 2012 is now roughly £30-£35 on average. 100% in 4 years is pretty shocking. Certainly my wages haven't risen 100%
Ilford started the ball rolling a couple of years back with claims about the rising price of silver (which it did do, however as everyone who studies the markets knows, commodities prices have a habit of rising and falling faster than a bride's nightie) and what with Kodak's financial troubles and now Fuji following suite, your average Neo-Luddite Counter-Cultural-ist (NLCC-ist for short) is finding the ability to keep the golden age going a real pain in the wallet.
It makes sense doesn't it really.
As a manufacturer, your users of film have dropped to a point where they don't make any money, so what do you do? You increase prices to the point where those that are still left stop using your products altogether!
So why do us NLCC-ists keep going?
It is hard to say really, but could it be (to paraphrase a quote from 'Moonstruck') because we are afraid of death and want to leave a legacy of permanence to the world?
Possibly.
Certainly a few years ago it was realised that there was no guarantee that your digital files of today would become nothing more than tomorrow's anachronism.
At least with a photograph and a negative, you have something tangible which can get chucked in a skip when you have popped your clogs.
It is hard this art stuff.
In my case, a self-financed struggle to make sure you can leave a massive pile of creativity that can get dumped in the landfill of life.
I suppose what I am trying to say is, film manufacturers, please, in the name of all that is good, think of the people who actually use your film. Don't price us out of what we love doing.








I like this photograph. It reminds me of childhood.
A very young Alec Turnips was chucking something in the Kyme Eau on a Summer's day in 2003, and I just happened to catch it at the right moment.
This was made in the days when you could get Ilford SFX for next to nothing.
These days it is nearly £7 a roll and I would never use it again even if I had the money. Sorry Ilford - your films are wonderful and I have used them for years, but they have now entered the realm of ridiculous pricing and I can afford to use them no more.
The camera was an Agfa Synchro-Box *** made between 1949 and 1958 - it has two apertures (one landscape, one portrait) and I like its simplicity. The film was developed in Rodinal.
It has all the attributes of retro which will delight the NLCC-ist:
It is a 6x9cm negative.
The really gnarly lens flare is like Sauron's Eye from the dreaded Lord Of The Rings films
The rollers have imparted heavy scratches to the emulsion.
There is a gradation of tones in the foliage which is nothing short of beautiful.
There.
You feel better for this little tootle into art and culture don't you!
If you are about to head out with an ancient piece of technology, good luck to you and make every image count  -I don't know how long they will let us continue.
I hope the light is with you.
God bless you.


* I have to add to this a that a certain columnist for Guitar Player magazine, a Mr. Tiesco Del Ray was also responsible, but of course not many people will know that, as he didn't have the looks, though he did have the skills, the knowledge and the collection.

** These days it has gone beyond any sense of normalacy as your younger guitar buyer who was but a gleam in a parent's eye when a lot of these monstrosities were created, generally doesn't realise what a bucket of dingo's kidneys they are buying at a massively inflated price when they get enthused about a '1978 Hondo Les Paul - MIJ Retro Cool!' guitar.

*** http://mattsclassiccameras.com/agfa_synchrobox.html