I spend many hours a day thinking about photography and I can’t say that I’ve come up with a lot of the answers, it seems like the more photographs the more questions pop up and I, I don’t know what I’m doing half of the time but I do feel compelled to keep at it ..
When having this group of photos and together they imply and implying can be just right but this time it isn’t and staring at them for long and less long it becomes obvious that the pieces aren’t falling anywhere near their intended spots but on youtube there are Guiliana and Mehldau to take the attention away, it wasn’t being helpful to begin with, at all, not at all.
I wake up, slowly, it smells autumn. The temperature is low but the sleeping bag is up for the task, I’m not cold. Next to me there is a backpack, the back is ok to carry it, later. Outside the car, it’s the car I had many suns ago, but I won’t be driving it today. I make breakfast, coffee.
The ocean is to the right, the glacier to the left. Somewhere in between is the trail. Or trails, I’ve never been here before so I’m not sure yet.
The camera I put together from old pieces of junk is tested and packed. None of it appears to leaks light. I am hopeful to bring back many souvenirs. Never with me, always ahead.
I tie the shoes. Zip the tent. Start walking. That way.
It’s not here but remote. Untouchable. Interpretation but then, so are images.
As it comes out of the recording device the digital image is sterile. Of course, as soon as it’s visible as an image it has been interpreted, be that by the camera or another interpretation software, but more or less all the default settings default to sterile. So in an attempt to make the digital image come to life, so to speak, we make changes to the settings, tweak the colours away from Adobe’s or the camera maker’s or XRite’s defaults looking for good looking imperfections. Well, I do.
And being the internet photographer that I have become, I invest in plugins and presets and whatnot and use them to chase imperfections that are supposed to imitate a different kind of image. A non–numerical image. Analog. A certain film even or a particular process, ancient or not. Or I might attempt to cough up an imitation myself, from scratch; an RGB curve preset that pushes some blue into the shadows and ever so slight red to the highlights, a hue shift to make the skies less blue and more cyan.. Or something different, as long as it looks like something it isn’t, bonus points if something I can try to convince myself I made on my own.
Then I debate with myself what excactly it is that I’m doing. If I’m forcing the digital image into clothes that don’t fit it, never did, or simply adjusting parameters in order to approach an end results that I like looking at, no drama needed?
I met my former photography professor a few days ago. Asked him if many of his students were still working with analog medium and those who did, what their motives were. His reply; yes, and romance. Then added, that they found the analog image to be a much better looking image. I didn’t disagree. The conversation didn’t last for long, I wish the situation had been different but it wasn’t. I probably wouldn’t have been able to hold one for long anyway, a conversation that is. Digression.
But it spelled out loud and clear how my own relationship to images, digital and not, is indeed dictated by romance. I say this not as if it were a good thing, but perhaps that was obvious? Not that there is anything inherently wrong about a romantic relation to images, only as long as one can work with it. And then, but only then, I feel like it should—indeed—be said as a good thing. But now I’m touching on too many subjects with hardly enough focus for one.
*Then there is the aspect of authenticity. I won’t even try to go there but hadn’t it been for this piece—which made sense when I read it a while ago, much sense—I might have titled this the digital photograph. And although I don’t agree with all it says, we now have this. I’ll leave it at that.
I’m in this valley twice a week, if not more. Normally wearing running shoes, sometimes accompanied by a borrowed dog. It has become a place of significance. So has dog, significant.
One photograph doesn’t describe it, the valley. Of course it doesn’t but then, of course it does, only to a very limited extent. Also, now would be a good time to ask; why describe it, but that’s a digression, for another time perhaps.
It is possible to photograph the valley from above, covering a good part of it in one frame but that’s at a distance, an overview, and somehow disconnected from the place itself.
(Which reminds me that I photograph too much from above, looking outwards, disconnected from the subject.)
Three are alright, five are even better, seven may be just a little too much and eleven most certainly is, it’s not as if this is a very long valley.
Oh, I forgot to mention that they have to be a prime number. Must place the OCD somewhere.
But what if they are ten to begin with, the photographs, and one of them excuses itself fairly easily but then the rest competes for the remaining slots? Fight for them. Nine photos, two too many—if not four—and none of them is about to leave voluntarily.
Also forgot to mention that three of the nine are verticals. Are verticals ok by the way? Or just troublemakers?
It probably would be easiest to simply toss the verticals, then toss one more, end up with five and move on. Forget about this set of photos and how it occupied an insignificant amount of time in april 2020.
But what if one of the verticals really has the essence of the place? One of seven is—yes what is that? Too symmetrical, or not symmetrical enough?
And what’s with the cheesy frames?
Yes, the frames. I sometimes miss my prints since a previous lifetime, now is one of those times. And now that I think of it, I also miss the tiny darkroom and the old Durst and the smell of fixer and where did I hang my films again?
The cheesy frames are a an attempt to imitate how my prints used to look in a previous life. Copied with only one mask in the negative carrier, leaving room for a black border around the photo. The attempt is not successful by the way, but the frames do remind me of this time long gone.
Then every other film was an HP5+, shot at ISO1600 and push–developed in one of the Ilfotecs, can’t remember which. Sometimes nice photos turned up on the contact sheets, it usually had more to do with light than anything else and I didn’t have a clue about light back then. Now I have something that resembles a clue about what makes light good and a much greater tolerance for when it’s bad. Sorry—dull, not bad. Except holes in the sky, which can under no circumstances be forgiven.
Now the HP5s have been replaced, mostly, by a tiny camera since many digital years ago. And the black border from the negative carrier is nowhere in sight, only its imitation.
And even stranger to have been stuck at home with something that resembles an old fashioned cold but these days, who knows?
At least I’m among the lucky ones with a computer and internet and some work that can be done.
Having been indoors for the last few days perhaps the days are stranger than I realize. The media perspective is only so accurate. Wonder how it all looks, I mean feels, when I get out again. Which will be soon, very soon, I hope.
That’s all. Stay healthy.
I have no idea how the image of the rooftops through the trees appears to others, who might have seen it, by coincidence or not. What it might evoke, if anything. How could I? I just know that it brings back memories of one of my least elegant periods to date. Miserable is no overstatement.
Some ok photographs happened though, during the misery, at least they feel right somehow. Almost as if they are tangible, carry a certain substance, something worthwhile, contrary to a lot of the images made since. A lot. In that sense I’m fond of it. Others too. Like the one overlooking the reservoir with the spruce trees in the background and the lone—what was it—birch? And a few more.
Then it’s interesting to note how the memory of where and when a particular image happened becomes a set of filters on top of it. How the image, a recording of a subject of certain shapes and colours, takes on the associations of the circumstances in which it happened. And time. How time makes it kind of blurry and far away without managing to completely wash it off, the set of filters, whatever they might consist of. And that’s ok.
Observation: The 15mm Panny in a vertical position has a horizontal field of view not so unlike the 75mm on the Pentax, horizontally. Then, to imitate the comp while the film awaits processing, all I need to do is crop a 5×4 out of the vertical frame.
Why? Well, and this is a bad answer, the film hasn’t been processed.
As for metering light like this, it remains to be seen how the expired–for–more–than–a–decade–ago Astia takes it.
Stay tuned! (Actually, don’t)
In 2015 my family and I visited Stykkishólmur. I took some photographs. They didn’t turn out any good but one way or the other the place stuck with me. During the time between now and then, the images have somehow confirmed what seems to be the core of my photography; to provide comments on this and that, perspectives, answers perhaps, to questions that didn’t get asked at the time, questions that hadn’t yet reached the surface and possibly never would have hadn’t it been for the photos and their commentaries.
The order here is a bit messed up, but that’s all right. As long as there is movement, some movement.
And Stykkishólmur. In a restless kind of way I wanted to love the place. Restless, not as in not genuine, but hollow. Either way, at the same time I was terrified to risk it, whatever it was, enough to suffocate whatever might have happened hadn’t it been for the fear of reaching for, or out, or..
I do believe it is a lovely, lovable place though. For what it’s worth.
*Stykkishólmur is a village on the Snæfellsnes peninsula in West Iceland.