Over the past few years, I have held back on experimenting more with my photography and writing, partially because I’ve been afraid to share my failures or “work-in-progress” with anyone at all.
So I finally decide to use this blog to do more experiments, to fail more fully, and to be more honest with myself.
I want to experiment with film photography, street photography, and landscapes. I am aware that all the great libraries and galleries of the world have yawned themselves to sleep with the type of work I will be creating and sharing here; but I don’t want that to stop me from trying.
Now that that’s all out of the way, let’s get down to business.
I used to think that the whole “film vs digital” argument was a moot point— digital is faster, sharper, cheaper, easier, reliable, sustainable, and consistent. Film, on the other hand is time-consuming, expensive, inconsistent, and to a certain degree, anxiety inducing in that one is always worried if the image turned out right.
But a few months ago, I bought my first pack of medium format film and fell head over heels in love with it. The entire experience of shooting film is something else entirely. Photographs aren’t made on a group of pixels neatly arrayed on a silicon chip as a series of 0s and 1s, they are made on thin strip of gelatin coated with randomly placed silver crystals that have spent their entire life in darkness. You can’t just plug the images into a card reader, you have to wash them, prepare them to withstand the light.
So the result is a lot more unpredictable and organic. It is random, which is something computers can never truly be.
That is not to say I won’t be taking digital images; I love digital too, and will continue using it for commercial projects and personal projects alike. I just think that film can inspire in a way digital can not.
Ilford Panchromatic F 50
The first three images I want to share are abstract images shot using an Ilford Pan F 50 Film. From a little online research, I have learned that this film, while it has a finer grain, isn’t as sharp as Ilford’s Delta 100. This came as a surprise, because I used to think that the slower a film is, the sharper it would be (because of the finer grain), but apparently, fine grain doesn’t necessarily translate to sharpness.
Which brings me to my next point — none of the scans have produced tack sharp images. I am not sure if it’s because I didn’t focus image properly, or if the fault lies in the negatives themselves, or whether something went wrong during the scanning. Don’t get me wrong, I really likes the added blur in these images. I just want to be able to control it.
I quite like how these images turned out. I feel as if black and white is very conducive to abstract photography— it simplifies everything into shapes, patterns and rhythms that allow one to blur the line between reality and fiction.
One can see this abstraction in the first image. In Abstract One, its not immediately apparent what we are looking at. The grain in the images, and the blurry nature of the film seems to add a certain nostalgia and timelessness. That said, I think that there is a certain weakness in the composition. The image seems too weighted on the left side, and given the square format, it just adds to the anxiety. I also don’t know how to feel about the leaves peeking out just a little bit from darkness. On the hand, I like that they are something that you can barely see, while on the other hand I feel like they are avoidable clutter that don’t add anything to the image.
In comparison, I quite love Abstract Two. It is simple in composition, and I really like how the top half mirrors the bottom half. Things are being muddled together. The juxtaposition of the hard with the soft adds just the right amount of tension to the image. I used a long lens to capture the image, which in retrospect was the right choice because it flattens the space even further. There is something curious and mysterious about it.
In Abstract Three I love the repetition and the way the shadows are falling. The brightness juxtaposed with the darkness makes me sense the bright afternoon light. Like Abstract One, I am not sure how I feel about the tree jutting out of the rock. I want to feel harmony in this photo, but the branch seems to disrupt it. The empty space on the top left also bothers me. I wish I composed it to fill the space with more rocks.
Technicalities aside, what do you think these pictures are trying to say? Divorcing them from me as an artist, I think there is a sadness to the images. I feel that the images are about how growth, decay, and timelessness, co-exist in the same space. They make me miss my family.
I want to print these images. I don’t think they would look good on shiny paper at all, but I thin they could work well in a rag paper. They need to have a handmade quality about them, a certain imperfection in order to work as prints.