Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Crappy Snaps

It's a splendid thing that kids have embraced film for stills. They love it. And the trendiness of the medium ensures that one more generation will be properly aware of the physicality of photography.

One inevitable drawback at the beginning of any photographer's use of film, the learning days, is that one or several frames on each roll may be blank or fogged. When there was only film, all the processing shops, particularly the high street ones, knew this, and charged per print. If you had a blank frame, you didn't pay for a print of it (although some unscrupulous operations would try this one on).

However, if a kid takes the 120 roll from his Diana into Snappy Snaps, about the only high street print shop left, he will be told that he has to pay for a print of every frame, whether it's been exposed or not. Even more curiously, if the film turns out to be completely blank (forgotten to take the lens cap off?) they will generously only charge just over 2 quid. If it has exposed images on it, the developing alone will cost around 9 quid. The cost to them has been the same, properly exposed or not. If you want prints (see above) it's around 15 quid.

All this will do is tell the kids that they've unwittingly taken up a very expensive hobby, and send them back to their point-and-shoot digitals. It's as if Crappy Snaps want to look cool but can't be bothered to do the work associated with it.

Monday, 12 September 2011

New Prune

Going for a walk at the Hermitage is synonymous with exposing a frame or two, but this time the Nikon was spitting incomprehensible error numbers at me and the Fuji's battery was flat; its charger has not yet found a safe place to travel and so had been left behind.

I walked without a camera and saw a hundred and one shots I would have liked to take. The time of year is fast approaching when it's unwise to be without a camera at any moment: the sun sinks lower, giving off warmer colour and more interesting shadows, the trees put on their gold and bronze while opening their curtains. The landscape changes shape and colour, the smells change.

There was no frustration in the process, rather, a calm excitement. Reminders of unfinished business (anything to do with landscape is always unfinished) were everywhere. Some could stay unfinished (I no longer think that that an extended panorama, electronic or rolled-up-print, of the brook would be of any interest to either myself or anyone else) and some could be happily welcomed back (reflections of sunlight off the surface into dark corners come back into their own as the sun dips and glows).

Above all, it was an almost-forgotten pleasure just to look. Capture, in its usual form, was not there to halt the process. I do retain two of the potential images in my mind's gallery. This will become a problem at some future moment when the image continues to burn brightly long after I have forgotten that I never actually took the picture. I will search my hard drives high and low for it and in the process will accidentally discover taken images which I had forgotten. These will either be rescued from the darkness of the archive or will lead to new photographic forays. Whichever, the act of not taking photographs on one day will certainly lead to more and better on another. It's like pruning, cutting back growth in order to encourage more.

I shall take more pruning walks in the future.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

old chestnuts in spring?

In the park today I came across these two objects, lying in the middle of the path, with no sign of an owner.

They had prompted a series of super-fast movies in my head, detailing alternative possibilities for the story connected to the shoe and the sock. I noticed that others appeared to be doing the same thing and so began to photograph their reactions.

Not everyone noticed them.

Then I stopped, because the thought that had entered my head seemed more pressing than making the pictures.

What if it had been me who put them there?

It's a very similar question to the one that landscape photographers ask themselves: if I move that branch out of the way, am I somehow cheating?

And then I became cross with myself, because it seemed as if I was making the same mistake as the viewer who says "Ah! But you've used Photoshop on that" as if there were some contract that comes with every camera, stipulating that all pictures made with the machinery must be a 100% honest and accurate record of what was there.

I suspect that, if I had put the shoe and sock there, I would have felt a duty to show deliberately some kind of knowingness in the images. Photographers like Gregory Crewdson have made careers out of single questions such as this, questions which non-photographers regard with deep suspicion and at which photographers groan inwardly. It seems a simple enough question but it isn't.