Monday, December 13, 2010

Travelling Light

This last weekend I returned from a week-long business trip, during which I brought with me a netbook computer with charger and accessory cables, a GPS with accessory cables, and two cell phones (one for work and the other for personal use), both with charger cables. I also brought with me a camera. But, because I was already weighed down with electronica of all sorts, I thought it necessary to compensate, by bringing along a mere film camera; no charger or cables needed. But, no immediately gratifying pictures, either.

I was recently given this point-and-shoot film camera, a Yashica T4 Super, which I loaded with Ilford's FP4 Plus, black and white film. No convenient 1-hour photo lab processing for me, no sir. I won't be able to hold prints in hand until the film is loaded into a developing tank, processed, rinsed, squeegeed, dried, cut into strips and mounted in sleeves, examined over a light table, then the select few choice or promising frames loaded into a Negatrans and projected through my enlarger onto silver gelatin printing paper, which after several test exposures are developed, rinsed, squeegeed and dried.

Whew; sounds like a lot of work. Well, it is time consuming, but it's really not laborious, more a labor of love. What keeps a person like me continuing with this arcane craft is -- other than pure stubbornness -- the promise of real silver prints in hand, a connecting thread from the formative years of photography, through the present, into an indeterminate future, through which a well-processed print should last for centuries.

I keep wondering why this should be of any concern to me, regarding the archivability of my photographs and what happens to them once I'm gone. Perhaps there's a desire to obtain some degree of immortality, or at least notoriety, after passing on. There is also the egoism surrounding the need to gain some fame or recognition for one's efforts, some conformation that what one has achieved has an intrinsic value, of comparative merit to what others of fame or notoriety have achieved.

It is a dangerous thing, this desire or wanting of recognition; it is best laid aside, left to die its own quiet death. The pictures, they remain as a document of what some scene appeared to look like when photographed at a specific place and time; they quietly speak for themselves, better than any words I could add.


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