Slowing Down

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Canon Elan 7E / fall / Film / Fujicolor Industrial 400 / Fujicolor Superia Premium 400 / japan / outdoors / travel
Boots of a pruner at Kenroku-en in Kanazawa

Kenroku-en (兼六園), Kanazawa. Fuji Industrial “Gyoumu” 400

"Swimming Pool" by Leandro Erlich at 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanzawa

Leandro Erlich’s “Swimming Pool” – 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanzawa. Fuji Industrial “Gyoumu” 400

Public toilet in Kyoto

Street toilet, Kyoto. Fuji Superia Premium 400

Abandoned van in the forest, Yamanobe-no-Michi, Japan

Abandoned van, Yamanobe-no-Michi. Fuji Superia Premium 400

Camera: Canon Elan 7E
Film: Fuji Industrial 400 + Superia Premium 400
Lab: Triple D Minilab, Singapore

Little Red Dot

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AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 / Canon 300X / Canon Elan 7E / CineStill 800T / Film / Fujicolor Superia X-TRA 400 / singapore
Patchwork road, Singapore

Cinestill 800 + Elan 7E

Singapore, 23-32 degrees

Agfa Vista Plus 200 + Contax 159mm

Shot through a bus window: Sloped HDBs, Singapore

Superia 400 + Canon 300X/Rebel T2

What is it about this place that saps the spirit?

Is it the heat and humidity? The fast pace of life, the efficiency, the commodification of creative content?

The pleonastic ‘free gift,’ the sense of entitlement, the offense often taken?

The less-than-subtle flavoring indicative of a lack of natural resources?

The lack of solitude, anonymity, and space?

There’s balm/fuel, of course: Access to an enormous collection of books at the public libary. The occasional stirring film, concert, performance, or exhibit. Plus, that very efficiency will get you out of the country smoothly.

Work may consume me when I’m here, but I’m fortunate to have the flexibility to take a portion of my duties on the road (though ironically I’m currently working on automating certain processes).

The road calls. It isn’t adventure and spontaneity I seek, but a shift in environment, conversations with like-minded people or long-time friends, and above all, the space for reflection.

Processed + scanned by Triple D MiniLab

Serious little faces, shot on expired Fuji Natura 1600

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Canon Elan 7E / Film / Fuji Natura 1600 / kids

Noémie – Canon Elan 7E, expired Fuji Natura 1600

Serious little face – expired Fuji Natura 1600

Canon Elan 7E, expired Fuji Natura 1600

Noémie – Canon Elan 7E, expired Fuji Natura 1600

Above: Canon Elan 7E + lightly expired Fuji Natura 1600, shot at box speed.

Hmm. What happened here?

I needed film to shoot indoors at my niece’s birthday party, and Fuji Natura 1600 seemed like the best color option I had on hand. The rolls had expired by two months at most, and had lived alternately in my fridge and freezer since their purchase. But now I’m wondering how many x-ray machines they might have passed through. In retrospect, I would have rated them at 800.

I’ve misplaced my negatives, but it’s clear that I underexposed these images, and that they were soft in focus. The lab had to work with both of these things, and decided to sharpen them – hence the noise, which is most certainly not grain. Note that these images are from my second set of scans; the first set – from Triple D – had more color definition, but were sharpened to the point of severity.

In any case, mea culpa. I’ve got to be more organized with my film stash, and I’ve got to keep basic/reliable color film on hand. I don’t regret shooting active kids on film, or even trying out an unfamiliar film (that’s expired, at that) – but I should have shot one roll, not two.

In situations where I’m likely to rush shots, I might as well go digital for a greater margin of error. But these days, I find that shooting digital on a casual basis is somewhat like reading on a Kindle: it’s convenient, but the pleasure is fleeting; my brain is oh-so-likely to forget what it’s captured.

Processed by Triple D MiniLab, scanned by Yodobashi Camera, Tokyo

Serious little faces, Part 1

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Canon Elan 7E / Film / Fujicolor Industrial 400 / kids / portraits

Serious little face – Fuji Industrial 400
Serious little face – Fuji Industrial 400
Serious little face – Fuji Industrial 400
Above: Canon Elan 7E + Fuji Industrial “Gyoumu” 400

Toddlers make interesting subjects. They lack the muscle control to escape swoops from adults but possess the energy and persistence to wriggle out of their clutches. They’re curious explorers on the move, but sometimes they focus so intently on one task or motion – who doesn’t love ripping paper? – and then all of a sudden they space out, get lost in their own worlds. And when they become aware of a camera pointed at them, they don’t stiffen in the same self-conscious way that older humans do; they stare.

I shot these photos at my niece’s birthday party last year. I knew I’d be obliged to take some posed group-with-cake shots, so I brought along my digital camera, which is a rather good idea when you sit a one-year-old in front of a cake…

Cake foot. Canon 7D + VSCO.
Cake toes. Canon 7D + VSCO.
Bao mouth. Canon 7D + VSCO.
Birthday cake. 7D + VSCO.

Above: Canon EOS 7D + Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 + VSCO

Meanwhile, the older children ignored me and my cameras. They drew pictures, puffed into skinny balloons, and – once they’d eaten some cake – flailed about to a synthesized “Happy Birthday.”

I rewound a roll of film, unloaded it, and looked up. Three little pairs of furrowed brows were toddling towards me. Three serious little faces peered as I reloaded my cameras and put away my exposed film. Wingwoman/man, where are you?

Camera: Canon Elan 7E
Film: Fuji Industrial 400
Lab: Yodobashi Camera, Tokyo

Creative Fuel: Carol + Saul Leiter’s Early Color

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Color / creative fuel / Film

Looking Up: London, Portra 400 VC

Weeds, Portra 400 VC

Window, NYC – Canon T2i
Top images
: Scans from 2011. London, shot on a borrowed Leica M6 + 28mm f/2.8 + Portra 400 VC
Bottom image: NYC, 2013. Shot on a Canon T2i + 50mm f/1.8

Recently ingested

* Carol

I feared it would be self-indulgent and sentimental, or that the characters would be melodramatic. As it turns out, I stumbled out of the cinema relieved that I’d be spending the rest of the evening alone. Shot on Super 16 and scored by Carter Burwell (whose work was the highlight of Fur), Carol is at once lush and muted, cool and warm. For the most part, the dialogue remains deliciously restrained. The movie is, as Peter Bradshaw says, intoxicating and “creamily sensuous.”

And there was an unexpected treat:

Therese holds the Argus C3.

Image via The Weinstein Company

Above: Therese holds an Argus C3, a rangefinder nicknamed “The Brick.” It was introduced in the late 1930s and mass-produced in Ann Arbor. Jimmy Carter used one. Lots of people did: it was accessible, a lower-end model – “some chintzy camera,” as Therese’s boyfriend puts it.

With her Argus C3, Therese shoots “Trees. Birds. Windows. Anything, really.” Anything, that is, except people. In a telling scene with Dannie, an aspiring writer who works at the New York Times, Therese picks up a large format camera and raises it to her eye. Dannie looks up to meet her gaze. She lowers the camera immediately, then admits, “I feel strange, I think… taking pictures of people. It feels like – an intrusion…”

When we next see Therese raise a camera to her eye, she is capturing Carol. It’s an act of physics, so to speak: she has an affinity for, an attraction to Carol. The action indicates, too, that Therese is beginning to learn who she is and what she wants. As cinematographer Edward Lachman points out, she is “becoming in focus of who her person is…what her outlook is of life.”

Further reading:

* Edward Lachman on the film’s photographic influences, Therese as photographer, shooting in Super 16, and other cinematographic considerations (Kristopher Tapley for Variety);

* Phyllis Nagy’s screenplay – adapted from The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith;

Behind Carol: Photographers who influenced the film (Anna Leszkiewicz for the New Statesman);

* Carol: the official website;

* A profile of the Argus C3 (via Camerapedia).

* Early Color – Saul Leiter

Saul Leiter, Early Color

Saul Leiter – Early Color (Steidl, 2006)

A necessary companion piece to Carol, this stunning monograph highlights the early color work of an artist who gained recognition for his photographs rather late in life. Though the first edition of  Early Color was published in 2006, the photos were shot between 1948 and 1960, largely in New York, where Leiter remained until his death in 2013.

Saul Leiter – Taxi, 1957

Saul Leiter – Taxi, 1957

Martin Harrison’s text provides an exciting framework for observing Leiter’s work. Harrison underscores the relative rarity of shooting in color in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when color film was deemed vulgar – “an artifice, a cosmetic” in Roland Barthes’s words; it was, after all, mainly used for advertisements and in magazines. Harrison writes:

“Leiter was faced with two additional problems: not only was the cost of laboratory prints exorbitant, but the exact chemistry of the color process placed limitations on creative control of the final image which acted as a further disincentive. Yet he found ways to circumvent these restrictions – exploiting the color distortions inherent in outdated film stock and embracing the unpredictable color rendition in emulsions available from some of the smaller manufacturers.”

Indeed, there is much to admire in Early Color. “Rather than imposing himself on situations he seeps, unobtrusively, into life’s unfolding dramas,” writes Harrison.

Saul Leiter – Reflection, 1958

Saul Leiter – Reflection, 1958

Saul Leiter – Shopper, 1953

Saul Leiter – Shopper, 1953

As far as street photography goes, this is my bag. It isn’t merely Leiter’s “openness to the accidental” and “willingness to forgo the photographer’s legendary control” that draw me in; it is also his quiet manner, his reflective mode, which give rise to images that conceal and reveal across abstract surfaces and intersecting planes.


Online gallery (via The Guardian);

* Other Saul Leiter monographs published by Steidl: Early Black and White (2009) + In My Room (forthcoming)

Obituary: 1923-2013 (Teju Cole for The New Yorker);

In No Great Hurry: 13 Lessons in Life with Saul Leiter – a documentary by Tomas Leach. (Also available for rent via Amazon).