Film, Kage stuff... It's Friday.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the passing of Nelson Mandela this morning. On the radio they played an audio excerpt from his 1964 trial that in my mind embodies his entire life, his work and all he came to represent:

I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
— Nelson Mandela

We have indeed lost a giant.

A hodgepodge post on this last day of the week. First off, I have a new KAGE essay up on the site entitled Nude Technicolor Echoes | Verses. Yes, I know that’s both a mouthful and perhaps slightly strange. I do have a few stories in the pipeline of a more traditional documentary nature, but this one veers towards a purely visual/lyrical type of exploration. It was inspired by the work of the amazing Saul Leiter who passed away last week; by his use of colour, translucent materials, the painterly aspect of so many of his images. Essentially I wrote and shot this on impulse, swept away by the many tributes that were published. I shot several images across a couple of days, the text influencing the pictures and vice versa until I felt it made sense, even though I’m perfectly aware it’s rather abstract. It’s another solitary essay, something I did in the studio, thinking about the outside world but locked inside; mixing chemicals in an empty laboratory. Hopefully at least some of what I was feeling comes across.

Another bit of rather important news on the KAGE COLLECTIVE front: we’re hiring. Ok, no not really. But we are looking at adding one or two new members to our group. If you’re interested in joining you can read all the details by clicking the banner below. The deadline for submissions is January 10th.

Thoughts on Film

A couple of months ago I posted an image of a Nikon FE, a camera photographer Robert Boyer had generously sent me along with a roll of Fuji Superia 400. Yesterday I finally picked up the results from the lab.

It’s hard to deny a certain hipster aura surrounding film these days. A lot of it is due to the look of the resulting images of course but also, I believe, to the cultural baggage of the medium, a certain nostalgia, the slower, more thoughtful process of image making possibly being perceived as an antidote to our frenzied lives and smartphone madness. All very good reasons.

Wakingmist has an interview with my former KAGE comrade Paul Pride in which he discusses the reasons behind his decision to not only shoot film but abandon digital entirely. His reasons go way beyond the technical differences of both mediums but I was fascinated by this particular comment:

I found myself choosing not to shoot things.
— Paul Pride

Several years ago I read an interview with a photographer who’s name escapes me, in which he said he shot less images now than he once did. And I distinctly remember thinking to myself “weird”; in my mind, at the time, the more you shot the better were your chances at capturing something worthwhile. But this is true only to a certain extent. Eventually you begin to recognize the actual possibilities and you simply stop “wasting time”. It’s not about suddenly censoring ourselves or refraining from clicking that shutter… It’s just something we have to feel. It’s rather hard to explain really.

Paul’s statement is extremely important and I completely understand how film must’ve driven that point home for him: it’s a physical fact, those 24 frames are it and you simply can’t avoid choosing the moments. It’s part of the entire experience.

For me however, the situation is slightly different. This isn’t to say I’m better in any way, just somewhere else creatively. If Robert had sent me the FE 4 years ago its impact would’ve been insanely more pronounced. I keep repeating that the switch to Fuji slowed me down and this is exactly what I’m talking about: choosing NOT to shoot. I’ve internalized this slowness, this deliberate aspect of photography over the last two years and so, the constraints of film don’t blow my mind, they don’t revolutionize my way of thinking the way they would have before.

The same goes for nailing an image in-camera. Shooting JPEG on the Fujis forced me to work on this and not rely on the capabilities of raw. This was one of my goals when I first purchased the X100 and I think in many ways that camera had the type of impact on me that shooting film would’ve had. Less images, more precision, more thought.

The obvious benefit of casual film shooting is the lack of post-processing: send it in to the lab, pick it up, done. No need to fiddle, no need to choose a look, no need to question where to go with each individual image… It’s all right there, pre-rendered, grain and all. And it looks great — total VSCO treatment built right in ;)

But I like control. I like choosing a direction for each single image, I like asking myself those questions. To this day I still get excited when I feed a card into the computer and begin to play with the images; it’s like painting or sculpting, getting my hands dirty. It’s a step of the process I thoroughly enjoy, however time consuming it may be.

And I like being able to change ISO when I need to (!).

I know Robert sent me the camera with an experimental goal in mind: to get my thoughts on the process and see how I felt about it, but also to see if it would illicit a change of some sort. I HAS made me think. But I can honestly say it won’t alter anything fundamental, for all the reasons cited above, because I was — surprisingly — most of the way there. Yesterday I did a bit of street shooting with the X-Pro1 and 35mm lens; I came back with 18 images on the card. I didn’t shoot everything I saw and I didn’t take ten frames of every subject. In many ways I was shooting as I would’ve shot with a roll of 24. The lessons for me lie in applying the principles and philosophy of film to digital shooting — I can’t think of anything more freeing. I remain convinced that the capabilities of digital, if reined in and not abused, allow me to create a much larger number of worthwhile images in the long run.

That said, I will continue to shoot film in 2014. I’m thinking Tri-X for the next roll. Just for kicks.

I’ll be posting a few of those X-Pro1 images on Sunday… But in the meantime, six shots from that roll of Superia 400 below — Straight out of camera.
Look: it’s still Summer :)

Have a great weekend guys.

Patrick La Roque

laROQUE, 311 Lorncliff, Otterburn Park, Canada