Adox CMS 20
High contrast, high resolution film used for ultra-fine grain 35mm work with exceptional sharpness. Adotech developer is recommended.
This image was shot with flash, which can be seen in the hard shadows. The quality of light is akin to that in an advertising shoot giving sharp, crisp, black shadows. A combination of flash and slow shutter speeds with some movement of the camera achieved the unique ghosting found in the centre of the image in the highlight. The composition was lit using snoods which accentuated the contrast in the composition.
Eddie and I worked on our first shoot on Saturday. Mixed with excitement, I’d been worrying about it too. While chatting over coffee with a friend the day before I became aware that I was not listening to what she was saying at all, but instead was having a sort of out-of-body experience watching my work being moulded into something I had no control over by someone who didn’t understand it at all. In part, my fears weren’t lessened on arrival at the studio. It was a completely alien environment – commercial and slick – with a VIP lounge for clients, a changing/make up area for models, and a swanky kitchen. I suddenly understood what Eddie meant about photography being directly linked to capitalism and commercial value. My studio is a quiet, contemplative (and slightly grubby) space in which to make work and to explore ideas, but the photography studio is smart, functional and set up for business. A mixture of displacement and near-hypothermia in the freezing studio above Brixton market didn’t make for the most relaxed start to the day.
Three days on and I’m still struggling to say definitively how the day went, other than it being an emotional buffet of highs and lows. Firstly, I had forgotten how frustrating it is working with film. Eddie had sourced some rare and interesting films that give particular results, e.g. specifically made to capture fine lines or subtle shifts in tone. Due to some technical issues with disagreeable analogue cameras, the film was wound back into the canister after only taking a few shots on several occasions. Even worse, after 1.5 hours of shooting something that looked amazing through the viewfinder, it became apparent that the film had not wound on properly and nothing had been recorded at all. Apparently that’s a hazard of working with old or unusual equipment (which made me feel relieved that it wasn’t a hazard of working with me).
It soon became clear that we have to develop a more mutually beneficial working relationship for our next studio session. On Saturday Eddie worked as a kind of intolerant technician, who set up cameras, played loud drum and bass music and then lounged around looking bored while I was losing a battle with malfunctioning technology. We are continuing to learn about our disparate working practices, which we discussed at length at the end of the day. Eddie is used to working in a studio with a list of different set ups to power through in one session, but I operate with a more reflective way of working – responding to what I am making on a more intuitive level and with less of a strict plan. It was hard to mediate our two different working processes and paces without having had a long conversation about it first. Our discussions prior to the shoot had been focused on equipment, ideas and technicalities, but not necessarily how the two of us would work with or around each other. We now have a much better structure in place for our next shoot, and an informed understanding of how to balance roles within the collaboration.
Despite the shortcomings of this first session, we did generate some good material. Eddie has processed some negatives from Saturday’s shoot already and there are some shots that look great, I’m looking forward to seeing the contact sheets when they are ready later this week. Also, as the day went on I felt myself relaxing into the initially intimidating studio set up and was able to find a way of working that I felt comfortable with, which at the same time felt like I was trying new approaches to making work that I wouldn’t have without the (somewhat challenging) presence of Eddie. So far the conversations we have had about our different approaches to making work, how it can be read and how we translate the problems of working together into a successful professional relationship have been very helpful and I feel that they are making me re-evaluate some things about my work and what I habitually waste time and energy worrying about.
More news soon…
I worked in my studio yesterday preparing some of the drawn surfaces that Eddie and I will use in the photography studio next week. The drawings comprise dense layers of graphite, systematically applied to a paper support, which are polished between each layer. By the end of the process the paper is coated in the graphite and has a lustrous, metallic finish. It’s a time consuming and laborious method that results in achy hands and grimy fingers, but the shiny graphite surfaces, which shift visually through different values of greyscale when they are folded and interact with light, are worth the effort they take to produce. These pieces will form the basis of our initial collaborative work and therefore have to be finished in time for our studio session. I’ll need a few more days to prepare for the photography studio, but we are (so far) on schedule and continuing to develop the agenda for our first shoot. Eddie seems to have everything planned from the lighting we need to the film we will use, as well as already having chosen somewhere to eat lunch. Actually, it seems that lunch was the first thing he had organised.
When I saw the images of the work in progress from Charley’s studio I firstly thought, ‘that must take ages’, then I quickly stopped being impressed and instead thought, ‘WHY?’
It’s work that looks like it’s made by a machine, her dedication to making the work is monumental – but she must by 80% robot and only 20% person.
Looks like it’s down to me to add a more human touch.
Amongst other things there are other things, and these things need to be worked out.
The studio is booked and paid for, and we will be shooting in seven days’ time. At the core of Photofusion’s studio tech are the six Bowens Esprit DX flash heads on a high glide system. So…flash over continuous lighting? Having put the word out, I have a serious need for obsolete tungsten balanced, negative and positive film. We also require high contrast line film. In keeping with the modus of any photographic shoot, I’ve got a big lunch planned at Okan specialising in the Osaka street food, okonomiyaki.
So there’s seven working hours on shoot day, split into four parts. There is the potential to shoot up to eight rolls of film, splitting colour from black and white. I need two tungsten balanced films for any reproductions with continuous lighting and two daylight balanced for flash. I need low ISOs and high contrast in terms of black and white. I’m opting for high grain and high contrast for colour. I’m intending to process all black and white films domestically, using hand tanks to achieve the desired lith film contrast.
I acknowledge that our common goals are line and light, and the celluloid that I’ve chosen to use to record our shared endeavours will do so with such clarity and contrast that the negatives will be indelible, with a life expectancy of 500 years*.
*endorsed by the Rochester Institute of Technology, USA
This morning I visited the Mira Schendel exhibition at Tate Modern. I invited Eddie to join me so we could continue to discuss our project. He declined, saying that it’s a mistake to visit exhibitions while making your own work, that you can ‘leave yourself open to influence and lose the ability to think independently’. I ignored him and went anyway, fairly confident that I would still be able to function cognitively afterwards. I spent a long time with some of Schendel’s work, notably with the pieces that touched on issues of language, transparency, mathematics and communication. Her work on paper is often delicate and ephemeral, yet also graphically rich, incorporating the contrasting sensibilities of a monochrome palette and almost-invisible surfaces. Eddie and I had spoken a lot about our ‘common ground’ when we met on Sunday, the things that our disparate practices share. Our key words for the next two weeks and our first session in the studio together are LIGHT and LINE, and Schendel’s exploration of ideas of ‘transparency’ and ‘meaning’ gave me much food for thought in terms of our approaches to articulating light (or ‘seeing’), and our ongoing discussion point of SUBJECT.
When Schendel used letterforms in her work, they were taken out of context, removed from a word or sentence and rotated, repeated, dislocated from meaning. It is possible to see them as abstract forms and enjoy, instead of their literal identification, the subtleties of line thickness, spatial arrangement and form. As shapes within compositions they feel simple and familiar yet are consciously placed with a sophisticated understanding of space and order. Where the works involve empty spaces or transparent materials – a nothingness or void – they are active through their vacuity. I spoke to Eddie on my way home afterwards about how the Schendel exhibition is a good illustration of how subject or investigation could be identified in a work’s formal qualities of line, shape, and exploration of space, and that even when we approach a recognisible element such as a letterform as the starting point for a piece of work, its role in the work can shift and be overwritten with other readings or ways of seeing. We spoke of how subject can perhaps be a more fluid identifier for what happens in our work than we had discussed on Sunday. I’ve given him the Schendel catalogue to look through before our studio session – I hope he doesn’t prove himself right and lose the ability to think independently after seeing it.