Night at the mortuary

Phase One digital.

Phase One digital.

Staff shower at the GRI, UK. Yikes. So what are we doing hunting around a mortuary at night? Taking pictures of course, what did you think we were doing? We see dead people, but no pictures of that/them (today). There are a marked number of unclaimed bodies at mortuaries: it is very sad. Most of them end up as fodder for medical students and necrophiliacs - or medical student necrophiliacs. All for science.

On a less necropsy-oriented note, the Phase One digital file converted to black and white pretty well: nice smooth tones. We were worried about that as many of the black and white conversions we have seen from this digital back have been almost uniformly horrible. We guess it's not the back's fault after all.

Breather

Digital back taking a breather on the focusing track of a Linhof large format technical camera.

Digital back taking a breather on the focusing track of a Linhof large format technical camera.

We need the breather more than the digital back does. We need like six hands to operate the thing. We are still awaiting the graflok adapter so we are basically down to holding the back flush against the film gate. As the sensor is not in perfect registration with the film plane everything is marginally out of focus. We compensate by moving the lens closer to the film back. By trial and error we have the rangefinder aligned to the new infinity focus.

First World cameras in the Third World

Phase One digital

Phase One digital

The great irony is that our film cameras have graduated from slum-dawg, Third World cameras to First World status. That is, only First World photographers shoot film nowadays. Indeed, film photographers have to put up with concerned looks from the masses in the Third World: "Can't you afford a digital camera? They're cheap now." We just sigh sadly and reply that we can't afford those. "Just buy a smartphone", they respond. We admit, "We can't afford those either." Yes, Life is Tough. Others stare at us like we are a new breed of alien cockroach, but then again, it may not have been the camera they were staring at. Oh.

The biggest veiled insult (to us) is when we get the comment from other photographers, "Film is romanticised". Interpretation: "Only wannabe hipster dweebs use film [like you]." Seriously? Go dunk yourselves in a pigsty you digital fascists. 

We shoot film because that's what we've been doing years before most people of this generation were even born. Why change? Do people peer-pressure folks to stop eating Marios's Pizza because a new Chuck-E-Cheese opened down the road? Good grief.

So why do First World photographers shoot film anyway? Some photographers are like we are: old relics who continue doing what they are accustomed to doing. Some are indeed hipsters. Most, however, have the capacity to think for themselves. In other words, 'herd-think' is less common in developed countries. Each individual evaluates herself. What type of person am I? What type of imagery draws me? What photographic process excites me? 

Societies which nurture individuation are the ones where you will find the majority of film users, existing in isolation from a sea of digital users. Unlike what some photographers would have you believe, photography's determinant IS psychology: the psychology of genetics, of culture, of environment, of social pressures, and of the individual. 

No clearer window into the psychology of the mind can be had than by simply looking at the images that that mind made.

Ektachrome days

Old fishing boat, Waterloo, Trinidad. Arca-Swiss 4x5 large format camera, Kodak Ektachrome slide film.

Old fishing boat, Waterloo, Trinidad. Arca-Swiss 4x5 large format camera, Kodak Ektachrome slide film.

A kind of a weird looking picture. We took this one a long, long time ago but we never used it. Presumably, the colours were too bland to include it into the Trinidad Dreamscape galleries. As we're now old and bland we guess this picture warranted another look. 

It is a rather unpredictable experience walking out unto the mud flats at low tide: in some areas one can sink waist deep into quicksand but, for the most part, it's relatively safe to traverse. We walked pretty far out for the shot below with the 4x5 large format camera. It was taken many years after the shot above.

 

4x5 Kodak Ektachrome slide film.

4x5 Kodak Ektachrome slide film.

We have a black and white version of the first picture when we were experimenting with old orthochromatic black and white film. Orthochromatic films require a green filter to help render definition in sea-scape scenes. This type of film was used before the arrival of panchromatic films which reduced sensitivity to blue and green light over orthochromatic film. Orthochromatic film remained popular in Hollywood portrait photography for its rendering of skin tones. 

 

Trinidad's most important photographer...

...is the photographer faithfully recording all things as they are, as they happen. No artifice, no 'I want to be a Magnum photographer' bad black and white digital conversions, no allegory: just plain and simple, "this is what we look like today". 

As the years pass by the mundane photographs of everyday life will rise in importance along with their historical value. The historical value of photographs invariably increases proportionately to their intrinsic ability to portray scenes that can be deemed by experts as authentic - as far as is possible with the photography medium at any rate.

It is with this in mind that we believe that Jason Nicholas Sookermany, otherwise known as 'Jason X', is Trinidad's most important photographer today. That's a Facebook link, so apologies if you don't have a Facebook account (we don't). Jason is providing Trinidad with a valuable archive of the present which shall enable future generations to see into the past.

Good luck in the storm

Storm front on Trinidad's east coast. Rolleiflex, Ilford Delta 100 film.

Storm front on Trinidad's east coast. Rolleiflex, Ilford Delta 100 film.

Good luck to Trinidad with its likely first direct run-in with a potential tropical storm since Alma in 1974. We spoke to a senior colleague at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Trinidad. Thus far (12pm Trinidad time), no emergency protocols have been initiated, no order to place all medical staff on emergency stand-by, no order to limit hospital admissions to emergency cases only. In other words, lackadaisical and irresponsible behaviour in the face of a potential disaster.  

One small example why we packed-up and left. Good luck anyway.

The wall

The wall. Leica M9.

The wall. Leica M9.

This wall, as well as the building it was attached to, now forms part of the seabed. Coastal erosion is a serious problem on Trinidad's east coast. The Dutch have many innovative methods for coastal protection, along with the Japanese, including the use of 'water parks' for recreation and for collecting flood waters in an emergency. In the Netherlands, flood and coastal protection are big business.

How it used to look

Sugarcane trail, central Trinidad, 2007. Canon 10D.

Sugarcane trail, central Trinidad, 2007. Canon 10D.

Unfortunately, this was all wiped out a year later. We can't say that what replaced it was an improvement. While Trinidadians wipe out natural spaces and the countryside, Jamaicans seek to protect their wide open spaces. We have been lucky enough to travel to a lot of countries for work and for other reasons. Sadly, Trinidad ranks at the top of the heap in terms of the most trash-laden and environmentally insensitive country we have seen. Truly a disgrace.

 

Protected countryside, Jamaica.

Protected countryside, Jamaica.

Accessories from bygone days

Once upon a time family pictures would turn out more horribly than they usually would if it were not for the tungsten filter. Back in those days there wasn't any auto-white-balance or even compact fluorescent bulbs. Most everything indoors was shot under tungsten lighting which one either corrected with a tungsten filter or the dim, yellow light was blasted out with daylight-balanced flash. Tungsten filters would eat almost two stops of light necessitating fast film speeds, wide apertures and admonishing subjects to assume the posture of rigor mortis.

 

Olympus OM-2N camera, Fuji NHG negative film, tungsten filter, 1989.

Olympus OM-2N camera, Fuji NHG negative film, tungsten filter, 1989.

Almost thirty years later we still own the same tungsten filter. Most of the time we have no idea what to do with it. Sometimes we contemplate throwing it away. Sometimes, though, we try it out just for fun to see what will happen:

 

Rolleiflex camera, Fujichrome Velvia 50 film, tungsten filter on Mayaro beach, Trinidad.

Rolleiflex camera, Fujichrome Velvia 50 film, tungsten filter on Mayaro beach, Trinidad.

Moonset at Waterloo, Trinidad, 2013. Rolleiflex camera, Fujichrome Velvia 50 film, tungsten filter. 

Moonset at Waterloo, Trinidad, 2013. Rolleiflex camera, Fujichrome Velvia 50 film, tungsten filter. 

So, although technology marches on, marching in one spot for years at a time isn't too bad all of the time. 

Another random

Phase One digital

Phase One digital

Another random picture from the digital back. Yeah, boring, but at least we have the focusing spot-on now after recalibrating the Linhof rangefinder. Now, composing using a wire-frame: that's a whole other story. 

We normally keep camera boxes for digital cameras because we get fed-up with the cameras and sell them on often. The Phase One is no exception. Although the back comes in a nice padded box, we guess the good old days of receiving these backs in a Pelican case have passed.