The Summer Project: Back to the Analog 1950’s
Every summer I self assign myself a photo project for my August Tuscan vacation. Sometime in May or June I start to think about what I’m going to do and since I have been going to the same spot for 12 years straight now, in the past I have shot 8×10 landscapes (twice), 4×5 landscapes (and made 4×5 cyanotypes under the Tuscan sun), a study of the Terontola house with a Hassalblad (for a handsome book), Instant Italy (all shot with Fujifilm Instax), Olympus Pen FT half frame, and many digital photographs including Italy Looking Up (shot with the Leica M8.2). The past two years I have enjoyed using the Fujifilm Xpro1 extensively and showed them in this blog.
This year I was in a quandary. I considered doing portraits, but truth be told, the effort to work my Italian subjects is too daunting for a vacation, I enjoy the summer work because it shouldn’t be hard, it should be completely relaxing. Over the years I have set up a primitive darkroom in the back of the house. Primarily for developing film and lately doing contact printing. I always dreamed of having a full force darkroom back there, since I have been darkroom-less in NYC since I arrived.
This week I have read two interesting web pieces about film photography. One about an Indian Photo Club dedicated analog film and the other from an old buddy of mine who has relocated Japan and makes a strong case for shooting film with personal reasons. Both of these musings have these influenced me, they got me thinking. I am not going to drone on and on about the film vs. digital argument. That’s moot, and I have done that already in my article “The Merits of Shooting Film in the Digital World” for F295. What got me was the simple joy of hearing a shutter click, and the feel of advancing film with a lever. Loading film, unloading film, and then loading film onto a reel and putting it into a light proof tank. Mixing chemicals, timing it all, reviewing the exposed negative up to a light, cutting the negative, and then lastly, printing the negative. Working in the dark, holding that finished print in your hands after it has dried. Showing the print off, examining the print and noting how you could have printed it just a little bit better.
It’s simply sublime. There is no substitute for this process. It is the essence of photography; skill, vision, craftsmanship, and art. It’s black and white, it’s subtle, and it’s shadows and highlights dancing on fiber paper. Even as I write this, I’m contemplating bringing the last of my marshals oils and perhaps, doing a little hand coloring!
I fired off an email to my friend Nicola, one member of the triumvirate that is behind Cortona On The Move, a photo festival that occurs in the summer months in Cortona, if he could source me an enlarger. He replied he had a cold light Kodak sitting in storage! Perfect, I love a cold light source, and better yet since the back room of the Terontola house is dusty as the days are long.
So this leads me to the choice of cameras. I have a nice collection, actually I pride myself on my camera collection. Since I’m going back to roots here, I think I’d like to keep it simple and that means lets forego large format. I’m thinking 35mm. And my favorite 35mm camera system I have is my vintage Nikon S2 rangefinder. She’s a beauty right out of 1953. Sexier than a Leica, made like a tank, and unlike the more popular Nikon F system cameras, the S2 is a rangefinder. For lenses I’ll bring the entire collection, which includes; a super duper sharp 50 mm 1.4, a great semi wide 35 mm f 2.5, a sweet portrait shooter 105 mm f 2.0 and then just for fun, a 135mm.
I can’t wait to shoot all day and print all night. So keep Suspect Photography bookmarked and I’ll be posting some classic photography during the rest of August.