I DID A TERRIBLE THING YESTERDAY
12:34 A.M/Asheville, North Carolina/J.P. & Amanda Ray’s:
I bought a digital camera. Fully abandoning the dogma of this blog, technically no hours into the road trip.
Eve of move take two, Wednesday night. Insomnia stirs, turn on IPad , look up my lab in L.A., A & I, maybe I’ll mail some 120 on ahead so I have less to…
What the fuck is going on? !
A&I will no longer process E6 film after December 23, 2011
(Any E6 mailers must be used by this deadline )
And the photo on the homepage is of an ex-girlfriend. But that a mere speed bump on way to news I suppose I should have heard but have been in New York for 5 months—that this historic lab has written its epitaph for chrome, has written it off.
The big tote I spent a night packing stuffed with Portra and Polaroid and a fair share of Velvia, Provia, and E100 looms in the dark corner of our almost ex-apartment suddenly like some wanton tease or bloated anachronism. Feel a bit sick inside. Of course there’s another lab who’ll do it, consider even sending stuff back to Luster in New York. But this obviously beside the issue. Film is dying. It simply is. It’s not a matter of if but when. Movies will never ever again be shot with film unless in some reverse Dogme 95 meta referential way. That has happened. Thatis. I panicked. I decided as a backup, nay as an act of submission, I would buy the Olympus EP-3, stick my Summilux 35mm on it and pretend I had an M-9—the price of which seems unjustifiable if not outrageous given the exponential rate at which current technology turns merely quaint.
I have owned my share of point and shoot digital cameras, technically owning an early Coolpix back in ‘97 when erstwhile Detour magazine (redundant) gifted me one to shoot for a spread. I thought it was a pretty fun toy. It and others, from that Coolpix to a point a shoot Leica a few years back, invariably seemed to self-destruct after a couple of months in my hands. And I shelved them unceremoniously. They like cell phones, have absolutely served their purpose—ironically, albeit not aesthetically, similar to the way in which many of us grew up shooting Polaroids—capturing and viewing a moment instantaneously. Polaroid as art was always less the norm. Polaroids were cell phone cameras or in the hands of pros often glorified light meters.
There was something appealing to me about the early look of digital, its low fi futurism. I loved Vinterberg’s Celebration in part because of how shitty the video looked. Wim Wenders experimented with video long before it was chic and longer still before it became the norm—before it caught up and I suppose surpassed the technology that our eyes have apparently outgrown.
It wasn’t really an impulse buy. I had been reading reviews for months. But I could not find anything comparable, certainly not affordable, to my medium format cameras. Nor was I sure what I’d be doing with the camera. I knew for a fact that my shooting fewer frames has improved my photography and more importantly renewed my passion for it after I seemed to acquiesce a few years back and began to retire my Polaroid cameras and my Leica—really until early last year. I kept trying to like these digital cameras I would shoot those monolithic DSLRs friends would lend me and understood the appeal but I simply did not get the same sensation.
I’m not saying in every instance I can tell you whether something is shot on film or digital; the internet makes this a more complicated issue given that everything has been digitized and is being viewed on a screen—though arguably one has a significantly more difficult time telling such a part in print form. (I actually—curiously, proudly? glibly?— comprised my 20 page liner note booklet for the LANDy CD, a record I made, of almost entirely iPhone photos as if to make this point to I’m not sure whom, myself? or perhaps make the reasonabe point that it is the picture not the tool.)
I can say for the most part however I don’t like how it looks and don’t like how it feels. And I really want to. I really do. I wanted to love the Fuji x100 but the infinity focus knob gave me the creeps, moreover because of its desperately analog design. Like a woman you discover is a cyborg, though I suppose that has its appeal. Plus they say the next one will have its kinks worked and I’m not spending over a grand on something that is essentially bridging the gap between my phone and my cameras. I wanted to fucking love digital photography as I passed the small crowd of people in the “film camera” section at the B & H zoo yesterday, and found myself hovering in its warm din, hmmm maybe an RZ67 for the road? And I wanted to as waited among the throngs in the Disneyland Digital line to place my order at the septic conveyor belt of salespeople. I wanted to as as I asked to see this lens and that and pretended that I liked what I saw when I looked at the little video monitor on the back of the camera when really it looked about as good as ’80s porn. Well, maybe with the viewfinder and my 35mm Summilux… I wanted to love it though I could find nary a picture from even M9 groups online that I liked or related to. But that seemed an unfair criteria given I could hardly find a relatable image in the Mamiya 7 groups or the Plaubel Makina groups for that matter. No offense, of course, it’s all subjective. But, guys can shoot some pretty awful film. I mean god bless the photo bloggers and their helpful reviews, I’ve even donated, but have you seen some of their film photos?
Over the course of the next few hours, as we drove, way behind, little time, none, to stop and smell and shoot, I managed to see how perhaps this Olympus could squeeze its way into the gluttonous arsenal that made it impossible for me to bring an extra pair of jeans or Roxanne a sweater (she’s freezing). It was a fun way to preserve memories, perhaps a bit more artful a way, and certainly more tactile then doing such with a cellphone. I even sort of kind of liked the “cross processing” ”art filter” which I have found nearly offensive in the context of Aperture presets. There was something sort of fun about sticking the Leica lens on there in the Village Inn—though I have no clue how to white balance these things and the result is like a tungsten bloodbath.
But there was this one shot, side of the road, freezing, snowing a bit, feeding dogs in lot of gas station: this Xmas season Coca Cola sign ad with fake snow—lying in the grass glazed with barely sticking fresh actual snow. I took a few with the Olympus, didn’t feel like loading fast film and getting a tripod, but ran into the car and got the SLR680 to take the “real” photo of this slightly surreal image using Impossible’s px70, used a flash, and a few minutes and some miles of road later saw that I had nothing, it was shit. Too cold, something, whatever. So, I have the Olympus one. A few in fact.
Problem is, they just remind me of the photo i wanted to take.
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