Awkward Encounter

 East from Flagstaff Mountain, Boulder County, Colorado, 1975  ©Robert Adams

"No place is boring, if you've had a good night's sleep and have a pocket full of unexposed film." 
-- Robert Adams

For some reason, I've been drawn to black and white images lately. Maybe it's because I've been fully immersed in color since I started shooting. Maybe I am subconsciously looking for ways to simplify my life, which for the moment feels busier and more complex than usual. Millions of colors vs. none. Binary imagery. Simple. 

I've also been feeling the need to wander and shoot. Flipped through Alec Soth's book From Here to There recently for some inspiration. Ventured through fellow Coloradan Robert Adams' The New Westfrom the Front Range, my own backyard.

I excavated my Hasselblad with it's 80mm lens -- the only Hassy lens I have left. I hadn't picked it up in years. Drove to Denver, bought some 120 film, took a few minutes to remind myself how to spool the film properly, checked the batteries in my meter, got in my car, and started wandering. I drove slowly around the edges of town, doing U-turns and criss-crossing parking lots, eyes searching. I didn't know exactly what I was looking for, but I didn't want to. I've shot this way for years, and I usually find something that works, simply by following the light, and following my instincts.

©Alec Soth

 

The sun was sinking closer to the mountains, and the light, while beautiful, was not shining on anything that was calling to me. Before long, it was getting dark, I started feeling anxious, and some crazy questions starting creeping into my head. Had I lost my ability to shoot film? Would I ever reconnect with my beloved 80mm lens that pretty much carried me from a classroom in art school to a career as a professional? Is the digital train that I'm riding going too fast for me to jump off?

Digital photographers talk about picking up a film camera as being a refreshing experience of renewal and immersion in craft. Slow, deliberate, intentional. It's a different way of shooting, a different process with different results. Magical.

For me, shooting film was awkward and uncomfortable, like running into an old high school friend at the airport, and realizing after a few minutes of conversation that you now have nothing in common except your age. I shot three frames all afternoon, and I drove home in the dark, feeling defeated.

Maybe I need to spend more time with my friend Hasselblad, to get to know him/her again. Take a trip together. Maybe I need to have an idea of what I'm looking for before I go searching. Apparently Mr. Soth keeps a list of things to look for taped to his steering wheel while he drives around: beards, bird watchers, mushroom hunters, etc. That might help. 

Maybe I just need to let go. Worry less about making stuff that has "meaning" and just make stuff. Maybe I'll try to have this conversation again, even though (or, because) I know it will be awkward and uncomfortable.