Archive for April, 2007
At a recent party, I ran into an interesting couple with amazing faces. I asked if they would mind me photographing them for a portraiture assignment on “groups.”
In trying to come up with an idea to somehow show the striking features of their faces and also some aspect of them as a couple, I came up with this view from above. The initial thought was that their arms would form a square around the shape of the film’s frame, but in the natural movement of their hands and arms they formed shapes that were much more pleasing and spontaneous.
In my search for information on the reclamation of mines I ran into the “Strip Mine Operators Handbook.” With its black letters and yellow flimsy cover, the appearance of the book could pass as “Strip Mining for Dummies.” As for information, it’s a gold mine of material on regulations set by the state of Ohio on mine operators and the expectations they have of the companies to follow the rules. What they do with the information from there is something I hope to explore in my documentary. The above illustration is a suggestion on the best way to return the land in order to prevent soil erosion.
There are some who will say, ” I told you so,” and hug their boxes of negatives at what I’m about to write, so first I must declare my admiration for the invention of digital photography.
The ability to capture images on a digital medium and have immediate access to these moments is undeniably the biggest change in the field of photography since color film. It might be the biggest change since the 35mm camera. Photography and humanity can only benefit from this amazing innovation. I have seen digital transform OK photographers into GOOD photographers quicker and in ways film could never.
With that said, I have begun using film for a project on the return of the natural world to former sites of coalmines. Initially my nostalgia for film was just to break the habit of rushing through the image making process. There’s something about working in digital, as with most aspects of modern life, that creates a tendency to rrrrrush, hhhhhurry and/or blink through the world. Film reintroduced me to the beautiful but fleeting element of surprise and the Buddhist-like patience that comes along with capturing it.
When working with this particular camera, I have 12 images per roll of film. Pushing the shutter is like waiting for the right time to say goodbye to a friend. There’s an intensity to the moment and a tension in the pressing of the release that’s like the first step off a tall cliff. Being able to relax, breathe and clearly see is a practice in the Zen of Photography.
Using film for this project is rarely a matter of catching a moment. What I have started to document is not necessarily fleeting. It’s almost waiting for me. Film in this instance is a reminder and lesson. In not knowing if I’ve captured something until I see the film, I’m left with the forgotten element of surprise.