01 May 2012

You Know Film, Boy?

Topcon Super RE

Known in the states as the Super D. Bought by the old man in Korea in '70. He didn't like Nikons. They used leather for the film advance mechanism. Topcon used a chain. The camera lens is a hunk of 58mm glass and can open as wide as 1.4 -- Low light with Tri-X? Amazing what it could do.

Was kicked off the year book in '73 for arguing with the head photographer. Told him his Nikon and his pictures sucked. Retreated to dark rooms built by the old man. A bathroom in Hampton, VA. A basement in Colorado Springs. A dream retirement dark room off a Florida room.

Dad designed and built a custom print washer outta plexiglas. Piped stereo in. What felt like an hour was five. Time flew in the dark but we never worked together. I guess we liked being in the dark alone.

At 17, I apprenticed for a photographer who grabbed me in the crotch. Before that happened, I learned to use his 8x10 view camera and Hasselblads. Also learned to print Cibachrome. Man, Cibachrome's brilliant colors and plastic sheen finish was addictive. But not enough to stick around a perv who hailed from one of America's richest banking families.

Broke into the studio during a rain storm late one night. Grabbed a 3 ring binder of my negatives and never went back -- Except a year later. A portrait in my Army khakis and green beret. To prove a point. "Grab my dick now, motherfucker. I'll bite your Adams apple out and spit it in your face." He took the portrait with the 8x10 view and Panatomic 32.

I love film -- Rolling that sweet smell onto a stainless steel reel. You never forget, you know? It's like driving a stick. But no one seems interested in doing that anymore either.


Alice Olive said...

It's the scent of developer solution that I am still fond of.

I remember sessions in the dark room with a former boyfriend (a photographer), rain pelting on the roof of the studio and the sound of film being rolled onto the reels. Wow... that takes me back.

Love the grain in this image, too.

Anonymous said...

Great post Tin. Love the story. It reminds me of the first dark room I used in college in Italy, which was a basement in an old Roman villa.

We would dry film in tin school lockers and move like cat burglars to try to kick up the least amount of dust as possible.

You're right. There is nothing like film, the smell, the hours spent trying to get it right. Some of the best memories I have are of what I didn't shoot.


Sara Frances said...

Ya know, I don't miss chemicals at all. As a young person Elon poisoning was no fun - looked like a bad case of chicken pox all over and the itch was about the same!

As for the itch to create image magic in the tray - that has been supplanted by tricking the computer to do what I want and the new magic of seeing incredible prints come off the giclee printer that sits right on the other side of the room. Repeatable too!

Hallock said...

I miss my stick shift out here in NYC every day — I'm lucky to still have a film camera to use.

openid said...

83 Passat Wagon, V-6, 5-speed stick. Rolls like it did off the showroom floor and accelerates out of corners like a slingshot.

But I never had a mentor for film and no one in the family had a black room so shooting with my Canon Rebel was way too expensive to ever get good at it.

Great post!

Heidi said...

I loved my stick shifts. The last one I had was a Honda Civic Si V-tec which was incredibly fun to drive out West. But it seems impractical to sit in traffic with a stick shift - I know, I guess, because I did it for the first six years I lived in DC. There are times I think of trading in my fancier car but then, every time I think about it, it pilots me across some crack-of-dawn highway toward the airport, or New York, or...or...

randall said...

I don't know about your last line, I bet the guy you apprenticed for is still interested in driving your stick.

Josh R said...

My dad still has his Hasselblad from the 60s when he worked for Pan-Am on Ascension Island "down-range" in the South Atlantic.


Maybe some day he'll let me use it...

Cathleen said...

I used my Dad's Yashika for News Photography class and for working on the school newspaper. I enjoyed it, but didn't have a lot of patience. I took some great photo shoots of my pets. I appreciate the technical part, but I was more about the composition. I don't like being told what to do, and, as a result, was not a fan of my photo editor either. I lazed around and used the darkroom.