Remember the days of black and white film?

January 13, 2009

Do you remember the days of black and white film?
Life before digital and the preview screen?
How about shooting one frame per minute?

I have made several trips with U.S. President George W. Bush to his ranch in Crawford, Texas over the last couple of years.

Crawford is a small, sleepy town, population 705, a place where time has seemed to have passed them by. There are no hotels, one small flashing traffic light, and definitely not a Starbucks to be found.

A Holga is a $25 toy, plastic, medium format rangefinder camera with one fixed exposure, and I have been using it for about 7 years. I brought some 120 Tri-x film on a visit when we had a couple days with no planned coverage of the President, just to kill some time and have some fun.
But I realized that a lot of the images that I was trying to make had more of a horizontal look than the traditional square 6×6 images produced by the Holga, and thought they might work better as “sprocket” pix. If you put 35mm film in a Holga, it will expose the entire negative, including the edges numbers and sprocket holes.  I thought it might be an interesting photo project to shoot some views of this town whose notoriety is home of the “Western White House” and the impact his presence would have on their town.
I wanted the images to have an old dusty, historical look to it. And with Bush nearing the end of his presidency, it might be interesting to make a picture package on the town that will probably slip back into its quiet world, probably losing its most famous resident when he retires down the road to Dallas.

Shooting with a Holga is a very patient process. The viewfinder is nowhere near the image you end up with, especially with sprocket photographs. The angle is much wider than it looks, having to correct for the parallax error, mentally blocking out the top and bottom thirds for the 35 mm film….ughhh, never mind, click! F/8 @ 1/100th second. Turn the winder knob 36 clicks, and you are ready for the next frame.
Sometimes that is the best thing to do with a Holga, just trip the shutter and move on. Don’t over analyze it.
It is after all… a toy camera!

But what I love about it is the simplicity of it all. Film, plastic lens, and a black box.  The basics of photography.  It’s not 10 fps, 15 second photo ops, or rocket science for that matter.
The anticipation of the film to come back from the lab days later, getting a loupe and seeing what happened. Isn’t what this is all about? A simple image from a moment in time. Trying to create something from nothing, and having some fun in the process.
If you don’t slow down every now and then, the world just might pass you by…..

Click here to view a slideshow of the images.


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This looks like fun! I really enjoyed your article. The link to the slideshow doesn’t seem to be working.

Posted by Sallie Martin | Report as abusive

Jim, is that YOUR photo used by artist Shepard Fairey for his iconic Obama poster? I have been looking for the source for months now. Please see my blog posts about it: neonroad/2009/01/more_on_the_obama_poste r.html and neonroad/2008/12/post_24.html

thanks, Tom Gralish

Posted by Tom Gralish | Report as abusive

Jim, this is really very, very nice. A great idea, I like it very much!

Posted by Heinz-Peter Bader | Report as abusive

Mr. Young, you’ve taken me back 20 years and proved that the old-time photography (black-and-white, Kodak film) is still the best! Thank you for sharing these beautiful, evocative images.

Posted by Yonina Hall | Report as abusive

Where do you take your film to be developed? If you wanted some printed from the negatives, where do you take them for that? I have several 3 1/4 x 4 1/2 negatives over 60 years old that I want scanned. I can’t find a place to do this yet. Thanks. Jan Humphrey.

Posted by Jan Humphrey | Report as abusive

[…] the subjects are much more at ease and working with the little camera is more fun. Kind of like Jim Young using his Holga, you are never quite sure exactly what you are going to […]

Posted by Web-O-licious The guide to making money living working and playing in cyberspace | Web O Liscious | Report as abusive