Create: Analog Throwback

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Sweet Jesus. Cross-processed Fuji 100f from the Ace of Spades at Salton Sea. As they say, all good things come to an end. Oh, and 645 format no less. Pentax. With its BEAUTIFUL full rebate data collection offering. Man do I miss those days. I really do.

I had a long call with an old friend yesterday. We spoke about the wasteland of modern photography and the stupidity of things like social media and the snowflakes of today. We also spoke about the harshness of our photographic upbringing. The things we saw and heard that today would be career-ending events but back then were no more than an average Tuesday. (Some of these are so classic they make me giddy.)

But we also spoke about the good. The purity if you will although not in the classic sense. There was nothing pure about us, or our intentions. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. We were all selfish and driven. Master manipulators. As humans were were just as flawed as the snowflakes of today but the photography was very different. For the vast majority of what you did there was no prize.

Days, weeks, months of just wandering with camera while attempting to compile something good. I remember everything about this day. Pre-Instagram destruction of places like Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain, Slab City all of which now live on the “Hipster Trail” from Silverlake to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree. Perhaps existing now more for the like button than for any other reason. My Honda Civic pushed as I drove quadrant after quadrant often just to see where the pages of my paper map came to an end.

Back then it was just about seeking something. Maybe, if lucky, a few weeks or months later you would see a confidant, “Hey, what do you think of this work?” But most of the time it was about being alone with the thoughts in your head and the negs reflecting back from the light. And the key element was TIME. There was ample time.

This film, gone. Most of the processing lines, gone. The location, gone. This camera, gone. (For me.)But the idea of what we once had has only been hiding. Under layers of faux busy and phony importance. I don’t expect any returns. Nor do I think those days were better, only different. But we can LEARN from these times. Deep breath. Phones down. Needy inner child napping.

Comments 17

  1. oh my. ‘hipster trail’ just made me spit smoothie all over my keyboard. many good times in the truck out around salvation, slab mountain and up into anza.

    btw, i still have my mamiya 645AFD (with a polaroid back!) and guess what’s in the fridge? 10 rolls of velvia 100F and 10 rolls of provia 100….

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      What are you waiting for. The Hipster Trail is real. IGr’s all over standing in the exact same locations checking off the exact same spots. It’s very, very odd but rampant. Silverlake to Palm Springs to Salton to Salvation to Slab to Joshua and back to Silverlake. All identical IG feeds.

  2. That’s a nice read to wake up to this morning, thanks Dan.
    I am all in on photography at the moment. Eat, sleep, and breathing it. I have bulk rolls of film stacking up, boxes of prints stacking up, I’m shooting all day, printing until the early hours of the morning. I took two camera bodies around my neck to my sons school parent teacher meeting for gods sake! It’s the last thing I think about before sleeping, it’s the first thing I think about when I wake up, If I’m not making pictures or printing then I’m reading photo books. I have been carrying Magnums Contact Sheets book around with me all week, it weighs a ton! It’s like a drug and I can’t stop.

    1. HAHA great story that! a truely fabulous lifestyle that! I have the Magnum Contacts book here, and am in the middle of reading it – carrying it around is a level of commitment I find remarkable! Great book, couldn’t agree more! I just walked 10kms across Berlin to get new stock of Ilford MG Paper, for the darkroom that never sleeps.

      Dan – nice surprise post that, once again…

    2. It is a great book. I love seeing master photographers contact sheets. The thing is with that book, most of the images that were not selected are just as good as the ones that were selected!

      The more I study and practice photography the more I realize how little I know!

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      Ya, you have the sickness. It’s over for you. At least for the next thirty years. But after that you should be fine. That is a great book.

  3. I’m really not sure why I favour film. I’ve been a working photographer for 40 years, half of which was transparencies and half digital.
    I’m at the end of my career now with fewer commissions, the people you’ve always worked for have since retired or made redundant. I’m now trying to find the kind of passion for ‘my photography’ I had back when I was 18. When I take pictures for myself, I use my Nikon FM I’ve had since I was 16 and shoot only Tri x and dev in D76. The predictability of digital leaves me cold and just doesn’t nourish the creative soul like celluloid does.
    I’m in London and I’m not familiar with the hipster trails you speak of but I know exactly what you mean. Instagram … is it short for instant gratification? Or just the need for it?

    1. IG = instant gratification ?!?!? OMG how obvious is that and why did I never see that? Reminds me, why I quit IG 5 years ago, though and makes me wonder if joining again last year was so wise… Either way – Nikon FM in London… is definitely the way for the return to the sources. I have had a similar 50/50 career of slides and digital, and am currently successfully getting back to my origins by the means of an F3 and an M6.

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      You are not alone. And what photography meant at one point in our lives may or may not stay with us. It might take a revisit, as you are doing. I love film as well. Logistically, at least with what is on my plate and where my plate is, isn’t doable. But I dream of a long-term film project at some point.

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  4. Hi Stephan,
    I left ‘IG” a while ago, in fact I was so dismissive of it that I barely ever posted, it felt so futile. I also find it lazy of commissioning editors to search instagram for photographers, what happened to going in with your book?
    I envy your access to the dark. I used to use shared rooms in a photo club here in London but it’s now closed due to Covid.
    I have managed though to get a halfway decent system going by developing at home, scanning and printing via my old Epson 2880.
    works well but never a silver print!

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      There are a lot of barely qualified people working these days and they have unreal pressure on them to do more with less and quicker. This does not bode well for the future of commercial photography. It’s sad and frankly lame from every angle but it is the new norm and photogs play along.

  5. Dan,
    Yup, you’re quite right. It’s not their fault, it’s in part due to the general lack of discrimination on what is acceptable and what is not.
    Before the internet, we only saw photographs in magazines, brochures, newspapers and billboards, all of which had been commissioned by a picture editor art director, shot by a photographer, usually specialising and the design by a designer. Now, we see a thousand iphone shots before lunch…….we can no longer see the wood for the trees!

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