Sundays in Berlin

I have been in a photo studio (of sorts) with friends and I had the grandest of times. The idea was everyone takes pictures of everyone else. Now I don’t know what you like doing with your Sundays, but I can absolutely recommend that basic recipe/theme party/extravaganza – in case you’re bored and have the keys to an old empty industrial building of some sort.

this sort, preferably

Result? Results! Though we explicitly didn’t do it for the results. But things turned out surprisingly well, really. It wasn’t all killer of course, but I really love some of them. I am a bit proud about that, though it feels weird to write that. Happy! Happy is nice and noncommittal (but actually: proud).

(shared with permission obviously)

(1920 Kodak 1A Special, Ilford Delta 3200)
very dark
(1932 Rolleiflex, underexposed Delta 3200)
just dark
(1932 Rolleiflex, underexposed Delta 3200)
the singer or the song
(1953 Contax IIIa, Ilford HP5+)

It’s unclear to me how much of these pictures is really my work, and how much is the model (and location, to a degree). Intuitively I’d say it’s 99% model, with some lighting help from the universe. But for the ones taken of me I’d tend to say it’s 99% photographer – now that can’t both be true, so I guess my only headway on that question is that my intuition is fucked.

Here’s some my friend took of me, that I just find magnificent:

this is so simple but I just love it
hands (some of them not mine)
narcissism yes, but this sort of pose just works for me, me thinks

And I learned things! I took too many cameras and too little film. Also I somehow immediately forgot everything I had planned to try out (except one double exposure thing which I completely fucked up by doing a triple exposure by accident – ahem). Think I’ll actually have to make a list next time. And give most things more than one shot.

this wasn’t even all the gear

It’s sometimes a bit overstated, I think, how difficult to use these old cameras are. Most of the ones I have would be the professional press photographer’s choice in their respective era. They are somewhat weird by modern standards but, for example, 1932 (the year my Rolleiflex at the bottom of the previous picture was made) wasn’t exactly the beginning of photography. A lot of thought went into the ergonomics of these machines. What I’m saying is – each one of these alone is actually pretty comfortable and easy to use.

The problems do start, however, when you have four of them and they’re all different and you have to switch between them somewhat rapidly. I didn’t make huge mistakes per se, but it does take a lot of mental energy that should probably be spent elsewhere (model instructions maybe? who needs that…).

The fact that I can’t see any results while shooting also doesn’t help much. I did try and think about what I’m doing and why – but there’s only so much you can visualize in your head when you’ve never shot pictures of nude people before. I like how things turned out, but I wished I would’ve known a bit more about how they’ll turn out at the time of shooting. Did some series that went absolutely nowhere, which I did not suspect at the time. I hope I can pre-visualize it all a bit better next time.

Things move a bit faster with humans than with, say, trees. Even with amazingly well-meaning and patient humans like in this case. That’s not so super surprising but it’s still a bit challenging in the moment. Because the moment is gone – did you get the shot – I don’t know – should we go back – I… don’t know – well let’s try this – etc.

Also: auto-focus would be really helpful sometimes. Auto-exposure I think I can live without in these studio conditions – I had the exposure dialed in at the beginning and then just left it at that and hoped for the best. The best, it turns out, was that I had the Contax set up to a slight overexposure, the Rolleiflex to severe underexposure, but the 1920 Kodak was spot on!

not part of the official program

I did display other signs of professionalism, like not really communicating what I wanted – mostly because I didn’t know what I wanted but also because I was somewhat occupied in my fight with old machinery and nervousness. And there were too many cameras and too little mild drugs to help with either problem. I opened the back of the Contax half-way through rewinding which destroyed a couple of shots. The good ones, of course – the slightly awkward first ten survived intact.

One of those that wasn’t quite what I wanted though what exactly I wanted remains a mystery even to me. I’ll have to try this again.

Though I do think one always has to leave a bit of space for the universe to add things – I just do that with small gaps in competency and/or concentration. That works pretty well so far. It’s a “60% of the time it works all the time” kind of deal.

Anyway, I hope I’ll have the chance to be doing this again. It felt very much like learning something totally new.

Until then: back to trees 🙂

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