I got my slides back from the lab last week. I don’t know why I hesitated to send them all there (AG Photo Lab in Birmingham, UK) even after the roll I sent to test them out came back as it should. Without faults. I was afraid of the possibility of something having broken in my camera and the photos having been ruined. Or that I would have shot blank frames for some bizarre reason. Or that they would get lost in the post. Or…
There are a few shots that I have to take again which have been over-exposed. I have underestimated the impact of the sky and taken the light reading in a wrong spot. I tried not to take it as a personal failure, a some kind of a proof that I wouldn’t have that in me to know how to photograph. That is the legacy of the Art School, its failure to teach and demand us the understanding of the basics of photography and focus instead on the conceptual. Technical skills then became something that a few students (including myself) sought after and as a consequence it became a matter of petty snobbery.
Once I got over making a few mistakes I began to look forward to going out wandering again. There are also some areas in South London that I am yet to explore. I have made some research about where to go although it also felt a bit too calculated to my mind. However I am keen to avoid the suburbia. There is no point going wandering in an area where it all looks the same. Ealing, Barnes, those places. I would take one photograph and reluctantly include it in for the sake of representation. Here I sense that I would be criticized for searching the impressive and the eye-catching. I have to remind myself that I am no longer in Art School. No one is troubling me with the problem of beauty.
The next part of this process, scanning, is my least favourite. It is time consuming and meticulous. I would get my negs scanned at the same time as I get the processed in the lab if I could afford it. However I much rather have the luxury of travelling than the luxury of those hours to myself (otherwise spent in scanning). Scanning in other words feels is work. I have resolved this issue now though by finding philosophy podcasts to listen to. It takes about one hour to scan one roll of film (12 frames). As the podcasts are about 45 minutes long I will have learned, chronologically, about the philosophies of Saint Augustine to Mary Wollstonecraft by the time of having digitized by slides.
As much as I am an advocate for analogue photography I have had to embrace the digital side of photography. Reversal film which I use in this project can no longer be printed using the dark room process. The chemistry is no longer available. Therefore the slides have to be scanned so that I can prepare the images (in Lightroom) to be either printed or for the web.
I cannot wait to start working on these photographs; seeing what emerges from them, rearranging them, editing them. I have some preliminary plans about an exhibition but it is too early to reveal those dreams. As that is what they still are.
Preamble to the London Archive Essays
I asked a few friends and members of family to choose a photograph from the London Archive they would like to know more about. As this premise is my own devising, I have taken the artistic liberties necessary in answering this question. Bar a few exceptions, the result is a series of short essays combining a brief outline of historical information, consideration of photography as a medium as well as an account on how I ended up taking each particular photograph.