SLOW DOWN YOU SHOOT TOO FAST

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These are the tools of my trade, I have been using the same camera, same 80mm lens and same minolta light meter for almost 20 years. TRIX 400 is the film I have used  since I started photography in 1980. I know these tools like the back of my hand. To this photo I forgot to add the tripod. Though this keeps changing as they make lighter and lighter ones.

Each one of these help me slow down, they force me to pause between photos and before starting. They prepare me for making the image, like removing ones shoes before entering a room.

There is the ritual of loading the film, first the sound and pleasure of tearing open the roll, then fitting it in place, listening to the sound while forwarding to be sure it has not stuck in the sprocket, and then fitting the back onto the camera.Then taking the camera and aligning it onto the tripod, after having done the dance around what I was hoping to photograph, those stretches that force you to ever so slightly alter the frame.The light meter one could say I need not use after all these years. But I like the ritual of going upto what I am photographing, measuring the exact light reflecting of the skin of the subject, then calculating how I might like to use that information. Even though I can , after all these years, guess the exposure.Then I bend into my camera, and fix the focus Between the camera being jammed into my belly and the gravity of strap on my neck, bending over, I make a tripod out of my own body. I like photographing from the navel level over the conventional eye level, I like that I see an inverted image, and then the magic sound of the shutter, An image has been made.

I can make another 11 images, as the roll has 12 frames on it. In my bag I might have 3-4 more rolls for the day of an extensive shoot. I sort of ration myself, because there is only so much film that I can carry on a trip. I might take a second frame of the same situation, just to be safe for focus and or exposure. but rarely more than that.

Its possible that i might have 3 shoots on one roll of film of 12.

Then there is the wait for the film to be processed, and the contact sheets to come from the lab. I never look at them too closely at first, just a glance to check that everything is fine, and the customary look at the negs. A few days later I sit with them and my loop, I always get depressed that I could not ‘capture’ what I thought I had. It takes many months for me to separate the experience/emotion of making the image and what the image retained. Often a very large gap and it could be many years later that I ‘realise’ the image. So many of my images have 2 dates, the date of taking and the date of realising.

This realising of the image, often happens like a deja vu, of seeing the girl on the bed, recognising that I had been in that emotion before, returning to contact sheets of more than ten years and finding the go away closer images. Or yesterday, photographing the Kandalama hotel and suddenly wanting to rush back to sift through my contact sheets because I had made that same overgrown with nature building, somewhere outside Calcutta, and then again perhaps in Patna, but somewhere else too.

The contact sheet, the paper that has 12 images in it, make it impossible for me to think of images in isolation.I read images left to right, diagonally, and each viewing changes the meaning of that image. Infact the contact sheet was one of the inspirations for the form of Museum Bhavan. I value my library of contact sheets even more than the negatives archive.

As for digital photography, I LOVE it for instagram and to whatsapp photo secrets to friends.

I try to imagine a language of images, that illiterate people even could access and use, I think of developing such an app. I like that the wide angle on the phone camera allows me to get very close, and do macro photography.I am waiting for the phone camera to get even better and then will be the challenge to develop another form for digital, perhaps. After all on digital cameras, its just a button between still and movie!

SLOW DOWN YOU SHOOT TOO FAST

The economy of FILM and its contact sheets

I still use film, I like how it slows me down, how it forces me to focus before I make an image. Digital has other properties ofcourse, we all know those but 120 film and hasselblad and tripod are the tools that work best for my slow release imagery.

12 frames at a time, each ‘click’ almost 100 Rs a shot !! think about it when you next go click click click, there is something to the economy of film. If not the cost then the fact that after 12 frames you need to reload the camera. You start to have the count in your head. I often get my strongest images at no 11.

Which brings me to the contact sheet. The 12 images on one page, I think thats where my stream of consciousness sequencing started. Where different worlds meet on the same contact sheet. Even if I make digital images, I turn them into contact sheets of 12.

I think the mobile museums are an expansion of the contact sheet idea. That I did not have to show single images because thats how others saw photography. Who decides that Photography should be shown as a single image and not in grids of 12. Or in ten grids of 12. or 100 grids of 36.Or contact sheets of contact sheets. They are a fascinating form of diary and display, these contact sheets

But most of all the waiting for the contact sheet to return from the lab, the disappointment with what you saw not translating into film, filing them away and then returning, sometimes years later and saying OMG, how come I never noticed this before. Go Away Closer is made entirely of images that I thought of as sideys, as images made by the way, on another shoot. Imagine if I had deleted them!

The economy of Film, the contact sheet, the archiving of them, so I have every frame I ever made. The connections over time are unbelievable, that dejavu you get when you photograph a girl on her bed, that brings the words Go Away Closer to your mind and you rush back to Delhi to find images that have the same tenor…..

Perhaps I should start making a performance of how FILM works, the opening of the roll that sounds like toffee, the licking of the film after the roll is over, the reaching into your pockets hoping you still have another roll…..and most of all the accidents that you could never have on digital, that using color film after sunset to photograph from a factory tower, that started the Blue Book work.

The economy of FILM and its contact sheets