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.

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The economy of FILM and its contact sheets

Failure is not an option

My dear younger friends, the few that I have spent time with, you are so full of fear, so afraid of failure, you want to be guaranteed of success before you start something new, but what if I say there is no failure. That was not an option ever for me. I just did what I did, because I was obsessed by something, and even if it did not ‘work’ at the time I never deleted it, I knew it would become part of something else.I trusted the process. Its the process that I was interested in, not its end result. I also had no choice. I had to do what I was being led to. My Go Away Closer work is made entirely of what I considered ‘sideys’ at a certain time when I was pursuing more traditional ideas of series in Photography. Imagine if I had deleted all those images as ‘failed’ images.

I cannot change what I do because you liked my Blue images, or my Calcutta portraits, if I am still obsessed with FILES I will keep photographing them, even though they have been made into a book, are part of the next book, have been shown in exhibitions, infact twice at two Venice bienales….clearly the FILES are not an end in themselves, they are leading me to some other place and its ok that I do not know exactly what that is. Maybe I will photograph FILES all my life, that no publisher or audience is interested in them cannot stop me. Its not an option.

Infact if I knew the End result, then what would be the point of pursuing it. I somehow always trust in the process.

Perhaps what has been the determining factor is that there have always been two or three people, who I have trusted implicitly. So the key could be in finding those one or two people. Both their praise and their criticism. The rest is in through one ear and out through the other. Ofcourse its a wonderful bonus when people like your work, but thats not why one does what one does. Its an inner exploration if one can dare to say such a thing.

You ask to show me your work, you ask several others, you see what most have liked and then pursue that. To me that is a way to bring the work to a mediocre level. It means you are not treading new territory. That to me is Failure. If you are not pushing your own and your mediums limits.

Failure , or its fear, would suggest you have an end result in mind. But if you are in the enquiry mode, the exploration mode, then there is no question of failure. You are seeing what the work brings you too. So even if it sounds like pop psychology, I would say trust in the process. And if thats not why you are pursuing the life of an artist, then you have some rethinking to do.

Its not easy being an Artist. Your struggles, your confusions are really your own, no one else can bring you out of them.  And believe me, they never go away. Infact the day one stops doubting oneself, the day one stops learning, would be the day to call it quits.

Its about the enquiry my friends, not success and failure. Those two words are aspirations for some other kind of work, not the life of an Artist.

And this is really my humble opinion, you must form your own.

Good luck Good Chance

Failure is not an option