It's the journey, not the destination Mel Curtis's thoughts on a life in the world of photography

A Mysterious Roll of the Dice

Angel-Pan_Hannover_May1999v6

Hey man, how are you doing? And yes, that image is reminiscent of my earlier work, probably because it is my earlier work. That angel was in a cemetery in Hannover, Germany and taken in the spring of 1999. I was shooting only film then, obviously, and still working with my usually stuff. Infrared film, Widelux camera, almost all black and white. Whenever I revisit that work I always think it is the best work I have ever done and why did I give up on film? Clearly from a commercial standpoint I had to go digital or I would be working at Walmart now. But I could have continued to shoot film for my personal work, but chose to move on. Also forces in the market place made working with film more difficult. My favorite films and papers were discontinued. The darkroom became arduous to not only work in, but to maintain. And of course there is the expense of it all, not to mention the storage of analog work. The thing is, I don’t really regret giving up film, but I do miss the look of film and the process of working with film. It was a slower, more thoughtful experience and to a certain extent, a mysterious roll of the dice. Did you get it? Did you get something? Or did you miss the moment? There was also a period of time that would lag between when you hit the shutter and when you saw the image on a contact sheet. And in the time frame, you sort of would forget what you shot or your memory of that moment might change. Would the contact sheet reveal the image etched in my memory? Or something different altogether. I tended to enjoy being surprised by my contact sheets. The act of capturing the image with a camera was one experience. Pouring through contact sheets was another and the darkroom became the moment it all came together. A performance as it were. The nice thing about digital, in regards to film, is that I can make better “performances” with some of my old work. Negs that were too difficult to print in the darkroom can now come to life in Photoshop. Which is why I am revisiting my old film work. I can bring them to life without all the stinky darkroom chemicals. So perhaps going forward I will spend more time in the past.

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