The Long Way Home

Trial and Error
June 27, 2014, 7:02 AM
Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: , , , ,
The Ghost on E. 9th Ave. Polaroid Spectra Softtone film, expired 2009,

The Ghost on E. 9th Ave. Polaroid Spectra Softtone film, expired 2009.

One reason I love instant film is its unpredictability, and over time, I’ve learned to embrace the mistakes. I keep all the bunk shots and make notes of what went wrong that day, marking temperature, lighting conditions – did I set the darken/light wheel correctly, is the film just too far gone to salvage? Sometimes I waste an entire pack, and get pissed off and sulky for an hour or so after a shoot, trying not to think about the monetary cost of each error (when shooting instant film, you really have to block out that part of your brain, or you won’t keep shooting). Then I buck up and let go, or make plans to shoot again if I really feel attached to the first composition. Shooting instant film has taught me patience, and it’s safe to say that once you’re hooked, getting that “one shot” (sometimes, quite literally) becomes something of an obsession.

In the shot above, taken last summer, I tried three times in one pack to capture Jeff walking in front of my old house on E. 9th Avenue in Homestead. Other Homestead shots turned out decently, but it were as if the house possessed my camera. I gave up, but still love the way the divots cut so perfectly through the house, touching the top of Jeff’s head.

The diptych below shows two shots with similar composition captured two weeks apart, the left frame on an unusually warm, sunny April day. I was pretty heartbroken when I saw how this one turned out – the entire pack of film that day was a complete bust. I re-staged the one on the right in early morning, on a cooler day.

These were taken two weeks apart.

Taken two weeks part in Braddock, PA

The two images below were taken a day apart on lunch-break walks. My friend Kat was kind enough to model for me twice.

The on on the left was taken on a sunny day. The next day, I reshot this in overcast light.

l. taken on a sunny day. r. re-shot in overcast light.

This last frame was in the same pack as the first diptych picture. By this point it was the end of the day, I was crabby, but determined to figure out what went wrong with all those other shots and finally: a story emerged.

Sunset in Garfield - sometimes it takes an entire pack of film to get that one shot.

Sunset in Garfield – sometimes it takes an entire pack of film to get one good shot.


12 Comments so far
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That one good shot is worth it–its pretty great. I do admore the diptych in Braddock: the cooler day shot looks cool! The overcast light shot of Kat is interesting too because of the blue streaks on the left (what is Kat doing with her right arm?). Thanks for sharing, don’t get too frustrated because your results are creatively nourishing all round.


Comment by Michael Williamson

Thanks, Michael – those blue streaks are light leaks, but since then, I got another Spectra that doesn’t have any light leaks, which I’m pretty psyched about. I love all the strange things that happen with old cameras though, like dust specks and light leaks – it’s all part of the magic and fun of analog.


Comment by Lisa

Your patience and dedication are inspiring, Lisa. It is well worth the trouble to get that last perfect shot!


Comment by Photobooth Journal

Thanks, Katherine! Patience or mild obsessiveness (hehe!). I find it cathartic too, it helps calm my nerves to spend time with analog cameras.


Comment by Lisa

I like the how I disappear into the first photo. And the last photo is one of my favorites.


Comment by Jeff

thanks, monster! as you know well, i was so freaking happy when that last shot turned out. it’s those moments that keep me going.


Comment by Lisa

…love your “mistakes”, Lisa!! Have a great weekend!!


Comment by karijeppesen

thanks, kari 🙂


Comment by Lisa

I like this very much. It’s a good thing, I think, to remind folks that at the intersection of craft and art, failure is actually an important part of the process. Frustrating as hell, to be sure, but perversely necessary.


Comment by greg

thanks, greg – most times i post the “good” ones, i always think, if only people saw the shit it took to get to this moment :). it’s a good exercise in humility and reminds me why i do this in the first place.


Comment by Lisa

I love your Ghost On E. 9th! It is truly spooky serendipity.


Comment by Bill

It’s one of those mistakes that couldn’t have been more perfect. But Jeff has a way of being in the right place at the right time!


Comment by Lisa

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