[Picture: one of my most loved and treasured photos taken on medium format film.]
I was always one of those teenagers who moaned about being born in the wrong era, the wrong decade, the wrong time…
I love the sound and feel of a vinyl record; I love the motion of gently placing the needle onto the spinning disk, the slight scratch of it finding a groove to slip into. I was lucky enough to have parents with (above) decent taste in music, and inherited tapes and records ranging from The B-52’s, Whitesnake, AC/DC, Ironmaiden, Thunder, Rainbow, The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack and countless others. I have my own record player in my room back in Wales, and my own basket and boxes of record albums, and singles ready to be played when I return home. I’m not saying I’m a solely record girl, I have my iPod which I would be lost without, I have mini speakers, and I have a stack of CD’s, I’m still not down with the kids in the way of downloading music though however, I’m just not a download fan…
There are a lot of people out there, my age, younger, older, which enjoy the simple pleasures of listening to their favourite record on a spinning table with a needle gliding along the furrows. There are also, unfortunately, a lot of people, mainly my age, who only like the way it looks, and makes them look. These people are called Hipsters, bloody Hipsters taking over the world and ruining the simple things in life for the rest of us.
Analog everything is coming back in style thanks to this new genre/style, and now that it is becoming fashionable, it’s also becoming even more expensive. It’s exciting that high-street shops are now starting to increase their stock of vinyl records, and that musicians are making vinyl records of their music again, but how many of us can afford to purchase the record, and have it somewhere more accessible for us to listen to on the go? Of course there are those who would be willing to buy the record, and download the songs separately. I just did a quick search on http://store.hmv.com/music/vinyl and it’s amazing to see the stock of vinyl they have, I’m having to fight the strong urge to get out my wallet and put in a bulk order. It says there are 4900 results for vinyl record on the hmv site, amazing. Just a few examples of the ones I’d love to own are: Pulp Fiction sound Track, David Bowie, Arctic Monkeys, Catfish and The Bottlemen, Mumford & Sons, Florence & The Machine, Green day, Fall out Boy, Slaves, Paolo Nutini, The Vaccines, Jake Bug, The Pretty Reckless… the list could go on forever…
Through writing these blog posts I’ve discovered that I actually do, to my surprise, have quite the little picture of what I’d like my future home to contain. I’ve mentioned a coloured front door, I’ve mentioned my shelf sagging in the middle full of my scrapbook/photo albums, and now, I’d like to mention my side cabinet with a record player sitting pride of place on top, with an array of albums and singles below. It’s shaping up to be quite a nice little dream/aim of mine this mystical mythical place. My trunk (beautiful gift from my sister) will obviously be centre stage somewhere, probably in the living room. (Probably another hipster aspect of myself there, a great old big beautiful trunk. But I promise you, I am no Hipster…)
So, as I mentioned in my first blog post, growing up I was never known for enjoying writing or reading, but surprisingly, I do both quite a bit now and have done for a few years. I like to write letters, notes, diary entries, postcards etc. I go through phases of finding it easier to write on a laptop, digitally, and needing to take the stack of scrap paper on my desk, and writing things out. Throughout my education I did not bond well with the digital screen. I struggled to really engage in my research reading if it were on the web, it took me a long time to get what I wanted out of my head and onto the laptop. I found what worked best for me was to print out my research papers (sorry environment, I did recycle and reuse though!) and hand write all my dissertation notes, research, and ideas first, before inputting them onto the laptop. Funny enough, after starting this blog, I’ve found it easy and enjoyable enough to type it all up into a Word file first and then just copy and paste it over to WordPress. I thought I would struggle missing my vital and lovely middle man, pen and paper. Typing is quicker for this process and it seems to work quite well for me.
I still write letters and cards though whenever I can. One of my favourite places here in Suzhou is a little café come postcard shop. Their walls are lines with little cubbies of unique, unusual and beautiful post cards, and their hot chocolate is to die for. What’s even more interesting about this particular postcard shop is that it allows you to send them to the “future”. One wall is taken up by a postage slot for each day of the following year, and then there are post-boxes ranging from 2017-2040 (if I’m remembering correctly). You simply write your postcard, and chose what day and year you would like it to be sent on, and then you wait/forget! I’ve sent a number to myself like this throughout the year, and they should be arriving at ‘36’ in a years’ time. I’m looking forward to receiving them all and looking back at where I was in my life, where I thought my life was leading, and see where I am in reality.
I can’t even count the amount of postcards I’ve sent home since August, mainly to Sam and Dad, with a fair amount going to other family members and friends. I’d like to think they can come home, from probably a slightly crappy day at work, and find one of the quirky, often questionable picture postcards from China, and it gives them a little bit of a pick me up. The messages are never spilling great exciting news, I keep in contact with everyone pretty well via a variety of social medias, but I still like to send them notes and messages to remind them that I’m thinking of them and, as a little gift from me here in China. So yes, as much as I understand and accept that digital writing and conversing has its place and great uses, I am a fan of paper and pen, or pen and postcard. I’m one of those people who cannot, and never will simply write:
“To____ Happy Birthday From Charlie”
My friends used to sigh and roll their eyes when they opened one of my essay cards, but ultimately, they appreciate the thought, sentiment and treasure them.
I’m a photographer. That’s what I identify as, supposedly. I love and live for capturing moments and objects in a snippet of time. However, I’m just as guilty as the next person in that my most used camera is probably my phone. It’s the ease of the digital age, and as much as I love it, I hate it all the same. Using film, analog cameras, instant cameras, and all other aspects of non-digital photography has become popular and, again, fashionable, thanks to the up-rise of the Hipsters. I promise this post didn’t start out as a Hipster slating, but, I guess if the shoe fits…
I’ve spent a lot on money on buying and developing disposable cameras, I used to take about 6 to a festival, and use only them for photos. I absolutely loved the results they gave; they summed up my festival experience perfectly, and I love to look back on them. I also own (thanks to my lovely auntie and uncle) a Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic. It’s beautiful, and again, I thoroughly enjoy using it. I often give out the little Polaroid’s to friends as mini gifts, and they love them too. These Fujifilm Instax cameras have also become increasingly popular, and I won’t say this is a Hipster thing, as a number of my friends also have them, I just think it’s a nice change of pace to having all photos stuck inside your phone.
I had my first taste of real analog film shooting during my HND course back in ’09. I fell in love with it right away, I loved the more manual process, the understanding of how the camera works, the journey of loading it into your camera, to manually developing, and, I was lucky enough to actually print my own images in the dark room. I miss this whole process, and I’d love it if the community funded project in a local theatre back home takes off, to provide a dark room for the public. [ http://orielcolwyn.org/darkroom/ ]. I still like to shoot film, despite its expense, and was gifted a bright red Holga camera by a fellow HND photographer before I left in August. I hate to admit this, but I haven’t even finished one roll, 12 frames, of medium format colour film since then. How disgraceful is that? I’m ashamed to have that down in writing. I think it’s partially due to the fact I’m scared of unloading the film once I’m done. I’d gotten pretty good at loading and unloading medium format in a Hasselblad (yes I was privileged enough to experience the joys of this beautiful piece of machinery), but the Holga is crazy. A plastic shell, and that’s it. Mine is covered in tape to hold it together, and minimise light leakage. I can’t wait to get home and get my hands on my trusty Canon AE-1 and go out and shoot freely, with confidence.
Some of my favourite images have been created with film, and I think it’s just such a special medium. It’s so much more personal, precise, unique, and testing. I’d love to be able to invest one day, in a decent flatbed film scanner. I know this almost defies the purpose of shooting on film, to simply upload them to a digital device. But for ease of viewing, and printing, with lack of a darkroom, this would be a happy compromise.
I’d have hoped that with the increased interest in film photography (due to Hipsters or not), the prices of film and developing would decrease. However, as far as I’m aware, this is not the case. Maybe things will have changed during my (what will be) 11 months out of the UK, but I highly doubt it.
To finish up I’d like to share a photo of me, in the dressing room of Colwyn Bay Theatre where a younger me took part in pantomimes, (also the same place which may be gaining a community dark room), during the 1st year of my HND (2009). You can see my first film camera “a breezeblock with a lens”, a Praktica within the frame. I miss a number of things within this picture: my fashion sense, my slim legs, that camera, and the excitement of being in a creative educational environment.