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There are bruishes on my legs, scratches from when I walked through the bushes in the forest and the trees with their branches caught me and held on. There are mosquito bites too and two, very small red marks from where the ticks got me. Half-healed scratches on my hands.
My knees are the brownest I have seen them in years, even if that doesn’t say a lot and for a few days my hair, my skin smelled of saltwater and the sun.
For years I have wanted to take photos of my hometown. The places I knew so well, the street where I lived, the views from my windows. The library I used as a child and not enough as an adult.
There’s something I haven’t mentioned but which happened quietly behind the scenes this summer. Something I was too upset about to get into at the time.
When my mum was here in July, I was showing her around Holland Park when the shutter on my camera suddenly stopped working. The first few minutes I was hoping it was just a small mechanical fault I could fix myself by pressing some buttons and releasing some tension but I had an ominous feeling straight away like I knew already that my camera, my dad’s old camera, had broken for good.
The next day I took it to a camera repair shop and they were very kind and very knowledgeable and they told me that even though they could fix it, it was definitely broken and that fixing it wouldn’t be worth the cost. “The lens is good,” they told me, “get yourself a Pentax instead and use it on that”.
My mum flew back to Denmark and I took the train back home to Kent. I tried to tell myself that it was just a camera, a thing, an object that, unlike people, can be easily replaced. But because that camera had been my dad’s, so painstakingly saved up for in the 80s when him and my mum were students and because it was the camera that truly got me into film photography, I was quietly heartbroken about it even if I tried not to show it.
After a while though I was less upset about that camera and more upset about no longer having a film camera to use at all. I started looking at other cameras but nothing felt quite right. Should I get the same camera type from somewhere else even though it wouldn’t be the same? Or should I upgrade and choose a completely different camera that might have some advantages over my old one? Either way it didn’t really matter because I couldn’t afford to replace it.
But there are photographs in this post, I hear you say, where do they come from?
Yes, there are and they haven’t been taken with my old Ricoh. They are from a test roll, the very first photographs taken with my “new” Pentax K1000 that Daniel recently surprised me by buying in an online auction for me.
It feels different in my hands than my old one and I’m not going to lie, I need to get used to it, even if it technically does the same and pretty much in the same way. The one advantage it has over my old camera though is a sharper image quality that I’m almost afraid to admit was holding me back sometimes, so I’m excited about that. I’m also excited about the three rolls of film that are waiting for the new personal project I’m going to begin when I go home to Denmark next week.
And maybe this time, the camera can be just mine.
P.S. These photos were all taken around my flat and the neighbourhood where I live, on a roll of Kentmere 400.
It’s raining as I type this up. It’s actually been raining for three days now and I would be disappointed but after the long spell of drought we’ve had, it’s been kind of nice. Even if my plan had been to make some cyanotypes this week.
The first time I saw a cyanotype – the blue-tinted photographic prints made without a camera – was on the wall of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London during a tour guide training day.
I had recently started getting involved with their young people’s collective and as part of our training that day we received a tour of the photographer’s gallery, where we were shown a print by the revolutionary botanist and photographer Anna Atkins, who created cyanotypes of algae to make what would be the world’s very first photo book.
Afterwards we were shown a demonstration of how to make our own and it was there that I first tried making a cyanotype myself and fell in love with this utterly magical and simple way of creating and printing images directly from light that anyone can do.
Making cyanotypes is pretty easy and you don’t even need a camera or a lot of fancy equipment or a darkroom. All you need is a paper coated with light-sensitive chemicals, an object to print from and a bit of sunlight. In the beginning I bought pre-coated solar- or sunpaper (Silverprint has a good one) but after a while I got interested in mixing my own chemicals and learning the historical process behind it, which hasn’t changed since Atkins’ Victorian days.
The easiest way is to make a cyanotype photogram, where you place an object directly onto the paper but you can also use a negative as your object, which is a little trickier but can give very detailed images. You put it somewhere with sunlight and leave it in the sun to expose the image until the paper has changed colour. Afterwards you put the paper in a tray or tub of tap water while gently rocking it for 5-10 min to develop it, rinse it under the tap and hang it or leave it flat to dry. That’s it.
A print lying exposed in a patch of sun on the floor of my living room