I’m not sure if it’s a sign of having too many cameras or failing memory, but I recently slid open the ruby film window of my Nettar and saw there was a film in there that I had no recollection of loading. The answer only came to me a couple of days later when I opened the light meter app on my phone and saw it was set to ISO 25. Mystery solved!

While cleaning up my studio a while ago I had I found a roll of original 120 format ILFORD PAN F (ISO 50) that had lain there for 25 years. I had put it in the Nettar and set my lightmeter app to ISO 25 in deference to the film’s age, but not made any frames.

Zeiss Ikon Nettar 517/16 and expired ILFORD PAN F
Zeiss Ikon Nettar 517/16 and expired ILFORD PAN F

My current project is based around the coast near where I live. I’ve been making images – both photos and paintings – in the area for the past 25 years. Most recently I’d been photographing with SX70, as well as rollfilm and 135 colour negative. A common feature of the images is their square format, so I decided to run this roll through the 6×6 Nettar and see what happened.

My project involves looking deeply at a place I know well, and trying to make images in which I as the photographer disappear and only the subject remains. There’s an inherent contradiction in this process of course, but I believe that the tension that this apparent paradox creates can lead to work that is worthwhile.

We were staying right on the beach and I shot the roll over a few days, walking out and making a frame when the light or clouds seemed interesting. (At the same time I shot a roll of 135 colour neg for the same series in a camera I have modified so that it shoots square 24x24mm frames)

When I picked the roll up from the lab I was going to ditch it. On the light table, the frames looked completely overexposed – like little lumps of coal sitting on acetate. I shrugged and said as much to the lab technician.

The tech was not so easily discouraged, “Don’t you want to see what I’ve managed to pull off it?” he asked me. Mostly out of politeness I peered over his shoulder, but when I looked at his monitor I was delighted.

These frames really appeal to me. The passage of all those years had left the ghosts of the numbers from the backing paper as part of the image, slowly becoming fainter towards the end of the roll. The images themselves seem to me not just to come from an old film, but also an earlier time. I’ve not yet decided how I’ll print them up, but I will certainly be including some of them in my next exhibition.

~ David

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