Like many, I started taking pictures using my father’s old camera, a hefty Nikon F2 and a super-fast Nikkor 55mm f/1.2 back in the late 90’s. And again like many — drawn by the instant gratification of seeing the results right away -– soon I switched to a digital camera (Leica Digilux 1). While stunned by all the technological advancements the digital world had to offer, for years I kept shooting digital.
Choosing the Micro Four Thirds format as my weapon of choice — mostly because of the camera body size –- I fell in love with street photography and taking pictures of everyday people, trying to capture them in moments that contained little stories. People were my favorite subjects, strangers moving around, interacting with each other and doing mundane tasks. Over the years as the digital revolution took over the world and with the rise of the internet, I realized my strangers were becoming lonelier in the frames, disconnected from the moment and buried deep in their cell phones. As time passed, I started capturing this disconnect and although there were both the subjects and me involved in creating the photos, it felt it was only one of us that was really present in the moment. Over time, the lack of awareness of the moment by my subjects became harder to bear and eventually drove me away from street photography and I almost stopped taking pictures.
After losing interest in street photography and not taking pictures seriously for almost a year, I started noticing and appreciating Los Angeles itself, without the people. I’m a city guy, grew up in Tehran, with over 10 million people and only one-fourth of Los Angeles in size. While used to crowded environments where the people obscure the city, Los Angeles with its flat architecture and vast area offered a lot more to see. This city – like a lot of other urban areas – is full of overlooked beauty… colors, lines, shapes and shadows.
As the urge of making images was still there, I felt it was time to take a different approach in my photography, an approach that didn’t rely solely on capturing a moment, an approach that wasn’t all about the result, unlike street photography. And that’s how I got drawn back into film photography, and this time, from a technical standpoint, heavily focused on the process rather than the result. I wanted to put as much time as possible into each frame (by my standards) and enjoy every single step of the process so the result wouldn’t matter that much anymore.
While it was becoming more clear in my head what kind of pictures I wanted to go after, I started doing research on gear and process. I was looking for a setup that gave me more real estate than a 35mm frame and more flexibility in terms of lens movements, while manageable to develop negatives in my apartment. That’s how I landed on a Horseman VH technical camera with a 6×9 roll back and a couple of lenses; Schneider 90mm f/8 Super-Angulon and Nikon NIKKOR-W 210mm f/5.6.
For developing, I got myself a Lab-box developing tank with the 120 film module, using Cinestill C41s chemistry to develop (currently I’m using powder as they’ve run out of stock). For scanning and post, I’m using a borrowed Epson V600 plus Silverlight Fast as the scanning software. I scan my film as positive (48bit DNG) and convert in Lightroom using Negative Lab Pro.
The 5 frames here are the result of at least 20 hours of driving around LA, looking for mundane and obvious beauties we overlook every day as Angelinos. They were all shot on Kodak Ektar 100 120 film using Horseman VH and Nikkor-W 210mm f/5.6 which I truly enjoy shooting with.
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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.
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