Many nights I think about tipping points and critical thresholds, about decisions made from which there is no turning back. I don’t really lose sleep over it. I think it’s part of why I started shooting film, how once you click the shutter the image is forever there, physically, but whatever’s in front of you is gone, never exactly the same ever again. The main reason, though, is that I needed something to do while wandering alone through Southeast Asian cities.
I knew in the back of my mind even a few years ago that the era of international travel was not forever and I needed some permanent images, some memories on paper, not on a card. Like those of grandparents, great grandparents, and too many others. Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, and thousands of other cities may well be outlasted by photographs.
So on my second day in Asia, in the ancient times of 2017, I bought a Minolta, lens, and case for a thousand baht (around $30) at Srinakarin Train Market, and it’s been with me ever since. I named her Minnie.
I was working in China at the beginning of 2020 and met my parents in Singapore about a day before they closed their borders, for what I was beginning to suspect would be our last family vacation for a while. Our trip through Malaysia started in Penang. I’d only heard of Penang for its status as a visa-run destination for ex-pats in Thailand, but once there, I was struck by the beauty of the architecture, the tile work, and the street art. Tourists wandered through the streets of the old city, mostly keeping to the shade of the arcades and paying the sin tax on beer. Paragraphs in twisted metal told local stories from the corners of buildings, and tourists mixed with women in hijabs to pose in front of the street art.
I’d never shot anything close to 12 ISO film, and the Minolta can’t go down that far, so I used the program function to meter at 25 ISO and shot on manual with half the suggested shutter speed. I metered for the highlights in most of these because I wanted sharp contrast. The sun in the streets of Penang was extremely harsh and I took full advantage of it.
I’m not quite sure if this look is standard for Film Washi A, because I don’t get such sharp contrast when I’ve developed my own since then. At the lab in Bangkok, they originally refused to take it but relented when I told them the process was the same as ILFORD Pan 400.
I really like the sharp contrasts of these and I feel like you get a sense of not just the architecture, but the heat.
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