5 Frames… Of Pentabo Clortino on Expired Kodak EASTMAN 200T 5293 (35mm format / EI 50 / CONTAX S2b + Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4) – by Ryan Steven Green

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As a subject, payphones are not new to me. For over three years I have been documenting them on my smartphone for my IG account @payphonesoflosangeles. About seven months into the project, I was introduced to the work of a gentleman by the name of Juan (alias the @screwyblooms is the subject of this 5 Frames). Juan “adorns” defunct payphones with head-turning art installations that often include a big bushy bouquet of brightly-colored faux flowers.

The 35mm motion picture film canister that binds these multi-colored polyester flowers together is just visible in the lower right corner of the bouquet, while two single roses burst forth from antennae-like electrical conduit up top - Kodak EASTMAN 200T 5293, Ryan Steven Green
The 35mm motion picture film canister that binds these multi-colored polyester flowers together is just visible in the lower right corner of the bouquet, while two single roses burst forth from antennae-like electrical conduit up top – Kodak EASTMAN 200T 5293, Ryan Steven Green

I am first and foremost a documentary filmmaker, and such an odd and unheralded subject sets my spidey senses tingling. I reached out to Juan through his hashtag and in short order had completed a one-minute documentary on his work. That jump-started what has now become a cherished friendship. 


from busted to blooming

Juan has just one rule for each new install: “$8 or less on materials!” In fact, much of the stuff he’s used for his installations is the refuse of a past job at a Hollywood motion picture film lab. Rusty metal film canisters, colored plastic film cores, 35mm film leaders, even accordion-style electrical conduit have all featured prominently in past installs. Found objects such as calculators, bbq parts, rotary telephones, automotive water pumps, and disembodied motors from dishwashers and treadmills have all been given a new lease on life in a dead phone booth. 

Juan arranges fresh blooms in an enclosure that had fallen victim to arson - Kodak EASTMAN 200T 5293, Ryan Steven Green
Juan arranges fresh blooms in an enclosure that had fallen victim to arson – Kodak EASTMAN 200T 5293, Ryan Steven Green

Juan estimates he’s installed around 70 works all over Los Angeles, but for this shoot we chose several recent installs in close proximity that could easily be rehabbed. Rehabbing past works is actually a ceaseless task for Juan. Besides the naturally degrading factor of exposure, his blooms are frequently vandalized, with burning being an oft-employed method of destruction.

More recent works are outfitted with a wire-mesh ruination deterrent over the front of the payphone enclosure - Kodak EASTMAN 200T 5293, Ryan Steven Green
More recent works are outfitted with a wire-mesh ruination deterrent over the front of the payphone enclosure – Kodak EASTMAN 200T 5293, Ryan Steven Green

a unique look for a unique subject

While I focus primarily on B&W with my film photography, I knew from the start this set had to be shot in color. But in considering commercially available stocks nothing really measured up to this unique subject. Then I remembered Warren, a teenage photographer/aspiring-chemist I had come across on IG who re-spools expired bulk film and develops himself in homemade chemistry based on recipes from photographic technical books. And to think at sixteen I was still worried about loading my Minolta X-700 correctly!

I reached out to Warren (@w.t.burton) about providing film and development for this set, and he was excited to be involved. Here is Warren himself on his part in bringing these images to life:

“I value character and risk in my work and, as such, am self-taught in ECN-2 processing. Through my own studies and trials, I’ve developed a modified recipe that increases the vividness of film stocks dramatically. Such a process begets visceral joy from the dedication required to mix color chemistry from raw powder. The stock we selected for this shoot is Kodak EASTMAN 200T 5293 – a tungsten-balanced motion picture film with an ISO of 200. I developed these rolls at 115F for 4:30. In my experience, 200T images render reminiscent of baroque paintings with discolored varnish.” 

Self-tapping screws affix the pre-made install into the booth itself. Their frequent use also accounts for the less-obvious half of Juan's IG handle - Kodak EASTMAN 200T 5293, Ryan Steven Green
Self-tapping screws affix the pre-made install into the booth itself. Their frequent use also accounts for the less-obvious half of Juan’s IG handle – Kodak EASTMAN 200T 5293, Ryan Steven Green

This was my first collaboration with Warren, and I could not be happier. This young man knocked it out of the park! (Also, he asked that I mention he is open to more collabs! DM @w.t.burton)


pulling out all the stops

Though I’ve been a loyal Minolta shooter for two decades, I wanted to do something a bit different here with the camera as well as the film which meant loading up my over-protected CONTAX S2b. The added benefit of using the C/Y Zeiss glass for this particular shoot is that it has a distinctly warmer tone to it than do my Minolta lenses – a quality I thought would complement the work of @screwyblooms nicely.

CONTAX S2b + Zeiss Planar T- 50mm f-1.4, Ryan Steven Green
CONTAX S2b + Zeiss Planar T- 50mm f-1.4, Ryan Steven Green

Initially, I imagined going with a super-wide angle of view to accentuate the oddity of Juan’s medium. But after a test shoot of regular old payphones I decided against this approach, instead sticking with a standard 50mm to soak in as much crisp detail as possible and allow Juan’s art — and the wonderful film and development mojo from @w.t.burton — to do the talking. 

An 85B filter (not pictured) was used on the lens to convert the tungsten-balanced film to daylight - Kodak EASTMAN 200T 5293, Ryan Steven Green
An 85B filter (not pictured) was used on the lens to convert the tungsten-balanced film to daylight – Kodak EASTMAN 200T 5293, Ryan Steven Green

People pass by payphones every day preoccupied with their own worries. Juan hopes that his work can “break their train of thought for a millisecond and re-create their day.”

Thanks for reading.

~ Ryan

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Old married dude. Father of two. Native Angeleno. I live to make documentaries. I pay the bills making advertisements. Film photography has been a twenty-plus-year, love-hate hobby. Came up on Minolta (X-700, XD, SRT102), these days shooting mostly on Contax S2b.

5 thoughts on “5 Frames… Of Pentabo Clortino on Expired Kodak EASTMAN 200T 5293 (35mm format / EI 50 / CONTAX S2b + Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4) – by Ryan Steven Green”

  1. Hey, Edmund. I reached out to Warren with your question. Here’s what he had to say:

    “It comes mostly from agitation of the modified recipe. There seems to be no fine line, considering under agitation leads to extreme spottiness and over agitation leads to sprocket lines. Increased “crunchiness” and the foggy shadows are also a result of the recipe. I have gotten the spots and lines on roll of fresh ektachrome 100, as well on all other color films.”

    Reply
  2. Wow, Joan, I don’t think you could have blessed me any more than with the words you just posted here. You read that I am a documentation, but it has really become my focus in filmmaking to find unheralded, pseudo-familiar subjects to explore more in depth. It would seem the practice is spilling over into my photography as well, and for you to key in on that with this piece really means the world to me. I so want to celebrate the work of these two individuals and really felt that this three-way collaboration was a terrific way to do it. I’m very glad that connected for you! Thank you!!!

    Reply
  3. Hi, Edmund. Thank you for reading and for your question! I can tell you that the effect is from the modified development, though what the exact mechanics/chemistry of that is I’d have to refer you to Warren (the w.t.burton mentioned in the piece), as he was responsible for film and development. As for post processing, I can tell you my process there. I scan on an Epson V500 as a positive image and use Negative Lab Pro to convert the image. For these images, quite a bit of color balancing was required, and you can see still that it is far from “perfect” which was part of the point of deciding on Warren to provide film and development for this series. I did do a fair bit more selective editing in Lightroom than I am used to, particularly around Juan’s face and the artwork itself to provide a bit more clarity to an otherwise very abnormal subject!

    Reply
  4. These are interestingly degraded images; is this a result of your modified development, or digital post processing? – I like the result either way.

    Reply

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