“What on earth had I been thinking?” This is the question that I asked myself from the moment that I dropped the roll of film off at the lab, until the moment that I had picked it up.
The thing was, I hadn’t been thinking much. At least with my head.
I was in the process of clawing my way back into health, from the aftermath of a very, very nasty virus. In addition to the physical exhaustion, I found my mind in a deep fog, numbed, and my vision was – figuratively – gone. Then, one day, on a slow, arduous walk around my neighborhood, I decided it was time to break out my single roll of Kodak EKTACHROME E100VS.
One of the things that I really love about where I live is how many people enjoy gardening; an eclectic variety of plant collections is always on display. I’m a bit of a plant geek, and many of my neighbors seem to be the same. Not constrained by the convention of how a front yard “should” look, their plants fill whatever area things grow best – there are vegetable gardens instead of front lawns, wildflowers replace the sidewalk (parking) strip. It was late spring, and there was a riot of color everywhere I looked.
I had acquired the E100VS in a film trade [with EM] over a year ago – an odd choice to send someone with a “color allergy” – and I had stored it safely away until I had some idea of a subject that would be important enough to “spend” it on. But instead of finding a special project, I chose to make pointless photographs with it.
The pointless photograph is the antithesis of a project. Several years ago – when I was weighed down by all the advice articles that informed me that the only way to excel as a photographer was to shoot projects or unusual subjects, forswearing any image that didn’t fit the theme or had been done before – EM challenged me to shoot an entire roll of close up, pointless images. I’d never been able to completely follow through, but this moment felt like the right time to try.
Just because the images would be pointless, didn’t mean that my approach would be mindless. I wanted to push through the mental murk and use my eyes for the pure joy of seeing. Being amongst plants brings me comfort and happiness, so I’d just look for plants or flowers that made me smile inside. I’d use my beloved Bronica SQ-A and 150mm lens paired with the 36mm extension tube; I’ve always liked the look of images from this combo and not changing things up throughout the roll would keep me from getting too flustered when calculating the exposures. The “active ingredient” in my color allergy medication is a focus on bold color; so if the color was visually interesting, that would guide my framing.
I took my time, spreading the roll across many days, waiting for the sun to shine. I made slow visits to the gardens in my neighborhood, and also spent a glorious morning at the local P-Patch (community garden allotments). I made every image carefully, but also with no expectations except to enjoy the moment, the sun, the color and textures of plants.
As it turned out, I had been thinking.
Just with my heart, not my head.
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This series is being produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.