I go to visit my family in Argentina once a year, and ever since I got into film photography I have been returning from these trips with my carry-on filled with their old and unwanted cameras, flashes, and meters. This year, my aunt (who was an avid film photographer) found a bag of expired film and gave it to me to put to good use. Never having tried expired film, I gladly accepted them.
One rainy day soon after this, my cousin offered to give me a tour of the capital and I thought it would be a great opportunity to test the film and shoot some street photos. I live in a country where taking someone’s photo without their permission can land you a hefty fine, so I decided to make the most of the liberties of Buenos Aires. I loaded the only B&W roll from the bunch, a 20-year-old Kodak T-MAX 100, since I had the chemicals to develop it at home. I picked up my trusty 1954 Leica IIIf with the Leica Elmar 5cm f/3.5 and we took to the streets.
I had to consider the sensitivity of the film: it was stored in a cool, dry basement in a plastic bag for around 20 years. The rule goes that for every decade you should overexpose by one stop; considering it was stored well, I decided to split the difference and rate it at EI 50 (one stop slower) and hope it works.
I think it did. Seeing the negatives, which were developed with ILFORD ID-11, I was fairly pleased. The grain looks grittier than expected, likely due to age, but I personally find it fitting for rainy Buenos Aires. There’s a lot of detail in the shadows, and the mid-tones are nice and gray. And while not the sharpest, my Elmar gives the photos the 50’s look that I would not trade for anything. I do find that the EI was too dark for the conditions, so my aperture was glued to f/3.5 for the whole day while I would have preferred a longer depth of field in some cases.
The weather allowed me to cultivate the themes of anonymity and the mundane throughout the roll: covered faces, hidden movements, and the bleak bustle of a rainy commute all add to the idea that these moments are just tears in rain.
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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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