The Myopic Me project started out, as most things in my life do, on a whim. We had a podcast to record, I was thinking of things we could discuss and the idea of Ade (Sunny 16 Podcast co-host) and I undertaking six-month projects popped into my head. Neither of us had attempted putting together any body of work much beyond single images before and in the depths of Winter the thought of having something to drive me forwards really appealed.
I probably already had the notion to do something based around my short-sightedness when I dropped this bomb on Ade. I’d recently been wearing glasses almost full time after decades of only using contact lenses, and the little things, like not being able to tell Shampoo from Conditioner in the shower were on my mind. I wanted to see how my choice of subject matter changed when seeing any detail was no longer an option and thought a few shots per month exploring that would be fun.
Unfortunately for me, and largely as revenge for dropping this whole 6-month commitment thing on him with 5 minutes notice, Ade declared that in order to truly get something from this project I should aim to shoot a roll of film a month and share 14 pictures from each roll.
I appreciate that to almost everybody reading this, 1 roll a month is a pathetically small amount of pictures, but I am a notoriously slow shooter, and the notion of getting 14 images worthy of sharing out of 1 roll was (and remains) laughable. Nonetheless, I’d forced Ade to commit to his Chain Reaction Project, so I couldn’t back down.
I shot a test roll in the run-up to Christmas 2016 in search of the right look. I knew simply close focusing wasn’t going to do it, so it was time for some lens hacking. M42 mount lenses in particular, are quite easy to get into and remove or flip elements. I tried out a couple of different lenses on a Zenit 12XP, but when developed neither had given me a look close to how I see things. Luckily, Mother came to the rescue by supplying a Fujica ST 605n and a Helios 35mm 2.8 she’d been given, which, once I’d flipped one of the lenses rear elements, was the perfect partner for this adventure.
I say partner and I mean it. At best I can take half credit/blame for what you see in these images. I put things that look interesting to me without my glasses in front of the camera, and the lens does to the light whatever it sees fit. Sometimes it ends up being a dull out of focus shot, other times it can be an unrecognisable mess of bokeh, but every now and then things come together to make, well, something.
The need to get through an entire roll every month meant I always had the camera with me, mostly taking pictures in places I’ve shot many times before. A large part of the reason I shoot so little is down to a feeling that I’ve already taken all the pictures I want to take in the places I live and work, and whilst this new setup didn’t show things in a whole new light, it did at least bend the old light into interesting shapes. It was also incredibly freeing – no need to focus, and who’s going to worry about motion blur when your whole picture is blurry, so shooting handheld at pretty much any shutter speed was also A-Ok. This became my go-to point and shoot for 2017 no matter day or night.
I can’t comment in any qualitative way on the results. They’re a series of, almost entirely, very blurry pictures. To my partner at least that’s the beginning and the end of it, and she’s utterly baffled as to why the hell I spent what ended up being a year doing it. For my part, there have been a few shots on each roll I’ve liked enough to make it all worthwhile. It isn’t what I thought it would be when I started and that’s probably what I like the most about it. It’s my world as I see it without glasses, but it’s also a bit more, and sometimes that bit more has been a surprise to me.
Doing this 6-month project, even though it took me 12, convinced me of the value of projects. It motivated me to take photos in a year where I shot very little and encouraged far more reflection, not just on how I felt about the pictures I was taking, but on why I’m taking pictures, and my broader feelings on photography and art in general than previous piecemeal pictures had.
I’m undecided as to where to head next. My instinct is to run fast in the opposite direction and try and find something worth shooting super sharp and defined, but part of me feels like the fact that all I need to do to see the world differently is to take off my glasses is almost a super power, albeit a pretty lousy one, and maybe there are new, blurry, pastures green for me to explore yet.
~ Graeme Jago
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