A few weeks ago, Nils suggested putting together an unorthodox camera/film review that he felt would be useful to readers of EMULSIVE. He wasn’t joking, it was anything but orthodox. After a lot of thought and a bit of discussion with Nils, we’ve decided to give this no-man’s-land of reviews its own home and a title that better suits the content.
We’re calling it “TEST SHOTS”.
These first articles are going to carry you on a little journey with Nils as he explores new film stocks and locations. The results (like his initial idea) are not exactly orthodox but they are accompanied with some background and thought, which help to not only convey his thoughts on the films he’s testing but also the space he’s using to explore them.
In the future, we’ll be opening up this series to anyone else who would like to share their own test shots with the community. Ideally focused on results and learnings from shooting new films, there will be space for gear-talk, too.
There are many reasons for why we take test shots – and we all do. So many in fact that I tried, failed and nearly gave up on listing them all here. As a compromise, have four: new gear, new film, new locations, or just getting to reacquainted with “old friends”. If you’d like to tell a story about yours, we’d love to hear it. Drop me a line via the contact page.
All that’s left for me is to hand over to Nils, enjoy.
Who would have guessed I would find a place of calm and contemplation within the parking lots of a local university just ten minutes walk away from where I live?
This massive slab of concrete was the first public university in Germany to be built after Second World War. Some of its original structures are rooted in Brutalism – an architectonic form based on the use of raw concrete (béton brut) and massive, fortress-like structures.
If you consider my previous work, this might sound confusing at first – my minimalist, long exposures of the vast seascapes of Brittany seem diametrically opposed to the concept of shooting in the deep, concrete caverns of the parking lots; places severely limited by concrete walls and low ceilings, artificial light and dark corners. On the other hand, it makes perfect sense: both places are bare of human presence, and both are incredibly quiet.
These parking lots feel unworldly, far away from all the noise and hectic of our oh-so-modern-lives. But as opposed to the seaside, I just can walk there. These parking lots were also the first time I engaged with a subject which is: a) not a dog, and b) not a 1,000 km journey away, and going out for a night shoot has become a part of my weekly routine.
How did it start? Well, with the usual ‘I am going make a couple of test exposures’ with a camera and film stock new to me. All just to get comfortable with the camera before the next trip, and to find out if that film stock is something for me. Something I’m sure we can all relate to.
It felt great to scout this place I thought I already knew. The view on the mundane shifted, and a whole new world opened up: the lack of people made the place feel detached from everyday life. The darkness outside beams of artificial lights made it easy to get rid of the background clutter. I noticed slight changes in the soft background noise, as every level of the parking lot has its own distinct voice. Some of these were just calm, others hair-raisingly spooky. I’d hear a pigeon coo right beside of me – and no such animal in sight. Just a ventilation shaft.
As a result, I returned to that place again and again – even during the day – expanding my visual vocabulary. Since it started, I exposed various 135 film stocks (Revolog Kosmos, Fuji Pro 400H, Fujicolor Print Industrial 100, Kodak Portra 160, Cinestill 800T), as well 120 format stocks (Fuji Pro 400H, Kodak Portra 400, Kodak Portra 800, Cinestill 800T).
In the three months since the first roll was shot, I got feeling for a concept of where to take this series. My next step will be writing a proposal to the university, asking if I can discover the internal side of some of their buildings, explore the concrete structures and staircases of the inside. Fingers crossed, I will get permission – or find myself wrapped in the Kafka-esque maelstrom of Germany Bureaucracy.
Whatever the case may be, I wanted to share the early steps of this series with you.
Part one: 35mm Revolog Kosmos
Not only was this the first roll of Revolog Kosmos film I’d ever exposed, it also was the first time for me to scout and get in touch with the concrete underground parking lots of our local university.
This was a couple of months after I got a couple of rolls during September 2017’s Analogue Now Festival in Berlin, where Revolog had a little stall. After I experimented in the realm of 120 film with self-made, previously exposed film, I was curious to find out how the Revolog treatment turned out. So I loaded a roll into the 135W back of my Bronica ETRSi, attached a 40mm lens and a viewfinder mask made out of black cardboard to match the aspect ratio of the film back, and headed out.
Looking at the scans now, I kinda like the film. On the other hand, I think the frames would have looked great without the effect of the Revolog emulsion as well. This does not mean this film is useless – it just means I have not found the creative mindset to use it in a way the effect becomes more than just a mere effect.
So, while some folks belittle Revolog Films as something for the ‘Lomo Hipster Crowd’, I think it is a complex medium which requires skills and imagination for a deep and meaningful outcome…
That’s it for now, I’ll see you next time.
~ Nils Karlson
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