The first time I saw EM’s “Secret Santa” idea was just before Christmas 2015 and, whether because I was fairly new to EMULSIVE, or because I was too thick to comprehend a wonderful concept, I didn’t sign up.
When I saw the articles afterwards, and the many comments, it dawned on me what an absolutely fabulous idea this was. I made myself the promise that I would sign up in 2016.
If you are new to the site and don’t know what EM’s Secret Santa concept is all about, this is it, in a nutshell: you sign up to participate, promising that you will anonymously send another participant (who will get assigned to you), part or all of their wish list. By the same measure, you will receive part or all of your own photographic wish list from an anonymous Secret Santa who is also an EM enthusiast.
EM asked for a $10-minimum value gift, which seemed eminently reasonable, and after that, the sky was the limit.
Time to pack
So, late November 2016 came around and I signed up. I didn’t know how precise to be with my wish list: particular types and brands of film I wanted to try? A Leica M3? In the end I decided that the best way to do it was to describe what kind of photography I enjoy, so…everything!
I would send 35mm, 120, color, B&W and infrared…and leave it up to the Universe and my Secret Santa to see what he/she could scrounge up. The whole enterprise is well organized on a website called Elfster, which a few days into December 2016, sent me an email message with the name and address of the person I would send goodies to.
In some cases, people get busy around that time, or forget they signed up for this, and they space out that they need to type into Elfster what they would like to receive.
Be aware that what you write down in your list is a suggestion… So, a comprehensive list is a good thing because it gives your Secret Santa ideas of what you might enjoy—but it very emphatically does NOT mean that you are entitled to receive every item of your comprehensive (and expensive) wish list or else!
It does not mean you have to break your own budget either. I think what EM came up with is a wonderful concept of this analog photographic community; sending out small, thoughtful gifts to people you many never know as a lovely gesture of goodwill, peaceful endeavors, and general geekiness.
I sent out for one of the things that my assigned person wanted, since it wasn’t something that I would normally have inside my film fridge. Once it came, I wrapped it up in festive paper, added a cheery and anonymous note, and off it went via mail to where this person lives.
Personally, I felt so inspired by this idea of radical generosity that I sent anonymous gifts of photo stuff to people not on the list but who I knew in different ways. And I also told EM that I’d have some small packages ready to send out after Xmas to people whose own Secret Santa’s had failed to come through—a statistically infinitesimal number but nobody would want to be in the “hey, I sent out my Secret Santa package to someone, why didn’t I get mine?” group.
[EMULSIVE: a huge thanks to Lorraine and others for helping get players with "missing Santas” matched up!]
An early Christmas
Very soon after sending my parcel, I received an intriguing package…from Hong Kong! Occasionally I buy stuff on eBay that comes from HK, but I was pretty sure I hadn’t ordered anything from that far away.
I guessed it was Secret Santa, and the whole thing went under the tree to wait for Xmas Day, as requested.
Inside, was my Secret Santa’s gift: a roll of Bellamy Hunt’s JCH Streetpan 400 BW film (which I had been sooooooo wanting to try!), a roll of Rollei Infrared and a roll in of Rollei CN 200 (AGFA Digibase 200) in medium format. I kept pinching myself!!!
Because this very generous and outside-the-box-thinker Secret Santa had ordered their gift to be shipped from @CameraFilmPhoto in Hong Kong their credit card information, this person’s name and address was in the receipt. This person’s identity was out (nobody I knew, not even from Instagram!) but there would eventually be a good side to this.
A few days after the New Year, I decided to try the Rollei CN 200 (AGFA Digibase 200) on my Lomo LC-A 120 camera. I wrote an article for the Lomography Magazine about it (which you can read here, if interested), and essentially found it to be a really interesting subdued-color film. Here are my results:
Since I was going to be in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for much of February and half of March 2016, and since JCH 400 film was created as a film for street photography, I took it with me, knowing I would probably find a good opportunity to shoot the streets.
On March 8th, 2017, the international day of celebrating Women, I walked with well over a hundred thousand others in downtown Buenos Aires, shooting my gifted roll of JCH Streetpan 400 through my Pentax K 1000 (28mm lens).
I got the film developed when I returned to Washington State, and LOVED the results. Here are four of my favorite shots of that day:
A few weeks ago, I made 5×7 copies of the last two, added a thank you note, and mailed them to my Secret Santa who, though not fault of his/her own, had lost anonymity. Still, I hope this lovely person feels that generosity always somehow gets rewarded.
And the Rollei Infrared 400? I have not shot it yet… I am waiting for this endless rain to stop and hoping for some bright sun, so I can do as much justice to it as I can.
Thanks for reading.
~ Lorraine Healy
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