I’ve just started using my 35mm film camera again. I’d forgotten how different it is to using a digital – and how much more deliberate you become when there are only 24 shots, and you know you’re going to have to pay to get them developed once you’ve taken them.
It’s taken me a little while to get used to using it again, but I’m having lots of fun with it. It’s also got me thinking about the physical medium of photographs as opposed to digital – and how different they are in terms of how we use them.
A bit like the difference between mp3s and vinyl actually. Broadly speaking, one’s for having on, and the other’s for listening to. With photographs, I guess it’s that one’s for flicking through, and the other’s for looking at.
At the same time, there’s this massive pile of old photos sitting by my desk. Three boxes of them, in fact. My plan was to scan them all, put them in some sort of order, upload them to Flickr… and so on. I’ve been planning that for about 5 years now.
But over the past few days, I’ve just been pulling them out at random, one at a time, and looking at them, thinking about the stories, the people and the places.
Here’s an example. It’s a scan of a physical photo, obviously, so that sort of feels different again. Like a vinyl rip, I suppose…
The fireman at the window
The photo above was taken at a party we threw in a place we used to rent in Lorne Street, Auckland about 12 or 13 years ago.
It was an amazing 5-bedroom apartment with a mezzanine floor. While we were there, it was a record label, production company, hang-out space (with foosball table), rehearsal studio, and something of a free hotel for travelling jazz musicians – mostly Australian drummers.
It was known as The Marae in the Sky – and had a bit of history in the Auckland nightlife scene. Great apartment. Exposed brick, polished wooden floors, huge open space, really high ceiling – two storeys worth, with an internal balcony and a massive main bedroom. We loved that place.
If you know Auckland, and are familiar with Lorne Street, the apartment was on the top floor of the Tony’s Restaurant building, next to that courtyard by the New Gallery with the steps that lead up to Albert Park. Very central.
Anyway, at this party, we decided it would be nice to put candles everywhere. We had dozens of them – all arrayed beautifully around the room. On windowsills and tabletops – but we also had freestanding wrought-iron candelabra. The place looked great.
The party was slow to start, but it was early. A trickle of guests had arrived, there was music playing, people drinking, talking – the usual party stuff.
And then the firemen turned up.
Apparently, we’d set off a smoke alarm or something – only the alarm hadn’t sounded on our floor. The building had been evacuated – including all of the restaurant patrons – and we were completely oblivious. And the music wasn’t even that loud.
Our first thought when they burst into the apartment was “whose friends are these, and why have they come in fancy dress?” until this man on the ladder appeared at the window.
They weren’t very happy with us (and nor were the restaurant owners) – but had there been a real fire, we would have been in serious trouble – so we figure it all evens out.
Anyway – that’s just one photo. There are three and a half thousand more in those boxes.