In my early adolescence I attempt to write my first of many unfinished books. This one is based on reading too much Thom Wolfe, listening to too much The Doors and wanting to take acid badly.
The genesis of it was La Honda, Kesey’s farms name, became my hero Nathan Zeno’s hometown, near the city of Ergot, like a Smallville Metropolis relationship. Nathan Zeno was a superhero who wore green sequined flares. It was filled with Pow!’s and Ta-dah!’s of writing style and is, thank heaven, lost.
But Nathan was to follow me.
"The machine does not understand the flesh"
Seth Brundle/Brundlefly in Cronenburg's "The Fly"
You have read many poetic descriptions by now, in your life, of chemical processes. Some of photography. I cannot do that analogue magic justice. I can deride digital, but this is not the point. Film is always light, it is never broken down into numbers. This is the first thing to remember in any comparison. Film means you cannot immediately preview, so you must know what you are after. Film means you only have 12, 24 or 36 shots, per roll and that you better know what you are after. Film being chemical and always light, means that what you get will be a sum of the two added to what you thought you were after, it will always be other than what you expected and at the same time exactly what you knew you where after. Or only know now. I cannot speak to digital, it has it's own advantages, none of which I am versed in.
I am versed in silver halides and sepia tones, C41 and E6, 127 mm prime lenses and leaf shutters. I know to cross process and the colour temperatures of light, I can read f-stop off the back of my hand and rely on no metering or automatic camera adjustments. Though shooting photographs I have come to know light, but not understand it. Knowing only that it cannot be grasped, nor contained. I have come to love light and find and draw out its small motes in shadows. I can see light in the biggest of darknesses and find shadow in blinding light. I over expose, I under expose, I revel in CIBA chrome paper and gelatin prints. Long hours in labs and darkrooms talking with technicians, myself sometimes that technician, finding a particular aspect and working ways, to without disturbing that natural order of light, enhance, reveal. I can hide with light and show with light, I can ring in darkness. I can be darkness. The astringent smell of the stop bath. The girlfriend adjusting her hip in the fading sun. dew drops on my lovers navel in the morning. My fiancée’s ass in see through panties. The crackhead on the corner, the whore whose soul I trapped and paid for. Joy at festivals, despair in war, my eyes have seen it, through the eye in my camera I have seen it again, different, refracted off my brain.
Photography is not memory. It never happened quite the way a photograph sees it. In its infancy especially but also beyond, there were proponents of film that believed somehow the chemical interaction with light revealed things invisible to the naked eye onto the photographic negative. Photography was used to track ghosts, capture fairies, find under sea monsters. Photography is myth making, celebrity in all it forms. Photography is another life revealed, a heart broken is so many different ways. I learnt things about peoples souls through photography that would have not otherwise have been revealed to me.
I have been told that I "have an eye" yet myself have always believed that my choice of camera and film stock is the only decision of framing and light I can make, the camera, the light direct me, the spirit captured on the film, is a guiding force. In all my times of emotional prosperity, I was holding a camera, looking at everything refracted in different ways.
As a teen, I was a classist, an arrogant son of a bitch who believed you could tell a man, by his shoes, the cut of his clothes, I mean, you can, but not in the ways I thought. I had French Vogue's, Blitz magazines, loved fashion, Oscar Wilde, dressed and believed in the Modern Dandy and Decadence. The other was not a concern; don't know how conscious I was. Carried these things into my twenties.
As my record collection grew, so did my reputation as a teen DJ and my popularity at parties. Maybe I only ever did five or ten, but they felt like an occupation. I consulted with Gordy, the DJ at Basement, with other DJ's at other clubs on the spur of the moment. Can you see? I am acquiring a swagger.
At Basement discovered public embarrassment when I insisted Gordy play a bootleg copy of George Michael’s "Faith" video on the big screen sent to me by Fiona (I think) and the sound quality so bad that it was mere fuzz. Gordy, Tertius, all faces looking at me.
This social advancement led from 6D through Richard Power to Guy Duncan, Phillip O, The North Beach Crowd, Rod Harries, Brad Anderson, watching the boogie boarders spit on each other upstairs at North Pier my pants on embarrassingly too tight, loving The Smiths, feeling superior not being got. Andrew egging me on in TD to hit that boy with the T square constantly. That boy later hanging himself.
Masturbating to the picture of Wendy Oldfield on the Sweatband album cover, thinking that song "This Boy’s gonna get there” was about me. In all ways imaginable.
Shopping in Grey street for Blazers and Tie's trying to emulate the older boys, The Tony Goss's the Colin Frankie's and the Phillip Hunts. Having Pseudo Sutic and Russell Van der V, follow my predilection for carrying Oscar Wild books to nightclubs, Dean preferred On The Road, never went on the road, whatever. Russell and me both crushing on a girl called Kathryn, who had an older boyfriend. Afternoons in her flat, she was out of school, how did we find her? Photographing her in a stream in the Drakensburg, amazed by the black hairs on her stomach, her cat like eyes.
Fell deeply for a girl called Helene, who Russell later got, was jealous but all of these, Maxine included were mere precursors to Phillip Hunt, Phillipa Green and Brian Dove. All my misconceptions and convictions’ stem from here.