Roll #52: To the Edge

Updated: Apr 22

I recently received a call from a friend of mine. They've asked that I not divulge their real name so for the sake of this story, we'll call him Bobert.


Things were getting rough. Social distancing and "stay at home" orders were taking a toll on Bobert's psyche. In an attempt to make things a little less dull, Bobert had plans to explore an abandoned mill located on the banks of the Little Patuxent River. Knowing the mill is located on private property plastered with "No Trespassing" signs, I voiced my disapproval.


I then followed with a "If you must, why don't you take along my old 120 format camera to record the experience."


Bobert's answer was a resounding "sure."


I then ran into an issue---I didn't have any 120 film. In an attempt to make a bad situation a little bit worse, I went into a dark room (not a darkroom), spooled some 35mm film onto 120 cartridges, and loaded the camera. Just as I swung the back door of the camera shut, I realized I could see what I was doing.


Light.


It was pouring in through the door frame, flooding the room. With each blink, my heart sunk further.


Light.


It's great for growing plants but terrible when you're working with a light sensitive material---or if you're a vampire. Best case scenario, the resulting images would be hazy and poorly contrasted.


BUT---who cares! Bobert was the one who would be shooting in vain. I'd just convert to monochrome upon scanning to have more flexibility with the light curves. Problem solved.


Thirty minutes after my tragic mistake, a rainbow wig-wearing Bobert pedaled his unicycle past my window and tooted an over-sized red horn. I hurled the camera to the sidewalk below where, like a dog, Bobert caught the camera in his teeth before continuing on his merry way towards the mill.


For those of you who are still uncertain, Bobert is a clown.


These are his words and his images.

It was my fourth weekend without a booking.


No birthday parties, no balloon animals, no makeup.


No over-sized shoes, silk scarves, or gigantic bow ties.


It was the worst.


I had to get out of my apartment in order to get out of my head. Being a fan of Stephan King's It and identifying with Pennywise's internal struggle, I sought out a decrepit location---a refuge for past clowns---a place where I could float. My search led me to an abandoned mill.

Rust and grime created a beautiful patina on the brick and forgotten machinery. I could imagine my lost brethren wandering in the dark corridors---their voices joining to create an opus which echoed off the walls. Their bodies visible while their faces remain mysteriously hidden in the shadows. Despite the beautiful picture I was able to paint in my mind, I felt an emptiness.


The vacancy of the experience took me back to a somber occasion---the funeral of my uncle Chuckles. He was in a travelling circus and respected by all. Everyone showed up to his funeral---in one car. His protege was left with big shoes to fill.

As I wandered from building to building, I spotted a being off in the distance. I followed her, maintaining at least six feet of distance at all times.


I never saw her face.


She never saw mine.

During my wanderings I encountered a hole. With my shoes on the edge, I leaned over to see what I could make out in the dark water below. I could see nothing---only shadows. For a moment I pretended I was Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs. In pantomime fashion, I lowered a bucket of lotion to an unsuspecting person below who I would later harvest to construct a skin suit.

In one room there was a colossal wheel and various cogs. The setup reminded me of a torture device I learned about while pursuing a masters in Medieval Studies at Yale---all prior to dropping out to attend Clown College.

I should have warned you---Bobert is a bit different. That being said, he does have a knack for taking spooky photos. You win some, you lose some. If in your adventures you come across a camera-toting clown, you'll know who it is. My only recommendation: Keep your distance.

Camera: Ansco Speedex 4.5

Film: Kodak UltraMax 400 (decolorized)

When: April 2020

Where: Savage Mill, MD

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Washington, D.C., USA 

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©2019 by Taylor Mackay