Roll #8: Mistakes Were Made

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

"Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” - James Joyce

This was a roll of two monumental firsts:

1. Shooting on a medium format camera

2. Developing my own film

I will not attempt to deny that by now, film photography has become an obsession. An obsession which led me to make several online purchases within a short period of time, all of which merely added fuel to this fire of obsession. The second I completed the purchases, the wait began. Hourly I would go to the UPS tracker to see if there was any moment on my order. Time could not pass fast enough. Eventually, delivery day arrived and my tracker refreshing became more frequent. As the sun began to set on delivery day, I worried I would have to wait in torment another day before receiving the package. Just as I began to wallow in sorrow, by the grace of the delivery gods, my wallowing was ended by a loud thump on the doorstep. Drying my tears, I dashed to the door and swung it open. I was greeted by a beautifully brown, gigantic, cardboard box. After dragging the box inside, I dove into it with a knife to reveal its entrails. An array of plastic and toxic chemicals filled my vision. This assortment of photographical splendor was my Red Ryder BB gun and just like Ralhpie, I could not wait to use it.

The next morning, I woke up to be greeted with a brisk outdoor temperature of 18ºF. Unphased, I loaded my camera, and headed to out to capture a few images in Baltimore. I began my journey at the Gould Street Power Plant. Carefully, I unloaded my Mamiya RB67 from the car and mounted it on the tripod. After a short debate about lighting, I meticulously set up and snapped a few frames. Satisfied with what I had captured at the power plant, I made my way to Federal Hill, Baltimore Street, and Mount Vernon. At each destination, I carefully framed my images before capture. Very, very carefully, resulting in very, very frozen fingers. Both Mount Vernon and Federal Hill have a lot of interesting history, monuments, parks, and architecture. A better photographer than I could easily shoot multiple rolls at each location and only capture a small portion of what each neighborhood has to offer.

Baltimore Street on the other hand is a complete mess. As an outsider, it appears to be a shell of what it once was. Beautifully architectured buildings line the Baltimore Street, however, most are abandoned. The remaining non-abandoned buildings are an amalgamation of fast-food dives and tackily named gentlemen’s clubs. Where the street intersects with Holliday, one can stand on the corner and see a wide variety of illegal activities (take your pick) in one eye, while maintaining the other eye fixed on the city’s beacon of corruption: Baltimore City Hall. I’ll stop my rant here before I get into trouble.

Eventually, I made my way back home and began the development process. This process lasted roughly 35 minutes, 20 of which were consumed by me struggling in total darkness, unsuccessfully trying to get my film onto the reel and into the light-proof tank. After completing the development and fixing processes, I performed one final water rinse and held the negative strip to the light. EVERY type of horror filled my face as I realized EVERY frame was improperly oriented. Every picture meant to be in portrait, was in landscape. Every landscape, in portrait. WHERE DID I GO WRONG? The answer to this question has its foundation in the camera and my inability to read directions.

I was using a Mamiya RB67. The RB in the name signifies “Rotating Back.” Said rotating back allows the photographer to switch between portrait and landscape orientation without having to rotate the entire beast of a camera…just the back. Being inexperienced with this camera and medium format in general, I assumed the camera’s base orientation was landscape. With this assumption I framed every shot. What I came to find out afterwards was that the inverse of my assumption was true. What. A. Moron. This was an excellent learning opportunity which produced 14, 120mm-sized mistakes, a few of which…I really like.

Camera: Mamiya RB67

Film: Ilford HP5 Plus

When: January 2019

Where: Baltimore, MD

Rope and cleat near Baltimore, Maryland

Woman in Mount Vernon. Baltimore, Maryland

Fence in Mount Vernon. Baltimore, Maryland

Building in Mount Vernon. Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore City Hall

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