18/8/22 (analogue wonderland part 1)

Today I want to write about analogue things. Okay not today, this one’s taken a while to get around to, I’m busy! Which is good. This week’s thing is about analogue cameras. It’s part one of a two-part thing about analogue thingies. I’m getting this vocabulary thing down you’ll see.

Last week, I unearthed my first camera. It’s a Praktica SK750 Auto Focus, and I’ve had it forever. I mean, I remember being given it either at one Christmas or a birthday. I’m sure it came in a pack with something else, and I’m not sure I actually understood what it was when I opened the wrapping paper. It’s the camera that took all the photos I shredded in Photograph (You can watch the whole thing here), and, upsettingly, takes batteries. ugh. batteries.
The telltale sign of white dusty stuff coming out of the camera was the first giveaway. After much heaving with various sharp objects, the batteries are now out, the new ones don’t want to connect. I kind of don’t blame them. I haven’t decided yet wether I try to get the half a reel of film in there developed, or give it another go with a bit of sandpaper and wishful thinking.

my probably knackered praktica camera and its case

During July I participated in some workshops run by Alchemy Film & Arts, titled Cultivate! in Hawick, Scottish Borders. Run by artist in residence, Julia Parks, these were a rare opportunity to get hands-on with 16mm film, and included introductions to cameraless techniques, as well as the chance to get out and about with Bolex in hand to film actual 16mm film and then develop it in a series of buckets in the darkroom.
Here’s a small screenshot of my segment of film:

I’m interested in the statues of Hawick, and in the Borders generally, but Hawick, because there are (unsurprisingly, but also disappointingly) no statues of named women in the town. On my regular cycle route, I pass Jimmie Guthrie, Bill McLaren, and Steve Hislop. All men involved with sports in the town. I also pass two war memorials, including the campest statue I’ve ever seen (The Glorious Dead indeed), and the 2019 additions to the park that are cut-outs of first world war soldiers, the negatives of series erected in France. These are partly poetic, partly brutal, steel sheets representing ghostly absences. We had limited time to figure out what we wanted to shoot, so I decided it was probably best not to do something too quickly conceived that might turn out to be horrendously inappropriate and offensive about the statues (I am sure you can patiently await a post about them…). I turned my gaze to the park’s fountain, which has had its own small amount of controversy about its colour… which is kinda hard to tell in black and white…
The fountain had ‘aye been’ silver… I mean, I only ever remember it being silver. It was a bit unremarkable to be honest. I’m not sure I even remember it being turned on. A loud, but small minority in the town were very concerned about it being re-painted in gaudy colours. I was at a meeting in 2017 about it, there was much concern.
I was probably a bit ambivalent, mixed with a slight annoyance that the proposed colours were of course blue and gold, which are suspiciously close to the town’s common riding colours. The common riding is the annual summer festival, which I’ve written about before on the blog – go take a look in the archive! 
There are arguments including the intriguing assertion that the town’s common riding colours were red and blue at some point (that honestly feels faintly dangerous to type, as these are the Jedburgh and Selkirk colours now…), and a kind of split between the deep green that’s the colours the rugby team use, and then the not-quite correct green of the new bridges installed by the flood protection scheme, and the blue and yellow, or blue and gold that’s the common riding, and I think I need to make some kind of index card and do a survey of all the ‘official’ colours of the town. That might be a fun project to come…

Anyway, after we processed the film, I took my section, and coloured the negative in orange, so in positive, it’s blue, and a bit splotchy. I want to think about fiddling around with it digitally, but haven’t worked out what yet. Maybe something to do with drawing, too.

Tune in next week (ish) to find out about my fun with the Solarcan Puck! and a polaroid camera from Oxfam. 

Read about the exciting debate on the town’s colours in the Southern Reporter’s coverage of it here

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