Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ahhh, Film...

 ...from a photographer's notebook

Deadly Warning     ©Steve Ember

One of my very favorite episodes of the wonderful TV series M*A*S*H had Hawkeye giving Radar some practical romantic advice. Seems the shy young Corporal O’Reilly had fallen madly in love with a very attractive nurse, who reciprocated his puppy-eyed interest.

Only problem was, the nurse was more, shall we say, culturally evolved than Radar – you know, into great works of art, great books…and classical music.

Hawkeye clearly had his work cut out for him in making sure Radar wouldn’t step in it when mention of the Great Masters entered into those romantic tête-à-têtes.

Hawkeye was tutoring Radar as to what he might say when various classical composers’ names came up. I can’t recall who the other classical composers mentioned in the episode were, or just what Hawkeye told Radar he should say about them, but I’ll always remember what his guidance was, should the conversation turn to Johann Sebastian Bach.

He told the young corporal to let his eyes go all dreamy, look heavenward, and say with all due reverence, “Ahhh, Bach.”

Radar looked puzzled, but Hawkeye explained that was all that needed to be said – the nurse would certainly understand, even if Radar didn’t.

I must say that, as a classical music lover (and erstwhile classical music broadcaster), I am more likely to use the Ahhh before names like Brahms or Berlioz or Rachmaninoff…

But no matter. I must admit to chuckling “Ahhh, Bach” during the occasional playing of the Brandenburg Concerto No.3 or similar Bachiana. And yes, I did occasionally back-announce such music with a winking “Ahhh, Bach.” Could be that’s why I’m not doing classical music on the wireless anymore.

But, “Ahhh, Bach” remains one of my favorite lines from TV, ever since that M*A*S*H episode, which I know I must have seen a good 25 or more years ago (so pardon, if my recollection of details of the episode beyond the "ahhh, Bach" is less than letter perfect).

So what could the photo up top possibly have to do with Hawkeye, Radar, and ol' J.S. (ahhh) Bach?

Well, Dear Reader, the header to this wee bloggie does call attention to it containing those “musings, ramblings, and the occasional curmudgeonly rant.” We’ll skip the rant … this time...but with Hawkeye’s rationalization of “Ahhh, Bach,” the title of this little ramble might just make some sense.

Ahhh, Film…

Not too long ago, I was interviewed about my photography and one of the questions had to do with why in tunket I continue shooting film alongside of digital.

That is probably a question a serious photographer would not ask. Indeed, he or she might just get that dreamy look and say something like…“Ahhh, Film.” But the interviewer was not a serious photographer and so the question was entirely valid. Why, indeed?

The answer is somewhat more difficult than I expected. It certainly defies concise sound-bite-y answers that are the expected norm in today’s radio culture. 

Louis Armstrong is said to have once answered an interviewer’s question about what is Jazz, with the comment “Well, if you gotta ask…”

Didn’t occur to me to use that line; indeed, it would have been rude and uncalled for in the circumstances.

But how does one give a succinct answer to why one continues to shoot film. If ever a picture is worth a thousand words…

Is the photo up top (click here to see it in higher definition on my Foto-Community pages) my black and white “masterpiece?”

Nahhh (rhymes with Ahhh).

Just one of many I’ve shot on film, whether black and white or color slide or negative, over the years.

This one happens to be recent, shot just last December on a roll of Kodak Tri-X. A well traveled roll of Tri-X, I might add, as I started shooting it five years ago on a winter day in Germany. It was toward the end of my trip, and I had shot only 18 of its 36 frames. So I stashed it in my freezer for the next time I wanted to shoot Tri-X and didn’t need a full roll. There were more recent opportunities, but somehow this roll just stayed stashed in the ol’ Hotpoint’s frosty attic.

In the second half of 2012, I renewed my vows to film, in a big way, as I purchased a bunch of “new” old 35 mm cameras, and lots of film to feed them. Toward the end of the year, as my freezer is not one of those room sized monsters you can stash a deer in, and since the Haagen Dazs must always retain a certain amount of real estate, I decided to go through any partially-shot-and-stashed rolls and get out and shoot them, to test those “new” old cameras, make way for more newly purchased film, and not threaten the Vanilla Swiss Almond and Green Tea’s space...

Anyhow, I picked up the developed Tri-X at the lab this evening, and got the urge to shove some of those strips-of-six into my scanner and see if some might be worth sharing.

As this particular image emerged from the scanner into my editing program (B/W film images always need some editing, if only to touch up the inevitable dust flecks that can attach to film, and which Digital ICE and similar programs for removing such little annoyances cannot remove as they do not work on black and white negatives), it occurred to me I was looking at an answer to the question of why I (and others) continue to shoot film.

No, I’ll not point out anything that distinguishes it from a digital capture…no words on texture, tonalities, character…

You'll get none of that sort of learned dissertation to slog through here. Well, not tonight at least. You see, that Haagen Dazs is waiting upstairs.

For now, just a dreamy "Ahhh, Film."

©2013 Steve Ember

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