Last night I watched the film Kodachrome. It’s a great movie and I thank whoever recommended it to me. It follows the last journey of an estranged father and son across America to develop rolls of Kodak’s legendary Kodachrome film before the closure of the only lab left in the world that carried the chemicals. It’s a story about relationships, interaction and loss, but it resonated with me on another level to anything so transparently interpersonal.
Before I really started painting I earned a living as a photographer. I captured many smiling faces at weddings, bands rocking out amongst swirling fake smoke, and in later years catalogued tiny catering machine parts (not necessarily my finest, coolest hour, but it paid). Everything I shot, I shot on film. Kodak’s Tri-X was my go to film of choice, mostly due to its amazing high contrast and ability to cope with so many lighting situations and range of uses. As it was black and white I could also process it in my own darkroom and print it to the exact requirements I wanted. I loved it. But then like so many things we love and work at, it became more of a task and less fun and increasingly expensive. And then my partner at the time died suddenly. I had been teaching him how to use a basic manual camera, how to develop and print his own pictures and in turn he helped me endlessly on those long days at weddings where changing film super quickly was so necessary. It hurt, it seemed pointless to capture moments he was no longer part of, and so I simply put down my cameras. That was 12 years ago.
I preferred black and white film, not only because it meant that I had total control over the outcome but because my world is so colourful. When everything is bursting with colour it was good practice to strip everything back to tonal values to really see what was happening in a moment. Seeing without the colour let me see past just an optical view and that helped me paint, to abstract compositions and the emotions within them, relating back to the colour from the synesthetic reaction to the scene and its soundtrack. We all have that radio playing in our head right?
In the future there will be nothing to indicate we were ever here (except for a damaged planet). There will be nothing that shares the joy of friends at celebrations, trips to exciting places, weddings or new arrivals into families. Or those snapshots of everyday society, our living spaces and the evolution of everything around us. Nothing. Because everything we photograph now is digitally shot, reducing moments in time to bits of data, just a code, that in future will no longer be read or make sense. Prints are just that, printed bits of paper, not the traditional silver impregnated sheets, rather just inks that fade layered on a surface. And a shiny one at that. Traditional film photography gets in the moment, captures time to chemicals and metals that will take hundreds of years to decay and communicates something far beyond a family piss up. This is ours. This moment is fleeting. Our time is fleeting. But in a proper photo we can capture it and hold on to it for more than a lifetime.
My paintings depict layers merged and worked together to emulate our own stories and those snapshots of memory that link us to a time, a place, a song. Photography, proper photography, deserves to be part of that again as that is exactly where my passion for picking up a paint brush came from. I don’t want these everyday moments to slide into the background and away from our sight. I am terrified of losing my memories of my life as I get older. I’m thankful that I had my cameras in hand those years back so I have real photos that won’t fade in my lifetime of those that have long departed.
So today I picked up my cameras again, loaded and started shooting.