black and white photography

My Sister, My Muse by Maria Spadafora

Toddler Emma

I've been sticking a camera in my baby sister's face, and sometimes other body parts, pretty much all her life. A natural and talented performer, Emma Rose is usually up for it, whether I'm testing out a lens or experimenting with depth of field. I took so many photos of her and my brother on black and white 35mm film when they were growing up, she once quipped "Didn't they have colour in them days...?"

More recently Emma and I collaborated on a project to document her journey through corrective surgery for bilateral hip dysplasia. Having spent her life 'clicking' her hips into place in the same way others casually crack their knuckles, the pain and arthritis that developed over the years started to become unbearable, and it transpired she'd been born with hip sockets that hadn't formed normally, along with a tilted pelvis.

After a long four year wait (don't get me started on my frustration and fears for the NHS!) in November 2016 she finally had the first surgery to her right hip - a periacetabular osteotomy (PAO). Reconstructing her pelvis means she won't have to have hip replacements until she is older and she'll have the same surgery to the left side next year.

As I write this, almost four months after the surgery, her scar is immaculate, and she's walking really well on crutches (though still needs the wheelchair for distances).

She's my hero. On blinged-up crutches.

Delayed Gratification by Maria Spadafora

Slide

There's a special kind of pleasure to be derived from having a film processed. Not really knowing what results you'll get when you take the pictures, combined with forgetting what pictures you took, leads to a real sense of anticipation, surprise and 'oh, yeah!'  - especially when the film's been in the camera for several months. We lose this with the immediacy of digital photography. 

I recently had two films processed. I go to Dragons in Leeds, largely because the staff are so lovely. It's a good 25 years since I processed or printed my own film. The last time I attempted it I was massively out of practice and cocked it up big time, losing a whole roll of pictures taken at a Fatima Mansions gig (I'll never get over this!). One day I'd like to renew this skill, but in the meantime I'm happy I can still access this service.  A roll of Ilford XP2 had been in my little Robocam for about four months, and a roll of Agfa colour slide film had been in my old Praktica SLR for about six.

The results were mixed. I never really know what I'll get with the Robot camera. It's a toy, plastic, lomo camera with three lenses and no viewfinder, so the results are always surprising. It's best to use it with fast film in good light, because the lenses are quite cheap and nasty. The triple pictures can be very funky, especially if you get just the right amount of movement (there's a fraction of a second difference in the shutter release for each lens). Amusingly, I once processed a roll taken on this camera at an Asda store - every picture came back with a "faulty camera" sticker on it.

The SLR I used also produces mixed results. I bought it for a mere £29, and it hasn't got the best lens. I've found that sometimes I have to over-expose images a stop (older cameras often have their little idiosyncrasies). The scanned images are never quite as bright or sharp as the slides themselves, but you get the idea.

 

I suspect (hope) film, like vinyl, is making something of a comeback. I've seen a few young people knocking about with 35mm SLRs recently, which is a good thing, I reckon. They get to experience the joy of waiting...

Disderi Robocam