Sunday, July 24, 2022

The Narrative You Didn't Ask For

Before I began using the large format cameras solely, I had shot images on a variety of other cameras.  I am determined to finish the rolls of film in my Canon EOS 1, my two Rolleiflexes, my Hasselblad, my Mamiya 6, and my Leica M7. Oh, yes. . . and my Leica R5.  That's a lot of film.  Shoot.  I have film in a Holga, too.  There may be more.  I can't remember.  Maybe in my Olympus XA.  I haven't looked.  I am thinking of trying to finish off all of that today.  

I have images on my digital cameras, too.  Yesterday I dumped the images on my Leica Monochrom into the computer.  The Monochrome makes images that are almost filmic.  Mine is the first iteration, the one that had a CCD instead of a CMOS chip.  

Bored yet?  Sure, that happed a long time ago when I began talking photography.  I have to stop this.  It is reporting, not writing.  I will stop in a minute.  Just let me finish up this last bit, O.K.?  

The images off the Monochrom used to be something.  Really something.  But yesterday, working with those digital files, the images just looked "thin."  They didn't have the depth or the soul of the big negative images I've been working with.  I was terribly disappointed.  

4x5 has ruined me.  

I'm trying to stop this technical jabber.  Let me make a soft transition.  

I woke up feeling something akin to depressed yesterday.  My body hurt, maybe from the effect of the humidity and rain on so many broken bones, but from something else, too.  It wasn't just the pain everyone with a body that has seen a lot of miles feels.  I suffered a listlessness that was attitudinal.  My life, which is really as simple as it could be, was getting me down.  Which parts?  The parts of the whole, I guess.  You've had those days when the most beautiful things leave you cold?  Sure.  I drank my coffee and read the news.  Then I wrote the blog and checked on some photo sites I frequent.  I've posted some of my large format images there and of course wanted to see the feedback.  Even praise, however, left me cold.  I felt like lashing out.  I wanted to point to the idiocy of those sites, the lack of aesthetic intelligence in people's taste.  I didn't, but I was grinding my teeth.  

It was Saturday.  I had thought I would travel out of town with my camera.  That was the plan.  But I sat.  And I sat.  And I sat.  And the morning slipped away. . . and I sat.  The more I sat, the more morose I became.  It was, I realized, the old catatonia come back.  I was psychosomatically paralyzed.  I wished to slip into a coma.  I felt halfway there.  

What I did next took Herculean effort.  Scoff.  I don't care.  I'm still not "there."  I can feel it this morning, the dark syrup in my veins.  "Fuck, I have an idea.  Let's talk about you.  Let's just do a little analysis since you aren't up to doing it yourself, and we'll see how integrated into your life you are.  Won't that be fun?"

At the bare minimum I would piss you off, but I am sure we could do more than that.  I'm sure we could crack that vapid, arrogant shell of an ego you present to the world.  I'd love to unleash my self-loathing onto someone else.  

And I have.  We will get to that.  

But back to the Herculean effort.  It was already steamy outside, too hot to think about traveling somewhere with those big cameras.  But I thought I needed to make some pictures, and I have been finding that I don't need to travel so far to do that.  There is a natural habitat park at the end of my street where the canal runs between a chain of five or six big lakes.  It entails a number of ecotones from swamp to sandy pine.  I decided to take my cameras there.  

I moved like I was swimming in molasses.  It hurt to move.  I didn't want to.  The world did not look fascinating.  It looked like something our of Dante.  But I was there.  I had packed the view camera and lenses into a backpack.  I had the tripod. I grabbed some film holders and walked to a small pond where the canal broadened on the flatter land where cypress trees and cattails grew.  The trail was muddy, then wet.  My flip flops were not an advantage.  I reached a clearing that overlooked the pond and found a rise of dry land.  I dropped my pack and began extending the legs of the tripod.  The air was steamy and still.  I had already sweated through my t-shirt.  Mosquitos were hitting my bare legs.  I pulled the camera out of the bag and balanced it on the tripod.  I put on the wonderful but shutterless barrel lens so that I could shoot long exposures on the X-Ray film and the very slow glass plates I had brought.  This, I thought, would look 19th century dreamy.  Or nightmarish.  We would see.  

I pulled out my light meter and was stunned at the readings.  It was brighter thanI thought.  I wasn't certain.  I was going to be guessing at the exposures.  One reading for the X-Ray film said half a second.  I was using my hand and the lens cap as a shutter, so I would have to remove the cap and put it back after counting "one thousand."  I got under the dark cloth and focussed, put the film holder into the camera. .  . etc.  

All in all, I shot two sheets of X-Ray film and two glass plates at two locations.  Bug bit and drenched, I headed up the hill toward the car.  I packed everything in the back and fell into the driver's seat.  I was exhausted.  Maybe, I thought, I've succumbed to Covid after all.  

All about me, men sat in their cars, engines running.  I knew what they were doing.  I thought not to sit in my car with the a.c. blowing very long.  I didn't know men still did this, but I guess the old thrill never dies, more or less.  

I had to shower when I got home.  I drank some wine.  I lay down and took a nap.  

When I got up, my mother was calling me about dinner.  My cousin from the coast had driven over to visit.  I didn't want to dine out, I said.  I would let them go to dinner and come over later.  I didn't want to do that, but I saw no way out.  But my mother said they would pick up steaks at the grocery store and cook.  I had just a little while before I would be expected.  

Still suffering from the old catatonia, I forced myself to mix up some fresh chemicals.  I just had time to develop the film I'd shot in the darkroom tent.  

I hadn't shot the film in the darkroom tent.  You know what I mean.  

I shuffled things back and forth to the garage, filled the trays with chemicals, turned on the darkroom light, and zipped myself inside.  

Nothing turned out.  Bare ghost images at best.  Of course.  Experience had been telling me those meter readings were off.  

I dumped the chemicals, cleaned the table, and brought everything back to the house to rinse.  I got ready to go to my mothers, put the negatives to dry, and without wanting to, I drove to my mom's. 

Usually, I can get above myself when I have to.  No matter how I am feeling, I can put on the mask, be the high profile happy character, and fake my way through.  But I couldn't.  I was at best perfunctory.  And when my dumbass hillbilly know nothing cousin began to opine about Biden. . . well. . . I just went after her.  It's not fair.  I knew it wasn't.  I got on that "you people" track, the one where "you don't have any data, you have no evidence. . . you people don't need it because you know how you feel.  That's all you have.  That's all you do."

I could feel my mother's dismay.  The rest of the shitty dinner was a poor attempt to act like that didn't just happen.  

When I came home, my depression was deepened by guilt.  I poured a scotch from the nearly empty bottle.  I flopped onto the couch and turned on "Selling Sunset," but I couldn't distract myself.  I've stiff armed everyone, I thought.  People no longer interest me.  I have deterred visitors.  I go out once a month with the kids from the factory, and that is it.  I eat meals alone.  Just about everything people say repulses me.  I hadn't realized how resentful and angry I've become.  

I am no longer me, I thought, that person I was, the one who garnered affection.  I am a crippled old man in a cave, isolated, fearful, and angry.  And someday soon, I will die.  

It was going to be a rough night.  I took some sleep aids and went to bed.  They did no good.  I fought the sheets and pillows all night.  It was a losing battle.  

So there you go.  Maybe you will like the technical reports more now.  They are boring, but that is all.  

Here is one of the images from the Leica Monochrom that I cooked up yesterday.  I've done things to it, but not nearly enough.  Today, as I said, I want to finish off the film in all those cameras.  I will not go back to the lake to make pictures of the toy yachtsmen again.  I've already decided against that.  It would be repetitive and I would feel foolish.  Onward, at least as far as it goes.  What is that up there?  Is that a cliff?  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  Can we just stop here? 

I have a hair appointment this week.  Maybe I'll change my look.  Maybe I'll quit using weights and go to pilates and yoga classes instead.  Perhaps I'll go to a float tank and meditate.  I don't want to go out into the world today.  The windows drip with moisture.  The world looks a wild mess.  I don't want to shoot with all those little cameras.  I don't want. . . I don't want. . . . 

There are days when it would be best to build a raft and float on a river toward the sunset.  Rather, I "endure" like a Beckett character.  It's not as heroic as Faulkner would have it.

"I can't go on like this." 

"That's what you think." 

We'll see.  Beckett vs Faulkner.  Two out of three falls.  Loser Leave Town.  Texas Chain Match.  No Time Limit.  


No comments:

Post a Comment