“So take the photographs, and still-frames in your mind , Hang it on the shelf of good health and good time.” Green Day Good Riddance (Time of your Life)
Memories and moments are often attached to physical objects. It is why we hold onto these things – allowing us to remember what was said or what was done.
In my late 20’s, while thinking of gift ideas for the Holidays, I asked for a camera store gift card. It was for a local well known camera shop that stocked every camera item you could ever imagine. This was before box stores started selling camera gear, and when film was still the only way to make photographs. Digital was still in its infancy and hadn’t crossed over into the consumer market just yet.
After receiving the gift card for Christmas, I drove downtown to the fancy camera store and purchased a 100 sheet box of Ilford Delta 100 4×5 film. I had a trio of 4×5 cameras at the time. The slow methodical shooting routine is pleasing to me. It allows life to slow down, even for a few moments, when life it seems to be traveling at 90 miles per hour.
Remembering back to this time in my life, it was rather complicated. I was married for about 5 years at this time. I was about to leave my first post college job, moving to a new city two hours further away. Soon in just a few short years we would have our first child, and then our second. Intermixed was yet another job move to a new city.
For these reasons – and reasons that are now lost in the fog of life’s complexity – I didn’t open this box of film until July of 2001. I only know this because the outside of the film box says it in my own Sharpie written handwriting.
Carefully planned images – made on trails in the woods with tripods and heavy cameras, would have to wait a bit as life had more pressing moments. As my children have almost grown, and I have a bit more time on my hands, I find more and more time to make pictures. It is nice to let life slow down a bit once again.
Sadly, there are only a few sheets left in the box. The irony being that this 18 year old emulsion, which has not always been properly stored, is fading…..just like the memories of all the past it has traveled in. The last six sheets I shot with were ghastly under exposed. I doubled the developing time to try and rescue the second batch from a recent shoot to no avail. Older film will lose speed as it ages (it, like anything perishable has an expiration date, it is well past that.) I’ll probably under rate the film at 25 ISO and add a few minutes to the developing time in order to eek out the last bit of sensitized silver.
When I hold this box in my hands I also think of the people that purchased the gift card so many years ago. Gus and Lucille Caponi, my wife’s grandparents on her mother’s side, were kind enough to get me the gift card.
They both passed on shortly after the film was purchased. In some subliminal way, I believe I have doled out these sheets carefully, so that I can prevent their connection to my life from fading away. Ironically the film is doing it for me. Teaching me a lesson about holding on, and more importantly about letting go.