Happy, Followed by Sad…

 Two with Megan.

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Yesterday afternoon, I had quite a pleasant surprise when I received a phone call from New York photographer and blogger Dave Rudin. Dave operates the Figures of Grace blog. He is also one my favorite contemporary photographers working with the nude.

Dave and I have exchanged comments on various topics through our blogs and to connect a voice with the words on the screen was good. We both approach photography from the perspective of the traditionalist, though it must be said Dave is adhering much closer to those roots than my present circumstances allow for me to do. We spent nearly an hour talking everything from galleries to darkrooms. I was reluctant to end the conversation to fulfill a dinner obligation with friends. It was good to hear from him.

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The Door Closes a Bit Further…

…for me on film.

In my backyard is a detached storage shed where my larder of film and printing papers were stored in an old upright refrigerator/freezer. During the prior week, while I was out of town on non-photographic business, severe thunderstorms struck the Savannah area, a common occurrence in summer. I’m told power was out for several hours. When I returned home, I stuck my head in the shed and flipped on the light. It worked. Power was restored and my house was cool. It didn’t seem so bad. What I didn’t see was that the breaker to the outlet into which the refrigerator was plugged had tripped.

Fast forward ahead several days; I’m walking by the shed into the back yard when I notice a bad odor coming from the structure. I went in, opened the refrigerator, and recoiled.

In addition to film and paper, food was in the freezer portion of the now warm and stinking appliance. The photo materials in the freezer were saturated with detritus from thawed and rotting food. The materials in the refrigerator portion faired much better, only experiencing warmness.

There was no saving the freezer; rolls and boxes of film along with enveloped packages of paper were destroyed. The experience of cleaning up the mess and throwing it all away was, to say the least unpleasant. Yet as often happens in times of suffering, knowledge was revealed.

I’ve written often of my struggles moving between the film and digital worlds. As I toiled through the foulness in the Savannah summer heat, I began to understand the final reality that my time with film; a time when complete sessions were recorded on film and worked by hand, was over. The financial reality is I can’t afford to set up, run, and maintain a darkroom. Even if I could, the fact remains that other aspects of life simply won’t permit me the time it takes to do it and do it properly.

A long time has passed since I knew I would have to make the transition to digital imaging. The alternative was to end my photography, and obviously, I chose to transition and continue. Still, I held on to all of this stuff for over six years in the hopes I was wrong.

So here I was, sweating and unpleasantly odorous, two trash bags stuffed with sour smelling film and worse smelling pot roast, chicken, and fish, looking at hundreds of undamaged rolls of film and boxes of paper and wondering what in hell to do.

I decided to pass them along to another Savannah photographer and friend who also works with the figure, and shoots only film and can maintain a working darkroom. At least I know everything will go to good use and not wind up in a landfill. But I’m not giving it all away, at least not the film. I’m keeping a handful of each variety.

You know. Just in case.

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2 Responses to Happy, Followed by Sad…

  1. Dave Rudin says:

    It was great speaking with you, too, Bill – and I hope you'll be able to put your remaining rolls of film to good use one day.

  2. Bill Ballard says:

    Thanks Dave –

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