A Gentle Slowing

I didn't start shooting film again until last November.

In the 90s, everyone shot film. There was no other choice. Digital Cameras were prohibitively expensive for me until about 2006, so I learned photography on disposable cameras and Polaroid 600s; my dad’s Olympus OM20 was entombed in the back of a closet in our mid-century ranch. When we finally got a digital camera in the house it weighed about 10 pounds, it might have been one Megapixel, and it definitely saved its images on floppy disks. In the modern age of 12 MP cameras on smartphones that fit in your pocket, and 50 MP Medium Format Mirrorless cameras that take up the same space as that Olympus 35mm camera, that seems archaic. But to me It was revolutionary. I was able to immediately see the work I was doing. By the time I graduated high school, I had moved (along with most of the consumer market) entirely to the digital world. Film was becoming scarce, and places to develop even more so. I wish now that I had taken a photography course or two in school, learned how to develop my own film. Instead, I learned everything I could about Adobe LightRoom, DSLRs and the basics of digital photography. I purchased digital cameras and lenses until settling on the only SLR I could afford at the time, the Nikon D3200, a camera I still use today.  

When I came home from college, I grabbed my dad’s OM20 to use as decoration in my room (both of us were under the impression that it no longer worked, and that film would be difficult to find and get developed). I wish I could say I felt some urge to learn the format, but that wouldn't come for a while. Eventually,  Fuji released the Instax Mini, and impossible project were reverse-engeneering the old polaroid filmstocks, so I picked up instant photography again. It reminded me how much I loved the physical process of photography, and I dove headfirst into the emerging online film community. I poured over videos from Negative Feedback and KingJvpes, and heard the analogue world calling me home.  I grabbed a few thrift store point and shoots, and shot whatever I could find, developing my stills at drugstores who sent it off and kept my negatives. Eventually I found batteries for the Olympus, and loaded an old roll of Fuji Superia 400 into it.

Tread Lightly

There’s a spot on my apartment floor that creaks when you step on it. 

On the outside it looks like the normal faded “wood” laminate that they’ve placed all around the living room and kitchen. I’ve covered up most of the discolorations and blemishes that aren’t natural, or don’t fit the aesthetic of the overall apartment, with multicolored oriental rugs: the same type of worn and faded rugs that adorn art gallery floors and mid century “new bohemian” style houses. I write this piece sitting between a mother-in-law’s tongue and a 7 foot tall bamboo shoot. When im not writing at this mid century schoolhouse desk, im normally editing my portrait photography sessions on the PC here. I have apple crates for bookshelves and an electric blue velvet couch. I’m sort of a millennial stereotype. But i really do love my apartment, so for now i’ll take on the ‘blipster’ mantle. 

The apartment is the kind of place i dreamed about coming home to when i was pulling double shifts a few years ago, driving back and forth between my mom’s house where I lived, and the library in Norfolk and the bookstore in Chesapeake where I worked. The kind of place that overlooks the city skyline and the waterfront, both close enough to and far enough away from the downtown area that i can escape to or from the hustle of the city whenever I feel like it with a quick train ride. When i’m not commuting to work or picking someone up, my car stays parked in our lot. My neighborhood is fairly safe, so I’ve taken to walking lately. It’s weird to think that your neighbors might unconsciously see You as the most dangerous thing in their morning run or coffee grab. 

I think that’s why little things like squeaking floorboards get under my skin. Everything else is so idyllic. At least it seems that way on the surface. When nothing’s going wrong, its hard to see that there are still things just beneath the surface that need to be fixed. When its good, its great. Then i hear the floorboards groan beneath my feet, or the ac struggle and rattle when it briefly kicks in before sputtering out, or find water-bugs or my neighbor's roaches in my kitchen after I've just cleaned it. Standard apartment stuff, I know. But my rent is too damned high for this. 

On the Corner of Colonial Ave. and West 22nd St.

There's a street corner in Ghent, one that I frequent now that I live Downtown, that in High School seemed impossibly far away from the streets in Ocean View and Camellia where I grew up.

It was almost a foreign land to me then; a place I looked on with the excitement and wonder of a Parisian tourist visiting the Champ de Mars (ok, not that much enthusiasm. Excuse my hyperbole). In fall and winter, the bus from Maury High to the EVMS Medical School would careen through residential areas and shopping districts dusted lightly with frost in the early morning and, screaming to a halt in front of the hospital doors, eject its drowsy student cargo into the brisk air. On the journey to our morning locale, the corner would blur past us.

In the mid-afternoon when classes were done, a few of us would follow Colonial Avenue down to that corner. We passed offices and banks on our way, tagging our names in black paint down abandoned alleyways, and occasionally ripping our jeans on the concrete as we fell from skateboards or bicycles. The shops and cafes that now litter the streets either did not exist or held little value to us then. If I was walking with some lady love, our intertwined fingers would trade between her hoodie pockets and the pockets of my denim jacket, and we'd struggle to keep a shared set of headphones in both of our ears.  We clambered as one into tiny booths at Yorgo's Bageldashery, and then dove into the sea of punk and ska records at Skinnies.

With stomachs and backpacks full, we grudgingly trudged back up the few blocks to Llewellyn towards the High School as the sun dipped low, and either caught the after school busses or hitched rides back down Granby Street towards the Bay. The lights of the city drifted further from sight, and we returned to our more familiar domains; small businesses and local shops gave way to Wal-Mart and Food Lion, and cramped city streets to the sprawl of suburbia.