The Analog Process - Part 2
I love hip-hop. As a Puerto Rica/Mexican kid growing up a few blocks from Park Hill, hip-hop has played a major role in molding me into who I am today. Hip-hop helped me find my place, it opened the door to a new outlet for creativity. I still remember the first time I heard One Mic:
"Jesus died at age 33, there's 33 shots
From twin Glocks, there's 16 apiece, that's 32
Which means one of my guns was holdin' 17
27 hit your crew, six went into you"
My mind was forever blown. To that point I didn't realize you could use words to tell stories that way. Poetry had been a passion of mine since grade school, but this was different. Without hip-hop's influence, I likely wouldn't be doing photography today - nothing was the same after that moment.
Of all the artists who have impacted me over the years, few have had as big an impact as Propaganda. The West Coast rapper was everything for me. His music reminded me of my Mexican roots, the family I rarely see in SoCal. It gave me new perspectives on everything from art to religion to family. It made me want to rap better, it made me want to tell better stories. Recently, I got to spend an hour with Prop on the Upper East Side with my Nikon S3. We talked about gentrification, flying with toddlers, Wu-tang, and took some ill pics.
I took a lot of chances on this shoot. This was the first real shoot I approached with only film (I usually shoot a few digital shots just in case things go terribly wrong with the film). I only had one roll of film to shoot - 36 shots. We met in a neighborhood I was mostly unfamiliar with. I self developed and scanned the film. There were a lot of constraints, and a lot that could go wrong. Here's what I learned:
1. Be flexible
This shoot likely wouldn't have happened had I tried to bring Prop to an ideal location I was familiar with. Because of many moving pieces, I got his general location and time frame the evening before we were supposed to shoot. I never got confirmation until the morning of, as I was moseying in that general direction. We planned the best we could, and that was cool. Any rigidity on my end would have likely been a deal breaker.
2. Bring extra film
I brought one roll of film. That was dumb. It worked out fine this time, but backups are always important. Anything could happen, and getting stuck without film is the worst thing that could happen on a shoot.
3. Go big or go home
Shooting: I was tempted to take a safer route on this shoot. This was big for me, and I wanted to make sure we walked away with some good shots. I thought about bringing my DSLR along to make sure I had the shots I needed, but I knew I wanted to shoot this on film, so I didn't.
Developing: I have about 6-8 rolls of self developed film under my belt. I feel pretty confident in my process. I use Rodinal as my developer (more on that in a later post) which gives my film a distinct look. Still, I was tempted to bring the roll into the lab for processing to be safe. I didn't.
Scanning: I use a unique, pretty experimental method of scanning my film (more on that next week). I was tempted to bring the negatives to the lab to make sure things went ok. Again, I didn't.
I went all in, high risk, and the payoff was so good. This could have easily went another way though, and I was ready for that. Film has brought me some brutal low points, but those make the wins that much sweeter.