Berlin Before the War and Before Photoshop

When I was a lad, there was no such things as google earth, the internet and digital photography were experimental technologies. Accordingly, there was a market for picture postcards.
Before I was a lad, there must have been a market for even more and even cruder photo products. I assume so because, some time ago, I bought a set of 12 old souvenir photos from Berlin.
These seem to be actual dark room prints in a 6x9cm (2.4″x3.5″) format -suggesting they may have been simple contact prints from this size. They have small legend texts in the lower left hand corner which could easily have been added by writing on the negative or -more likely- by placing a transparent layer bearing the text on them.
The can be dated to the inter-war period from the content: the picture of Potsdamer Platz shows the traffic platform, an early attempt at building a traffic signal, although this things apparently was manned.
There are few other giveaways. One object the photographer seems to have been keen on where the relatively modern double decker buses seen in some shots. We no he was keen, because they have been added in post production.
This is most obvious in the vista of the old museum where several cars and a double decker bus appear literally cut and pasted onto the negative. The perspective doesn’t quite match, and the cut lines are clearly visible.
It is less blatant, but still discernible with the bus on the victory column roundabout and on Potsdamer Platz. Look carefully and you can see the cut lines on the asphalt.
This is hardly the first example of analogue cut and paste but, to me at least, one of the more obscure ones. Stalin’s motives were clear enough. About those of the unknown photographer we can only speculate.

Party like it’s 19FP4

Those who developed their own black and white films in the last century are bound to be familiar with Ilford’s signature products.

So much so that some of them barely get noticed. Maybe this is the motive for the FP4 parties recurring among the twitter analogue photography community.
It works for me. For really fine grain, there are slower films, for maximal versatility, there’s HP5 and then there are high speed T-grain offerings …
I didn’t get round to much in April, but at least the FP4 party got me shooting again. I post some shots from this year, and an earlier occasion in 2018.

Locked Down

The last year offered few opportunities for photography, but it offered some. These opportunities were eerie, sometimes depressing but at least they were there, interrupting the monotony centrally planned withdrawal from public space.
Over this period, I shot a roll of Tmax P3200 at ISO1600 in an old Canon FTb. Roaming the streets like Omega man at least came with the unusual attraction of seeing the inner city like a still life, unusually quiet in daylight.
There are some shots in near empty shops when the lock down was relaxed somewhat and some from a sparsely populated gallery.
All in all, the lock-downs left a strange impression. An unusual, strangely tempting photographic backdrop on the one hand coupled with an unsettling sense of foreboding with what the aftermath will bring.
Birkenhead park had more squirrels than joggers while the lock-down was first eased. In time, it will fill again but the empty pubs and shops may not.

I don’t think anybody knows what will happen next, but something tells me this will not end well. At least my Ilfotech-DDX didn’t go off -things could always be worse …

Remember, remember the 9th of November ….

During this year’s #filmfeb I professed that my projects for the year were to shoot more 4×5 and revisit some old negatives. Shooting 4×5 in a lockdown is a bit of a challenge, but it seems to be the ideal time for digging into old negatives. I shall start by going some 30 years back.

In front of Schöneberg Townhall, 10 November 1989. Schöneberg is a district of Berlin; during the cold war, West-Berlin’s regional parliament met in this district’s townhall.

One of the side effects of growing up in Berlin during the cold war, was being there when the whole affair ended. Continue reading “Remember, remember the 9th of November ….”

Berlin and its Holocaust Memorials

On my most recent visit to Berlin I decided to do something I had so far avoided: take some shots of the usual Tourist motives. I had done this elsewhere of course, but never in Berlin. The obvious starting point for such a mission is the Brandenburg Gate, where I got the standard shot towards the end of the golden hour. The film was 120 format Kodak Portra 160 in a Zenza Bronica SQ-Ai, I brought a 50mm and a 150mm lens.

Brandenburg Gate

From this first location, Continue reading “Berlin and its Holocaust Memorials”

ORWO Expired?

ORWO NP22

The East German ORWO products have long appealed to more old fashioned photographers. I shot ORWO black and white films occasionally, when they were still being made and used their photo paper regularly. ORWO paper was actually made of paper, or cardboard, at a point when most modern photo papers were made of some form of plastic or at least resin coated. To those photographers with a bit of a Luddite streak the traditional paper just looked nicer. Continue reading “ORWO Expired?”

Pushing out of my comfort zone

On Twitter, @_JasonAvery challenged my camera. Well, not only mine specifically, but he through down the gauntlet with the #camerachallenge: 1. push an ilford film by two stops or more 2. move out of your comfort zone.
Pushing ilford films by two stops is the easy part. I’ve done that before. I would do it again, and decided to push Ilford Delta 3200 to ISO 12800 –that’s exactly two stops and rather fast for film.
The bit about the comfort zone is harder to interpret. Did the challenge want me to be less comfortable during the process itself? I hope not. Or did ‘subject matter out of my comfort zone’ simply mean shooting stuff I don’t normally shoot? This approach Continue reading “Pushing out of my comfort zone”