Me: I feel like that was probably a good photo.
Mr Coates: Well, we’ll find out in two months. Or whenever you actually get the film developed.
In a now annual tradition, Friend Harper gives me a disposable film camera (this time with flash!) that I use for about a month. Half the film is wasted with the camera swishing in my purse, since movement winds it and takes accidental snapshots.
Two things I really enjoy about this exercise: The unknown — without a digital screen, I have no idea how these photos are gonna turn out. And the wait — the passage of time between the time the image was snapped, and when it’s finally developed, can change the photo’s interpretation.
January feels like last week … and a lifetime ago. No filter, obviously:
The crackdown started, infamously, on June 4, 1989. But the movement had been swelling by this point, made so tragically clear as we revisit images from that time and remember.
“We know now that one side was arguing for restraint towards the demonstrators and for wider reforms, while hardliners pressed for a crackdown. It was almost unbelievable to witness the open massive challenge to the authority of the CCP. It went on for days, then weeks, numbers growing. But something had to give.”
Friend Harper gives a goody bag to his guests that stay over at his place in Chicago. In the canvas tote are cool things like Harper-branded stickers and … a black and white disposable film camera, which I managed to use until Harper came to LA last week and I could hand off the camera to him to develop.
I love the hard-won look of these. And the time capsule element – there’s something special about film because it gives you such a finite amount of photos you can take. I wasted a lot by just taking nonsense photos of things like takeout boxes, for fun, but I also found this exercise in limits (only 24 chances) and patience (had to handoff the film to be developed, and then wait) really lovely. Baby Luna looked hot, as usual.
Because I’ve spent most my career as a visual journalist, photographers are pretty much my favorite people. In television, I got to work with some of the best of them around and it made me sorta picky about shooters. So when it came time to get married, the only person I wanted to shoot our Amsterdam wedding (besides war photographer Damon Winter, of course) was Channing Johnson, my effortlessly talented, immensely humble photojournalist pal from college who I got to know during my senior year, when I harangued him into shooting stills for a terrible documentary I made. His work never disappoints.
Channing is a nostalgia-junkie like me, and we just like hanging out with one another, so when I told him we were going to be in Boston a couple of weeks ago he offered to join us at MIT and just shoot a few bump photos to mark this whole family-expansion experiment. What he got, of course, was way more than we expected and I’m so grateful.