EscombrosMonday, December 10, 2012
1. m. Desecho, broza y cascote que queda de una obra de albañilería o de un edificio arruinado o derribado. U. m. en pl.
Diccionario de la Real Academia Española (RAE)
The negative, of the scanned image here, and quite a few others are stored in four negative books made in Germany (instead of the usual plastic the negs are slipped into a semi-transparent paper) that I purchased at that time. Many times through the years I have almost chucked out these remains (escombros?) of my picture-taking awakenings of the early 60s. Unlike my later pictures of the late 70s in these books there are few pictures of which there may be more than one version of. By the time motor winders became the norm with 35mm cameras as an option not only for speed but for the repetition that would "guarantee" the perfect take within the many I had almost (not quite) fallen for the crutch of making sure I had my shot by taking many interpretations of a first one.
Before electric motor winders (a winder shot up to about 3 exposures per second and anything faster like 8 or 9 was tackled by more expensive and heftier motor drives) were invented the Germans had introduced spring-powered motor cameras that were much too expensive for me to have ever considered buying. They were called Robots.
I own two motor winders (one for my Nikon FM and FM-2) and a heavy duty motor drive for my Nikon F-3. The latter is an imposing piece of obsolete gadgetry that would now serve me better as personal protection from a would-be thief in a third-world country or in a few back alleys in downtown Vancouver. I do not own any digital cameras of which most have the ability to shoot at bursts of high speed.
I am about to re-organize these, my first photographic efforts, into one binder with clear plastic sleeves that will give me access ( a clearer view) to images that I have ignored until now. I need not mix the chemicals and go down to the darkroom even though today, as I write, there are a couple of 8x10s that I printed in the darkroom today, flattening under heavy books in my living room. I need not mix chemicals and go down to a cool musty darkroom. I can sit here at my living room desk (a lovely Edwardian one) with the warm comfort of my scanner on my left. I have just scanned this picture which I took with a very fast film of the time called Agfa Isopan Record which was rated at 1250 ASA (or ISO in today's film and sensor speed/sensitivity rating). It was certainly the wrong film to use on what must have been a sunny day in Mexico City. It is not quite sharp and the negative is slightly over-exposed. I took the picture somewhere behind what was then one of the tallest buildings in the city, La Lotería Nacional. Houses were being torn down behind the building to make way for the widening of avenues and the construction of new low-cost rental housing that was to be called Tlatelolco.
I spotted this man and snapped and moved on. And yet this image has been in my head for years as a sort of signature shot in which I had almost learned to make my camera (a Pentacon-F) an extension of my eyes.
It is much too obvious, a cliché perhaps, to state that this escombro of my past life is rubble from which I built a new beginning as a photographer in Vancouver in 1975. I am going back to those roots as I increasingly shoot more with my little cameras (I call them little even if they are not so) and the feeling seems to lighten my limbs and help we walk with more speed as I begin, again, to see things for the first time.
In the last 10 years I have reverted back to taking one shot and not repeating it with a second to make sure. In fact I have expensive rolls of 10-exposure slide film processed with only five takes. I tell my subjects, that's it even there is that lingering feeling that I should not waste film and finish the roll. It is a lesson that I learned well back in 1962 not quite knowing that rubble would one day become the building blocks of a style that I have stayed true to.