Thursday, February 24, 2011

Jobos and C-41

What happens when you throw caution to the wind and buy a Jobo CPE-2 film processor on eBay?

You force yourself to learn what it actually takes to process color film on your own. No Rite-Aid, no Allied Photo, no bumbling photo department worker that doesn't know you can run 120 film through that processor that normally develops 35mm.

This new toy and its complicated chemistry that goes bad if you look at it the wrong way for five seconds has reinvigorated my interest in shooting film. After a semi-shady Craigslist deal in Portland last week, I have everything necessary to process 12 (TWELVE!) sheets of color 4x5 film on my own. It's terrifying and exciting.

This summer I'll embark on a University-supported travel/photography adventure that will either fail miserably or succeed in somewhat mediocre fashion. Either way, I'll be running that Jobo and the 4x5 as much as I can. More later.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Determination Pants: Origins

Because there was a bit of inquiry from fellow photographer Brian Steele, and because this story hasn't been recounted nearly enough times for it to have become annoying, I feel compelled to recount the origins of "determination pants." (When you haven't made new work in a couple weeks, you've got to get something out on the Internet, don't you?)

The story begins with a pair of sweatpants and ends on the streets of downtown Detroit.

I was a sophomore in college and had just gotten back to campus after a break. It might have been winter break. It might have been spring break. It might have just been a long weekend.

While I was away from campus, I had picked up a new pair of sweatpants. One of the glories of going to college, I had been told in high school, was that you could wake up and wear sweats to your classes. I hadn't found that to be true on a widespread level, but I still needed a new pair of sweats.

They came from Champs Sports. They were grey. And they had a navy blue and yellow stripe trim down the sides.

And the first time I tried them on, they didn't fit right. There was elastic at the bottom and it didn't sit comfortably around my ankles. I didn't like it at all.

It was that moment, and in realizing I could change those sweatpants, that my life took a turn. Up to that point, I had assumed a level of trust that the manufacturers of products had made products the way they were supposed to be. That is, if something was made a certain way, it was that way because it was supposed to be that way. You don't put stickers on your laptop. You don't repaint your guitar. That sort of thing.

It was because of those sweatpants that I realized I could do something about products that weren't perfectly suited to my tastes. I could change them. But only if I really felt the conviction to do so. Because, in my mind, to customize a product by altering it took a level of determination that I previously hadn't possessed. (I had even approached the notion of changing my computer desktop wallpaper with a bit of trepidation, for crying out loud.)

So I took action with those sweatpants. I took a pair of scissors and I cut off the elastic at the bottom of each leg. They subsequently became my determination pants.

There have been lots of "determination" products since then, from hats to shorts to my car because I replaced the spark plugs myself. But nothing has eclipsed those sweats and what they meant to my life.

Story postscript: I wore those sweats for the last time on October 23, 2005 when I ran the Detroit Marathon. They were part of my warmup outfit that came off just before the race started. All clothes left behind at the start of the race are collected and donated to locals in need. The original Determination Pants were dropped at the race's starting line near Comerica Park and haven't been seen since.