Destination Curiosity

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A couple of thoughts on curiosity, and how it drives and influences how I work as a photographer.

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The effects of my curiosity are both sweeping and subtle, in regards to the decisions I make with my cameras and where it will take me.

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One aspect of it is that I am always trying to do something different, or looking back on things I once experimented with but never explored thoroughly before heading off in other directions. So I make a point to come back and revisit some of those ideas.

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Recently I decided to start working more with the very basic Daguerreoytype Lens and an unusual new film. Ferrania P30.

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I am always curious about rendering the world through such images as opposed to images that are familiar in both sight and photography.

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This is easy enough to do, and these images aren’t the point. It doesn’t really matter if a photo is any good or not. In this case it was about being curious, asking myself questions and then answering them by making pictures. Hoping to capture that elusive lost Image.

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Sometimes I get the shots, sometimes I don’t but ultimately it is not why I am there, nor is it why I pull out that camera. Which itself might sound crazy.

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I don’t solely use my camera to make photos, I also use my camera because it is a sort of meditation and a justification to linger a bit longer.

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Sometimes we get so hung up on how best to make the photos and we fret and worry and ultimately distract ourselves.

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I know this is very abstract and I also know it is easier to say when you have several decades of experience doing as much photography as I have and I know it is easy to claim not to worry about the pictures when you have a whole hard drive full of images you love. I know abstract advice isn’t easy, but for me this is my driver. And maybe that truth doesn’t work for anyone else. I cannot comment on other photographers approach, just my own.

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I can offer insight based on that, invest myself in being there with a camera in hand. I make photos, and by the time that shutter fires that goal has been met, my destination has been reached and the story has been told.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Cherry Blossoms And The Theater Of Life

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Every year I plan to visit the local cherry blossoms with intent to find beautiful images, to do something different than I have before, use different cameras or different films, or just look with different eyes.

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Because isn’t the definition of insanity going to the same place to make the same photos over and over again and expecting different results? Something like that. And considering how many years I have been making images, that at some point I have to do something new otherwise I would get out of my mind with the repetition.

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So I only made one trip to the cherry blossoms. No new cameras per se, but a new lens.

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Sometimes life plays out as a weird drama, sometimes a comedy. Hints of tragedy – sometimes more than hints. Maybe this is a scene from a love story. I have a feeling that there are elements of drama and tragedy here too. If not in previous acts, then in ones to follow. We live our lives on a stage, perhaps always. We live our lives in the audience too, always.

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I told you I was going down to the cherry blossoms with different eyes.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Dead Bees On A Cake

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Old Records Never Die

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Yesterday was Record Store Day. A day as important to me as World Pinhole Day and the birthdays of my loved ones.

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The sun was shining and I had a new (new to me anyway) Film to try out. So I loaded my Rolleiflex and headed into town. What a surprise to see how popular this day has become.

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I was hoping to score a David Sylvian recording which has never been released on Wax before. Expanded into a limited edition on white vinyl for 2018’s Record Store Day. It is now the double album Sylvian had originally intended it to be, and includes four additional tracks; ‘The Scent of Magnolia’, ‘Albuquerque’, ‘Cover me with Flowers’, and ‘Aparna and Nimisha’.

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As you can see Lady Luck smiled on me.

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Warm April sunshine,  damn fine coffee, great music and a new film shot. A most memorable and happy day.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

 

A Dream Within A Dream

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I am plagued by sleeplessness, and usually drift off sometime between midnight and 1 am. Lucky for me, my body is used to this by now and I woke as usual at about 6. None of this is terribly important info, it is just providing a bit of context for I awoke from a dream; and dreams that get interrupted by waking always seem to stick with me a bit more clearly. Generally I have weird dreams that make me look dubiously at myself when I actually remember them. This morning’s dreams weren’t so weird. I was having a dream about being in a conversation with someone regarding why I use film. I know, I know, maybe I think about film photography so much that it permeates my dreams. But it was actually kind of refreshing to awake with a whole series of explanations laid out in mind. Or at least it was refreshing that that was what I woke to. There are many worse things for one to wake up thinking about right now.

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I have answered this in a lot of different ways. I generally preface it by saying it is a longer, more complex answer than people might be expecting. Perhaps they would be better off continuing the conversation in a dream. Ha. But it is something I think about and I am constantly trying to refine my answer to adequately convey. I witness friends and strangers alike making countless photos with their phone. Instantly created, instantly posted, and instantly forgotten. I do not own a phone camera, and I cannot feel any emotional connection to a phone itself. If I did I think I would be repelled by the notion.

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But let me explain some of the reasons I generally hold or give out. The first is that I love the cameras. My Hasselblad, my Nikon, my Leica, my pinholes, my Rolleiflex. I seem to create much more of a connection with these pieces of machinery than I do with any of my digital equipment. But my Rolleiflex is something else. I often introduce the camera as being the same age as I am (it was made in 1961) and it will live just as long as I will, if not even perhaps longer. Knowing it won’t be made obsolete by new technology (it has already faced that distinction) and replaced in a few short years helps. But it is more than this. I like the mechanical nature of my film cameras. I like that they don’t have a library of menus that present a solution to every problem I might face. I like that they don’t show me immediately whether my guesses and calculations were right or wrong. Nah, they are true companions, they listen to me, they share my vision, they chip in with their perspectives but it is an easy-going partnership. It is hard to explain, really. I think using a film camera like a pinhole or a Hasselblad or a Leica is something you cannot really understand till you have tried it. There are tactile qualities that just cannot be expressed. There is a change in perspective that escapes a verbal or written explanation.

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And speaking of tactile, I really value producing tangible results. Negatives I can hold in my hand. True, I scan all my photographs into a digital format, but I always keep the file of negatives. If you told me that a member of my family might someday show their grandchildren the pages of negatives that these images reside on, I wouldn’t be all that surprised. But if you told me that one day they would show them the digital file of this image, I would be surprised. Is it honestly reasonable to expect the generations that come after to maintain the digital archive I have created of my generation? How long will my hard drives last? And unless someone takes care to transfer them to new media they’re lost. And what happens when that person no longer cares to? And that is not counting the chances of computer failure. I don’t place much stock in the permanence of digital media, especially given the habits of the average photographer when it comes to backing up and printing their work, me included. And so my film is my best hope for future children to see the life I lived and the images of the world and their ancestors. I put a lot of stock in this. There is a reassuring quality to being able to hold a negative up to light and see the image frozen there in your hands.

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And if I were to limit this to just three reasons, you know what the third would be? The cost. I use film because it costs me money. Some claim that digital is great because the photos are free (after you buy the camera, those lenses, a computer and an Adobe CC license, of course), that you can make as many photos as you want with no charge. And this is an advantage in its way, but so is the cost of film. I load up my Rolleiflex and each shot costs me somewhere between 50p and £1. The photos aren’t free at all but because they have a cost, I assign them more value. When something costs you, you care about it more as a resource. I think about each of those potential images a bit harder and more carefully. I make the shots count. And it makes me a better photographer for it. Sure, I move slower. I make fewer photos. I am more deliberate and disciplined. These are not bad things. I can take my DSLR and easily make 400 images, but how much do I value each of those images? Not much. The majority of them are disposable and when I am making them I treat them that way. I don’t really care about 95% of those photos. And as I said, there are times that they are advantageous. But when I carry my film camera I care about each photo I make much more. So using film teaches me to care about each image.

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There are other reasons, but those I think are the big ones. I could talk about the aesthetics of film, particularly black and white film. I could talk about dynamic range. I could talk about the delayed gratification of it. These would all be good topics to discuss further. One thing I don’t think you will ever hear me talk about interestingly enough is quality. I don’t go down that long and murky path despite using medium format film. For me it is still too contentious an issue and one that too many spend too much time arguing about, does film make a better image than digital? As if it is all about sharpness, pixels and detail. It just isn’t that important to me.

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So I am trying to use the computer and social media less, and just focus on real life and the people I love and my art. Of course I am not going to be fully off the grid, because as you can see I am publishing this post. At times my head feels like it is exploding with the amount of information we are forced to consume on a daily basis and how that information is so distorted there is almost no longer any tangible truth. I feel there is this blanket distortion on society/media and the way we gather our news and important information, and more and more of us are feeling lost and looking for new ways out of this distortion and back to the truth. Finding hope in places like the Forests or beneath the big Sky, finding hope in the land and in the water and in old books offering new ideas and most importantly in each other and love. And using good old fashioned film to capture this beautiful world of ours.

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Well there you go, a glimpse into my head this morning from my first few moments of consciousness.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

The Acros Lament

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My Lament to Fuji Acros, which is not long for this world. Like the seasons, the inexorable spin of the planet and the relentless pull of time and progress have their way eventually. Acros will be a memory, but what memories it will have made. This roll, for example, exposed in the shifting dunes in the middle of the coastline nowhere, with the sun beating down and the wind completely still.

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Tangentially, I’m a late spring/early summer guy. I love the promise of warmth. I love the feeling of well being it brings. I love the quiet that both bring. But spring comes and goes such that despite how well we get along, we always part. But we part with promises to reunite again when we can. Eventually time will break that promise but till then…

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I am disappointed to see Acros break that promise, but it is a fact of life as a film photographer. I have seen more films come and go in my years than films currently available. Weirdly enough, I am OK with this and that is largely because I have images like these. It is worth it to live through the demise of Acros because I had this chance to make these Photographs with it. And not to sound callous, but there are other films. So I carry on and swing between tears and wonder.

Still, I will miss this film.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Lightbulb Sun

LS3I’m not who I used to be
No longer easy on the eyes but these wrinkles masterfully disguise
The youthful boy below who turned your way and saw
Something he was not looking for, a beginning and an end
But now he lives inside someone he does not recognise
When he catches his reflection on accident
You may tire of me
Because I’m not who I used to beLS1
But I’ll follow you into the dark
If Heaven and Hell decide
That they both are satisfied
Illuminate the No on their vacancy signs
If there’s no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I’ll follow you into the dark
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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

If You Look The Other Way

 

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Lazing on the shoreline while the spirits disembark

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Seek out a place to sit and rest down in the dark
Smell something burning just a small distance away

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I have no fear of anyone, I’m alive, my spirit free

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Now the shadows are long, everything’s still, everything’s the same, and the dreams that I had are public domain

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From a burrow underground
Climb to the surface, blink my eyes, and look around

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Claim my place beneath the sky
I watch the stars without fear

If you look the other way I disappear

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Forbidden Incantation

I finally got my hand on the Daguerreotype Achromat 2.9/64mm Art Lens. Glass I have lusted over for some time. Let’s utter a spell and step back in time….

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….to capture the willing subjects.

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Missy

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Hattie

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Ora

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Aldo

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Jonah

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Needle Felted Iberian Lynx

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Some things you’ll do for money and some you’ll do for fun
But the things you do for love are going to come back to you one by one.

http://www.berndkugow.photos/