I was so happy to be given the first stop in Victoria ‘s world travels. I felt so excited and inspired opening the box and holding this sweet little camera in my hands. More than anything this was a tangible link of friendship between Louis and myself. We met on the 365 project website, Louis reached out to me and told me of the tragic loss of his young daughter Victoria in response to my own grief in the aftermath of the sudden death of my son. As parents who have lost children we share an understanding of the indelible mark such a loss leaves and the hurt we hold. Seeing Victoria Sousa’s photograph my heart seized with sadness, such a beautiful vibrant young girl, gone. And yet I am sure I felt her joyful, uplifting and encouraging presence during the 2 weeks I had this camera here.
I had a bucket-list of things i wanted to try, my first time using film in a long, long time. I am a digital girl, I have taken thousands of shots over the past 4 years and relish processing them to my liking with software, Yet film seems purer, not so perfect but more demanding, to wait for the moment, to pre-visualise rather than spray and pray ! . I hadn’t realised how film requires a whole different understanding and did a crash course to get my head around sunny 16 and avoiding underexposure. It was good learning, but to be honest this camera can take care of all that for you when set to automatic mode.
I decided to take all of my shots within walking distance of my home. Typically though the type of shots i wanted to take were not easy to achieve because the tides were wrong, the weather was dull and you just got to go with the moment and the light really, but she sent me exploring times of day and out of the way places i had not made the effort to reach before. I did some indoor shots on lousy days and eventually filled the first roll.
I chose a really dumb time to rewind the film, I was not thinking straight but convinced myself i was, I wound and wound and just when i wondered if i was doing it right it came free, voila! When i opened the back I was horrified to see my film still inside fully wound on the spool, i quickly shut the back knowing it was too late, i had ruined it. It was like a death, an accumulation of moments and memories wiped out in an instant, irretrievable, gone, poof! I was stunned at my stupidity ignoring the tiny voice that said read the manual! So just so you know, I’ll quote Louis, its “press the film release and wind clockwise and you are done like a donut! “( or make that a bagel )
There was nothing to do but start again, but the second roll was less spontaneous, I tried to reshoot some of the shots i had really wanted to see, i needn’t make the same mistakes I knew i had made the first time. I had acquired a shutter release cable so didn’t now have to hold the button down with my finger when doing a longer exposure, I went back with a tripod instead of precariously balancing the camera on rocks. I retook a walk through the bush but couldn’t locate what i had taken pictures of the first time, ferns had unfurled, flowers had been trashed by heavy rain the light was different, there are no reruns. I felt a bit despondent but then after a week of flat grey skies the cloud cleared and I could finally try some star-trails. It was the one and only truly perfect night for it and it was wonderful to show Victoria the stars. There is something different about shooting in the darkness, gathering light that your eyes can barely see, recording the passing of time in this way, I find it spiritual and its not so hard to believe that our loved ones, though unseen coexist with us in the same time and space .
I was feeling the pressure to finish up my roll and get the camera sent on to the next person waiting, but somehow it was all too forced, i was over-thinking it. I could tell that Victoria was getting a little exasperated with me, the thought came, ‘ just be like a 12 year old girl, see something pretty that you like and just click! And honestly i like the shots i took when i did that the best.
I tried a few double exposures, they are unpredictable so you have to just go with happenstance. If you want to try one or two, you take your first shot one stop underexposed and then press the film release while holding the winding spool tight and cock the shutter at the same place again to take the overlaying shot. inevitably they dont perfectly align so some cropping is necessary afterwards.
By then it was time to say goodbye to Victoria, Spanner the next in line had offered to develop my shots for me which I am really glad for because i am a fan of his film work.I managed to take some photos I like and feel an urge to do a bit more on film, with Louis’s encouragement and mentoring. Much love to you Louis, and I hope all of you who follow will enjoy your experience with Victoria too.