On Delayed Gratificiation

Some of the photographers of old get rather upset when folk say ‘film slows you down’, so I won’t say that, but I’ll say it slows me down for sure. It’s not just the ‘on location’ pace, but also the time it takes before I get to see what I tried to visualise.

It starts with the negative development. While the process itself is not particularly time consuming, for reasons both environmental and economic, I tend to develop my B&W negatives in batches of two, and I rarely shoot more than a roll a week, and sometime life permits a lot less than that.

The delay between imagining and seeing becomes even more pronounced with colour. The chemicals are designed to be mixed in batches for six rolls each, and once mixed don’t have very long shelf life. And so in the fridge the exposed films go, until I have at least four of them, which, considering I am mostly focusing on B&W these days, can take a while (this weekend I am developing slides I took in October and November of last year; quite exciting, a couple of frames there that I thought at the time had some promise).

And then there is the printing (for me photography is mainly about the print, I have nothing against digital display of photos, but it doesn’t do it for me personally). Sometime the print takes four hours in the darkroom, sometime fifteen, and I can maybe find a day or two a month for this. All in all, in the last six months I have made eight photographs, and have another four or so waiting to be printed.

I expect, you, the reader, might be asking why on earth would anyone do this in this day and age? I could give here a whole list of reasons but the simple and most honest answer is ‘because I enjoy it’; the tactile nature of it, the very fact it doesn’t involve a computer (which I spend far too much time with as is).

Of course, this delayed gratification can (and does) at times turn into a delayed disappointment; the cover image is my witness. But all in all I am finding that in this instant world of ours the lack of immediate feedback is more of a benefit than a hindrance, the inability to see the result right here and now makes photography sort of an exercise in patience, even faith, for as it was said long time ago

Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see, this is what the ancients were commended for.

And faith, in turn, inspires dreams, and dreams are what the best photographs are made of.