Shredding the Past

Nothing makes you confront your past like moving. Or at least all the stuff you’ve been holding onto from your past. I’m moving on Thursday so this week has been full of going through old stuff. In my case that also means a lot of old film from the beginning of my career before I switched to digital. I have 2 huge cabinets full of old chromes and negatives from about 1996-2004 when I “went digital”. Until now I’ve been holding onto it, because it was well, my work. But I never do anything with it. I haven’t even opened the cabinet in years. So how many times do I need to box it all up and move it to yet another apartment where I’ll unbox it and put it in the cabinets and then not do anything with it until I move again and repeat the process a few years later? It’s time to stop the cycle and lighten the load. Out of every hundred shots from those days  there is maybe one good one. So I decided it’s time throw away the other 99. All the best stuff is mostly separated and scanned already anyway. So I went through it all and saved the good ones and made a huge pile of the ones to get rid of. I don’t need the outtakes from a catalog shoot in 2001 for a company that doesn’t even exist anymore. But then the practical problem of what to do with it all came up. If I just put it in the trash I don’t really want that stuff out in the world, even though it might not be any good to me. There are still copyright issues with a lot of them that would be bad if they popped up again somewhere. Plus if I’m not going to have them, no one else should either. So I called an industrial shredding company to come pick it up and shred it all, which they did this morning. It’s a very strange feeling to load a bin full of the tangible result of a lot of time, effort and money and then have a guy shred it. But to be honest it also felt great. I’m so happy to move on much lighter than before.

It’s also fitting that in the end I would have to pay to get rid of my film. I had to pay to buy it, pay to process it, pay to scan it, pay for things to store it in, pay to move it and then eventually pay to dispose of it. It’s the last chapter in a lukewarm relationship I had with film. It’s almost a taboo thing to say, but I never really liked shooting on film. I never felt like I had the level of control over the image I wanted and that I now have with digital, and always wished I had before. In the beginning film is all there was with no alternative, so it was what it was and you didn’t think about it. I spent years in the darkroom perfecting techniques to get it to do what I wanted. But I always felt like either the materials or the lab or the scanning process had a weakness somewhere and I felt like the images were always somewhat compromised for it. The challenges of scanning film, the nasty chemicals used to make it and process it, the pain it was to travel through airports with it, keeping it cold, keeping it warm in winter, the waste in the packaging, waiting for polaroids, polaroid goo, sleeving film, editing it, clip tests, logging it on shoots, the possibility it could be lost or get wet, trying to get a good print from a chrome, loading cameras, loading holders, getting it to the lab and back and of course the expense of it all, are things I don’t miss. The christmas morning feeling when you picked up processed film from the lab was great, and is gone with digital. But that’s pretty much all I miss about film.


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