B&W Film

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Film is so beautiful and nostalgic.

I picked up a small love for film about four year ago. I’d been sitting in Econ lecture, scrolling through artists and photographers when I stumbled upon a photographer.

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A year after gathering a small appreciation (obsession) for film, I took a black and white film class.We took pictures in black and white and processed them in the darkroom, shot with borrowed Canon cameras.

I photographed strangers, artwork, puppies, toys, store fronts….so on and so forth. It was then that I realized: there is so much whimsicalness in the world. So much strangeness and beauty! The panda head human: a stranger. The toy train: more strangers. I began to shift my perception, seeing my surroundings in blacks and whites, hues and gradients, shadows and bright spots.

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In the dark room, we removed the film from the tube in a room devoid of light. With washes and chemicals and timers, we processed the small rolls of copper-colored film until they were ready to hang and dry.

Then we brought the dried film into the darkroom, where we each had our own space to magnify the film images, invert them, and light-print onto a piece of light-sensitive paper. Afterwards, we doused the paper film in another long process of chemicals and washes before the sheet was finally ready to dry.

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Processing film by hand was tedious, but fun.

I found an old film camera (a Canon snappy LX) about a year ago while cleaning out the house, and ordered some Superia film in. I’ve been slowly, slowly photographing with it. I have….six rolls of film to shoot.

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When I look at other’s images taken on Canon Snappy’s online, they look like the photographs my parents used to take decades ago, when film was all they had.

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Weekend Roadtrip: Day 1 | Photo Diary

 

 

After a few heavyish days of work, I welcomed our Halloween weekend roadtrip with open arms.

We exited the city. Urban sights. Buildings, lanky; cars, cranky.

Traffic was awful on the way out. Extended the trip by an hour and a half. Slow eighteen-wheelers formed blocks on the 2 highway roads. The occasional snaking did little, if anything, and we found ourselves behind the same squarish white vehicle humming along at 75 mph. After an hour, we exited onto winding country roads dotted with ‘cow orchards.’

 

A horse, I pointed. Those are cows, he said.

Indie alternative playlist, light and happy. The sun beat down on the right side of the car, which I happened to be sitting on. I’d decided to wear a long sleeve sweater: this was a mistake. But eventually I propped up the window cover, and slung it over a hook.

We stopped for kolaches. I changed into a floral tank in the car. We ordered danish ‘kolaches’ with jelly-filled centers and the typical pigs-in-a-blanket. I got a mid-sized one as big as my face and munched on that as we returned to driving.

Shot with NOMO INS W.

In time, the sun set. Violently pretty, I wrote on IG Stories. We cruised along a wider highway, making our way down the road. Red-pink, orange-yellow, white-blue sky. Sky line silhouettes. We exited onto a long road of tolls.

Falling darkness. Falling parts out of the angry aggressive truck beside us.

Toll flash. Toll flash. Toll flash. Toll flash.

“Nine tolls so far.”

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Around 8:30, we stopped by a nearby BBQ hut dimly lit by the side of the road. A fake horse stood in front. We circled around the farm-like place, unable to find the entrance. Plumes of BBQ-esque smoke hung in the lot. We found the entrance. Inside were wooden seats; above, the decorative remains of a bony animal.

We reached our destination. To wrap the night up, we finished the BBQ and watched a few episodes of Haunting of Hill House, snuggled beneath the throw.

Cali

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Slow swaying palm trees–rugged rocks ashore– cliches washed up on the dense fog of memory–

I’m skipping around humming the outdated song by Katy Perry, California Girls, which we’d blast and sing to at 13. Ah–many moments of fleeting teenagedom, of drive-through Sonic runs and post-pool walks to the movie theatre, were to the soundtrack of Katy Perry. It was freedom when freedom was at arm’s length.

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That I’m revisiting my photos from California and humming a song about it is likely no coincidence. The current revisited album is called ‘filmed up and shit,’ because I’m doing the Photoshop version of Hujifilm and fake-filming it because I’m so in love with the aesthetic (but can’t go back to retake pictures).

We’d gone to San Diego, shouldered by mountains, snaked through by tortuous roads. Precarious, precarious. I’d been alarmed by the sheer flatness of Houston, then the rockyish heights of San Diego. This is La Jolla beach, pronounced la ho-ya, not la-jo-lla. And this is the seaside. 

I’d brought Steinbeck because that was the book I was nursing at the time. The book was about the West, I think, a trip West to California. The timing was apt.

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After days basking in a weather too cool for swimming and too warm for sweating, we took the continental train–Amtrak?– to Los Angeles. Hollywood, or, in Bojack’s world, Hollywoo. Disneyland. Warner Bros. The set of Friends. The set of Ellen. The set of Harry Potter. More Harry Potter. Beige walls and show sign plaques and red lights “do not enter, show in progress.”

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In a few months, I’ll be going back to Cali, this time a lot less grumpy than the first time around (hopefully). Even though I’ve just begun to relish staying put, a part of me itches to move, travel, sightsee. Mostly to photograph, honestly. Until then, I’ll simply continue to photographically revisit these cities– and memories!

Series of Fun Dates | Photo Diary

Everything’s been a blur of work, dates, work and rest lately.

I perused through some photos to see, exactly, what I’ve been up to the past few weeks. They’ve been dotted with a series of fun dates with the boyfriend–visits to the art museum, walks around hipster district, strolls around the lake, movies and dinner, etc.

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Our first trip into the city. We stopped by for grilled cheese sandwiches and bruschetta, then strolled around the shops and homes. I got my art fix at the hipster-y district, which housed some small galleries.

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Later in the afternoon, we ventured to a larger art museum nearby, where I saw works by the Guerilla Girls– in the flesh! I’d spent a few classes in university learning about them, so it was incredibly cool to visit a gallery featuring their work.

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I’ve always loved furniture stores–vast, spacious, and littered with soft beds and pillows and imaginative decor. I tagged along on boyfriend’s furniture shopping for a desk to one of the largest furniture shops in the area, where we hung out for hours.

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The other day, we visited one of his favorite restaurants, only to catch the annual accordion-tuba concert, which ended up being a mix of light comedy and yodeling. Yodeling! I’d never heard anyone yodel before.

The food, also, was terrific. We ordered wiener schnitzels, with fried potatoes and a light chocolate cake.

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Silhouettes by the lake. We took a rowdy walk around the lake after stuffing ourselves full with food, and ended up racing back to the apartment.

Six Flags

….was insane. In the past four years, I’ve gone to Six Flags thrice. Of all the times I’ve gone, this time was the absolute best, hands down.

As my friend once said, “the faster, the bigger, the scarier, the better”. We rode the 2nd scariest ride three times, the scariest ride twice, a moderately scary ride three times, and basically any other extreme thrill ride that didn’t just spin around. To make things infinitely better, there were no lines. So on each ride, we either rode at the very front–for the view, the incline, the steep regret as we swooped over metal criss-crossed beams-or the back, for the whip (It’s a physics thing: roller coasters feel fastest in the back, mildest in the middle).

My favorite moment was probably when, at the top of a vertical ride, we paused, stopped screeching, looked to the 90 degrees below–right at that moment, the full-bearded man behind us look threw his hands up and bellowed, “take me down, Jesus!”

And down we went.

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The eight and a half hours flew by. Drenched in sweat (and fun!), we rode each thrill ride on my list with time to spare. This time around, unlike the past five times I’ve been at amusement parks, I memorized the map, marked out must-go rides, then made a mental path, so we wouldn’t waste time wandering back and forth. On the walk to rides, we stopped for Giant turkey legs and funnel cake, Six Flags cllllassics.

Ironically, I probably felt the most terror on the seemingly delicate swing ride. Much to my dismay, I had confused it for the miniature version. Instead of being calming, it turned out to be terrifying, hurling us up 400 feet in the air. Toes dangling hundreds of feet in the air, above lakes, coasters, Lego-like cars and buildings, with nothing but chains to connect us to the structure, we bellowed for dear life: “oh god, you said this was supposed to be calming!” Plot twist: it wasn’t.

After the swing ride, we got onto yet another ostensibly calm ride. This time, we faced a terrified five year old gripping onto her youngish dad, with whom we shared regular “oh!’s throughout the ride.

Turn. “Oh–” Shift. “Oh!” Dip, swivel, glide. “Oh?” Another dip. “Oh, haha!” It was delightfully awkward.

To end the night, we trekked across to the other side of the park to where we began: at the scariest ride. I think, though, that after time, you get used to the stomach-drops, steep dips (when I dip, you dip, we dip), barrels of regret and fear coursing through your veins. At any rate, we left the park at closing time feeling exhausted and exhilarated.

Wandering the City

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After making a bucket list of things to do in the city, I finally went out and crossed a few off the list.

We meandered around the design district, searching for the museum of contemporary art. After circling around a few times, we realized it’d been in front of us the entire time. The space wasn’t what I’d anticipated; it was open, garage-like, with three moving art exhibits. I’m not usually the biggest fan of contemporary art–sometimes it strikes me as something devoid of skill–but these pieces weren’t like that. They were meaningful and thoughtful. The artists were talented. We drifted from one exhibit to the next, oohing and aahing at the pieces, from massive rug-like designs made of plastic fingers to portraits painted on metal.

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Afterwards, we headed over to a grilled cheese restaurant, where we ate bruschetta, downed two beers, and ordered a savory bacon-and-grilled-cheese sandwich. The sandwiches were, as I always say, nom-tastic.

I like to imagine that this particular neighborhood is where the hipsters come to roost. Vintage shops litter the streets. Walls are decked out in murals. Quirky sculptures greet visitors in repurposed homes. It’s eclectic, artsy, old but welcoming. We peered into a few shops here and there, visited a coffeeshop-meets-bookstore-meets-bar. Then we dived into a pie shop for apple streusel and ice cream. (Our pie slice was massive).

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Once we devoured the pie, we wandered around and found a wooden swing by some murals. They were occupied by three girls who posed and puckered for pictures for what felt like forever. In the meantime, we looked at murals. My favorite featured a mandrill meditating-floating above a pink sprinkled donut. I pretended to meditate atop a greyish block in front of the mandrill. After what felt like forever, the girls posing on the swing finally paused to move and look at their photos. I leaped onto the swings. We swung together.

It was hot. It was humid. But after leaving the arts district, we drove to visit the bridge, a city landmark, and walked across. I’d never driven on it, only seen it from afar, but today we got up close and personal. We walked on the hill, towards the bridge, onto the walkway, where we could see downtown.

“That’s where we spent the majority of our relationship.” He pointed out to a cluster of buildings.


As we drove home, the sun set. We talked about ridiculous things, as per usual. And for a moment it felt a little like the summers during which we’d always drive downtown.

Jiangyin, China

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Jiang Yin is beautiful (and for a million reasons).

There is a certain gritty you-do-your-own-thing feel to the streets of China. They’re usually crowded–the markets always are. People push and shove; after a while, you get used to it. Babies roam. Strays don’t give a shit. They trot and they stumble and play by the people, who pay them no notice.

Cigarette smoke lingers in the air: at home, in the streets, in the markets. There’s a “NO SMOKING” tacked on the entrance of the “grocery market” (if you’d call it that—it’s more like a giant meat cafeteria) but the butchers smoke anyways. I watch as the butcher chops our meat, takes a drag, picks up the RMB another smoker slaps down. I peer at the smoke wisps. Then I dodge them.

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The past week has mostly been spent with le fam. Over the weekend, my cousin returned from a neighboring province where he’s been working. Grandma says I’m prettier and that my skin resembles Putin’s (Thanks, G-Ma). My Chinese listening skills have improved and I can better understand Ma, Uncle and Grandma rattling on in their dialect. I take to sitting and quietly absorbing their conversations.

During the weekdays, when time seems to go by slower, I wander around the neighborhood. I photograph strangers. I take it all in. China feels like home. And then I wonder: can you fall in love with “home” over and over and over again? I think you can and I do every time.

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