More than a decade ago I landed up with a roll of film with one friend’s name on who I have not seen for a long time, which came to my possession after another friend passed away, to whom she must have passed on the film. Ben Parker had been a friend in photography, a lively soul full of energy, verve and humour, and his premature death was a shock to all of us. His mum must have given me the 1 metre roll of film when I went round there to pass on my condolences. She asked why his last photos of a trip to Africa were so poorly composed compared to the very capable work he had done previously. I suppose he was going through the motions.
I had the little cases to put the film in, but never did. Partly because it’s a difficult job involving cutting and rolling film in a dark bag that I have never done (but I could have looked it up). Mainly because I couldn’t think what to put on those negatives. Some sort of tribute? Perhaps. but what?
I realised the need for collaboration. Anything I could photograph would be insufficient. So I turned to an oracle. The I Ching - the Chinese book of changes. It is an ancient text that gives insights into the changing situations of life. It involves throwing three coins six times for an outcome of a hexagram, a symbol which has connected with it one of 64 interpretations, or explanatory paragraphs.
The first thing I did, was to empty all the negatives in the sink. There the whole roll lay, exposed in the dark, waiting for a brief flash of light to fall on the winding timeline of the film, which resembled video film more than photography film in its expanse. Now fogged by a light turning on for a moment and turning off again I poured on developer, stirred, and rinsed and fixed them, deliberately poorly so they could still react after the random images of the fogging could be set. I then put them on the clothes line and left them there for a month or two while I thought of what to do.