I could give half a dozen geeky reasons why I tend to stand develop my medium format films in Rodinal, but they’d all be lies. Ultimately it’s just because I’m lazy.
Drop the film in the tank
Crash on the couch and watch an episode of totalitarian fly-on-the-wall documentary The Handmaid’s Tale, just so I know what to expect
Stop, fix, wash, dry
However, the last roll of FP4 I developed this way seemed to have a lot more grain than is typical, and just as I was pondering whether I’d done something differently, I came across the remains of a bottle of Kodak HC-110 under the sink. Like Rodinal, HC-110 tends to live forever in its undiluted form and would probably even survive a nuclear holocaust. Which may well prove to be useful, given current events. I’d previously given it a go with a few 35mm films and not been too keen on the results, but I thought it was worth trying on the roll of 120 FP4 I shot last weekend on my trip back to the area I grew up in.
Ely is a small market town about 80 miles north east of London. Not only is it famous for the fact that I went to school there, but it also boasts one of the most magnificent cathedrals in England, dating back to the 11th century. My school always had strong links with the Cathedral, and as such I was required to attend services three times a week. I’m sorry to say it didn’t make me a better person. Under His Eye.
Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4 / Developed in HC-110 Dilution B
First morning in Baltimore and I take a stroll round by the hotel. It’s the usual desolate airport environment, hotels, car parks and not much else. And then, completely incongruously, I come across the Bates Motel.
The extraordinarily utilitarian Springhill Suites
And the awe inspiring view from my home for the month of May
Fortunately there’s a glut of high quality eating establishments in the locale
A quick spur of the moment Uber in to Washington on a cloudy day
Lets go over to our White House correspondent
Protester in front of the White House.
Protest against the Iranian Regime
First days at Baltimore airport
That’s a worrying amount of flights…
Is this the start of the end?
Chillin’ at Chilis
Almost as many dogs as humans fly southwest
Arriving into Washington, this time on the MARC train and on a much nicer day
Union Station DC
Actually his approval rating is nearer 36% now. Just saying
No Trumpsters here, then
This is what the end of a long day with me looks like
The fantastically mediocre Olive Grove
Our last night together, dinner at the wonderful Sushi Q
Atlanta, Georgia. Not my final destination, but US regulations dictate that I clear customs and immigration at the first point of entry. I’m nervous. I’m midway along a twisting line that’s snaking its way towards the cubicle one hundred feet ahead. Inside, a granite-faced immigration officer. My hands are clenched into solid fists and I feel the beads of sweat popping out on my forehead. In front of me, a young Hispanic woman with nervous eyes clutches a mewling baby. Behind me, an elderly couple argue in Polish, the man hissing at his wife through clenched teeth. You could slice the atmosphere with a taser.
I’m told that US immigration can be tough. Grueling. That they ask you questions. Ideological questions. One wrong answer and you’re on the next flight home. Or worse. I use my balled hands to knuckle the perspiration from my eyes. My Adam’s apple is bobbing up and down like a monkey on a stick.
I’m near the front of the queue now, and get a better view of the officer. He’s younger than I initially thought. Severe brush cut. Impassive expression. Aviator mirrored sunglasses. One of those black-eyed aliens from The X-Files springs to mind. The only movement in his face is the slight chewing motion of his jaw; gum, presumably. Other than that he’s as still as death.
And then it’s me. I hand over my passport. He swipes it. Thumbs through it. I see him pause on the visa for Kazakhstan and the Egyptian entry stamp. Then the photo. He scrutinises it, looks up at me. Reflected in the sunglasses, a middle-aged man with salt and pepper hair and a face that looks like it’s been dipped in flour stares back at me with insane eyes.
“What exactly is the purpose of your visit, Sir?”
I’m stammering. I could be fifteen again, struggling to explain exactly why it is that I want to take his fourteen year old daughter to the school dance. I’m dimly aware of someone babbling something about work, business trip, aviation industry, reservation systems.
He watches impassively as I ramble on, then removes his sunglasses and glares at me. “Let me just ask you this: what do you think of Mr Trump?” His eyes narrow to dark slots.
“Donald Trump? That orange dude from The Apprentice? Well, I’ve gotta be honest – the UK version of the show is far superior.”
He freezes. There’s silence. The air seems to have been sucked out of the room. Blood gushes and pounds in my ears. Very slowly, he raises himself up to his full height. I hear a ptui sound of tongue between teeth, followed by a plop, and a quarter-sized blob of brown chewing tobacco appears on the cap of my shoe.
“Boy,” he says, towering over me, “We don’t like your sort here.” He signals towards a couple of security guards in the corner, who start to stride over. “And what we’re gonna do is haul your sorry ass downtown and throw you in an empty cell. Empty, that is, ‘cept for a single bunk and a big, lonely guy called Bubba. And when you’re squealing, squealing like a pig on on its honeymoon, we’re gonna ask you again what you think of our President.
The security guys are upon me now, each grabbing an arm and forcing me to my knees.
“Hey, c’mon guys,” I plead, but they drag me along the floor, nearly yanking my arms out of the sockets. I’m panicking, my eyes imploring the people in the queue for help. They avert their gaze or look at their feet. I start to shout. “Please, someone help me,” I scream. “Please!” Tears are flowing down my cheeks. “Help! Please! Someone rush to Starbucks and bring me one of those Coastal Elite Lattes to catch my liberal snowflake tears. “HEEELLLLLLLPPPP………..!”
Okay, wait. Hold it right there. Now’s not the time to be flippant. Let’s think this through. I can do better than this. Okay. Try again:
He removes his sunglasses and glares at me. “Let me just ask you this: what do you think of Mr Trump?” His eyes narrow to dark slots.
“Oh I’m sorry. I don’t follow pointless celebrities on Twitter. That’s because I’m not a twelve year old girl.
“Let me just ask you this: what do you think of Mr Trump?”
And then it’s me. I hand over my passport. He swipes it. Thumbs through it. I realise that’s he’s not actually wearing sunglasses, neither is he chewing tobacco. He scrutinises the photo, glances up at me, hands it back. I turn to go.
“Just hold it right there.” I freeze. The words sound menacing. Slowly, very slowly, I turn to face him. “Welcome to America,” he says, a friendly smile stretching across his face.
‘Well, that was easy,’ I think as I follow the signs for baggage reclaim. ‘I don’t know why people make such a fuss about these things. Damn snowflakes.’
Camera: Nikon FE
Film: Kodak Tmax 400
Process: Developed in D76 1+1