Sometimes things don’t work out the way they are supposed to. The photograph above is an accident, a screw-up, caused by an inadvertent double exposure. The bottom half of the frame is Washed Out, playing on the main ATP stage on the Saturday afternoon. The top half is something else entirely. I think its Caribou, but I’m not entirely sure. What probably happened here is that I took a photograph during the Battles set, put the holder with the exposed film back in my bag, took it out again the next day while Caribou were playing, and accidentally made another exposure on the same sheet of film.
My only consolation is that I am not alone in this sort of thing, it happens to the best of them too. Richard Mosse has an ongoing project where he travels out to the Congo and takes photographs using a very rare form of infra-red film. They are a mixture of landscapes and documentary style images, involving participants in the numerous conflicts going on in that country. The infra-red film alters the colour spectrum completely and gives an eerie feel to the pictures that is intended to set them apart from the lineage of documentary and landscape photographic traditions.
Mosse uses a huge 8×10 camera and so goes to enormous trouble lugging this beast of a thing around one of the most dangerous and difficult countries on earth. There is also enormous expense involved, not just in in terms of the travel, but also in sourcing the 8×10 sheets of film that he uses. Anyway, some time last year, he spent two months out there and shot hundreds of sheets of film in various locations. When he got back to New York and started processing the film he realised he had made a terrible mistake. He had been carrying around two boxes of film. When he finished up one box he marked this as “exposed” and then moved on to the other box. Or so he thought. What actually happened is he got the boxes mixed up, leaving one completely untouched, and going through the first box again, accidentally making double exposures on every single sheet of film.
I can’t even begin to imagine the aggravation and despair involved when he realised that all that work and money was completely wasted. It really puts in perspective those times, familiar to all photographers who use film, when you expose a load of photos with the wrong ISO setting, or make a mess of loading the film into the camera and don’t realise until you reach the end of the roll. The shot above of mine was only one photo so it’s no big deal. In fact it’s more interesting than any of the other shots I have of either Caribou or Washed Out. It occurred to me that taking long exposure photographs is essentially breaking with the convention that photographs are supposed to correspond to discrete and coherent moments of time. Why not break with the convention that a photograph is supposed to capture a discrete and coherent portion of space as well?
Richard Mosse’s Infra exhibition, containing a selection of his photographs from the Congo, is currently on at the Mermaid Arts Centre in Bray, Co. Wicklow. Well worth a look. It runs until March 1st 2012.