It’s after 5 on a Sunday in December and I’m deep into the 11th frame of my camera and cup number 6 of a house blend of coffee. I’ve put off writing this piece for  long enough. I’m grateful to ILFORD for reaching out and as a long time user of HP5 Plus, this is a milestone that I’m excited to share with my children, family and friends.

A thirst for life

My name is James aka @dirtykics and I’ve toyed with cameras for the better part of my 20’s into my 30’s, until a difficult point in my life drove me into a serious corner. Without spilling details, I found myself outside with a camera and a thirst for life.

This was around 2013-2014 and mainly consisted of my taking pictures while driving. I’d won a contest in iphone magazine and it kinda kicked things into high gear. One thing to consider when you see my work is how hard focused I was in making that photograph. I didn’t know what I was doing and a win like that got me out of a depressive state. I ran with it and eventually got a digital camera. I’ve always had a film camera but during that period I couldn’t afford to process the work.

A wild adventure

Digital was cool, but I couldn’t achieve what I wanted with that device, and this is my own experience, but once I decided to live with film things took off. I’ve tried different film stocks but locking in with Hp5 and understanding its nuances pushed my confidence forward, taking risks with my Rolleiflex 2.8e as my primary driver. A Contax G1 riding shotgun. This adventure's been wild.

I develop and print at home and it’s not pretty.  LOL.  Rough edged describes my workspace and i feel no shame about it. I print on  Ilford fiber base paper. I’m no pro but with some elbow grease I achieve solid results. I think a class or two would help push my printing experience further. After every print session I run to the Ilford website and read the pdf’s and the tech tips for guidance.

Finding Joy

Is it okay to share that I don’t have a favorite photo? I think it’s okay. I’m learning to appreciate my work by revisiting negatives from years ago and finding joy in an early dismissals. I do favor my encounters with my photography role models. Ricky Powell (RIP). Louis Mendez, Jamel Shabazz and Daniel Arnold are all people I’ve filled my learning path with. Stanley Greene (RIP) is one who I would give years of my life to to have as a mentor. And I can’t not mention Bruce Gilden, who I consider a technical genius.

A fair amount of the photos I’ve shared here are candid with the impression that rapport was established. Some dialogue might’ve occurred but not within the space of permission to take the picture.

Louis Mendez - what matters

I think of Louis Mendez and how he humbles you the line 'You only get one shot'. That pressure, that feeling he hit me with made me a better photographer. When I shot with a digital camera I never reviewed my work. I took one or two photos and that was it. With film, this practice remains, but he made me see photograph differently. I started to concentrate more on what mattered in my work, which sounds risky since zone focusing is my thing.

Future projects

I want to release a monograph but it’s not something I can afford. I don’t think my work is there yet. But a few years ago I gave cameras and rolls of film to friends and then collected the work. It’s been sitting in my deep freezer waiting to be processed and those memories explored by myself and the folks who contributed. I’ve got about 20 rolls and about half of them are my own. There’s a few still out there that I hope to gather before 2022 ends.

The film will sit for another 2 years before I process it. It’s both color negative, black and white, and slide film. I want attachments to surface when the results are displayed for everyone who participated. A couple of contributions came from photographers and the rest are casual people living their lives. 2017 was the first year.

Otherwise I’m exploring more of Toledo, Ohio and surrounding areas when I can. I’d love to get out into the field and see how much of a photographer I am.

Images © J Dickerson