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Analog Film Journey in New Mexico

Around the New Year, I was gifted three vintage SLR cameras from my friend Kyle. Go peep his Instagram; you’ll find 3 things: dogs, muscles and food. He’s a goof. Anyway, Kyle told me that his father was a traveling man during the 1970’s and explored much of Central Asia, bringing his camera kit along to take hundreds of 4×5 analog film shots of all of the faraway people, places and things he discovered. The kit included two T3 Nikkormats, rare as all hell, a variety of lenses (35mm, 50mm, 200mm, 24mm), an aluminum Halliburton case, an array of colorful resin filters and the absolute cutest German Rollei B 35 you’ll have ever set eyes on. It was late winter when Kyle gifted me this analog film kit with the assignment that I was to use it (challenge accepted!), because he didn’t want it collecting dust and mold in his storage otherwise.

Since coming into possession of this incredible collection of vintage cameras, I have made it my mission to understand how they work, why they work and everything else in between. So, the first step I did in working toward this was hitting up a few people on Instagram whose work I admire.

These people are Devon and Aaron. They are both New Mexican artists based in Albuquerque and I credit them for teaching me what I know today about shooting analog film.

I think of Devon’s work as ethereal and ghostly. There is a level of airiness and lofty atmosphere to her photos that make you think you’re on some kind of fusion film set of the Labyrinth starring David Bowie and The Secret Garden. It’s a lot of decomposing vintage cars poking out from beneath piles of crumbling leaves, sunbleached animal bones and an assortment of “In Loving Memory” crosses scattered along forgotten highways. Some of my favorite works of her’s are this vacant ferris wheel at the New Mexico State Fair on a bright summer day and this filthy recliner chair with a grease spot from somebody’s head that we found somewhere along the single state highway that routes through Madrid, New Mexico. Devon is freaking hilarious and her sense of dirty humor definitely shines through her analog film work and I love that. It’s rare these days to find people who are unconditionally themselves and without forgiveness.

I describe Aaron’s work as exhibiting the world teetering between life and death. His photos often portray a sense of what the world will come to after humans are long gone; like empty and decrepit buildings falling to pieces, forgotten children’s dolls in piles that have been swept up by unforgiving flash floods and the occasional person living their daily lives as kids being kids or simply washing the laundry. Aaron’s analog film work is intelligent and deep and it relentlessly evokes you to feel something for the issues we find so taboo in our American society.

One of the first adventures that Devon, Aaron and myself had together was a day trip to Madrid, New Mexico. For those of you not from New Mexico, Madrid is pronounced as Mádrid while its Spanish pronounciation is Madríd. Note the accent. It was a beautifully bright day, no wind and even though it was a Sunday, the town wasn’t unbearably busy with tourists. We drove a shitty route that Google took us on through miles of potholes and washboard roads, but luckily my little baby Honda Fit made it out just fine.

We walked around the town for a bit and had an exciting time touring its many interesting spots. The homes resembled old prospector quarters during the 1850’s, with A-framed roofing and two simple shuttered windows and a door. The street was lined with little art shops possesing art made of recycled materials and bars that smelled of cigars smoked on patios and the smell of hoppy Indian Pale Ales.

I learned some interesting history about Madrid from a cute waitress working our table at the Mineshaft Tavern, the original town tavern. She told me that Madrid used to be a company town in which a single company owned everything – the law, hotels, restaurants and the Mineshaft Tavern itself, that burned down in 1944. Three years later, nonetheless, a new edifice was erected and much of the interior of which you see today is original of the rebuild. The tavern is also the oldest continually run tavern in Santa Fe County and it’s 40 ft. lodge pole pine bar is the longest stand-up bar in New Mexico.

The waitress also told me that Coal mining began in Madrid in 1835 and tapered out in the 1950’s, but during its prime, turquoise was discovered in the town mines, which was sold to Tiffany and Co. for a few years.

As she explained the town, the waitress kept referring to the place as the “Christmas City”, which she said came about when Walt Disney, while working on a film in New Mexico, fell in love with Madrid’s seasonal Christmas bent, which inspired his design for Disneyland a few years later.

Devon gave me two rolls with which to shoot on this trip: some Kodak Gold ISO 200 and some expired Elite Chrome ISO 400.

Here are my analog film shots with the Kodak Gold ISO 200, shot on my Nikkormat T3 with a 50mm Nikon lens and UV filter:

Here are my analog film shots with the expired Elite Chrome ISO 400, shot on my Nikkormat T3 with a 50mm Nikon lens and UV filter:

Both rolls were cross processed at Picture Perfect. The process is done to intentionally process film in the wrong chemicals, which creates interesting and unpredictable color shifts and increased contrast.

Aaron, Devon and I took another trip to Rio Rancho a week later and drove my dad’s Rhino out to the mesa and sand dunes for a day. I brought my Rollei B35 and Nikkoramt T3 with a 50mm Nikon lens and UV filter, as well as two rolls of Kodak Gold ISO 200. Here are some go my analog film shots of our time exploring the plateaus, canyons and dunes in Rio Rancho.

Rollie 35B:

Nikkormat T3:

I have a tremendous amount of learning ahead of me, but it’s such an exciting hobby. I have a few rolls I’ve filled up since moving to Los Angeles, which I’m excited to show you in a future post. And once I refine my art and understand what that is to me, my big goal will be to submit some of my work to an online zine or indie magazine for publication. Stay tuned!

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