I asked him what film he used to get such tones in his photographs. How they looked as if they belonged to another era.
“Well,” he said, “you know about homeopathy? You know, those pills that retain some microscopic measure of the poison, maybe not even that. They say that you can build immunity by swallowing very low doses of a poison and slowly building up the dose. With these pills the toxin is so diluted that it doesn’t really exist. You can’t touch these pills before swallowing them otherwise you’ll taint their power. They call it the memory of water…”
“People scoff, but there’s quite a lot science doesn’t explain yet. Light for instance, they can tell you that it’s both a particle and a wave but they can’t tell why or how. They say light lives forever, traveling from one end of the universe to the other, dead stars still blinking at us in the sky.”
“Light is like those little sugar pills, the memory of light, those particles pick up a little of what’s around as they pass through, and as they travel on, the friction of history brushes it off with fresh stuff getting stuck to them all the while. If you stood on Pluto you could watch television from a week a go, all those programs incessantly chatting away to themselves across the luminiferous aether.”
“Now, what I do, and I shouldn’t be really be telling you this, is rummage through antique and junk shops looking for old cameras. Searching for something in particular mind you, not any old camera, and not some specific make or model. What I need to find is one with a good patina of dirt on it, dust and fluff all jammed in the crevices and dials. Shows me it hasn’t been opened up in along time. I clean them up well, never tempted to open up the back and take a peek inside. Cameras being light tight means all the dirt and grime is on the outside of the lens and they polish up sweet.”
“Until it’s time to load the film that is. I use any photographic stock, doesn’t matter. What is important, what really counts is the loading. I use my own blackout bag, squash all the air I can out of it, just to make sure. Then load the film in quick as I can. You see between the lens and the film is a little pocket of light, trapped there in the darkness of the bag. A little bubble of light from decades a go, sticky with all the moods and fashions and attitudes of way back then, and just enough of that old light gets pushed against the negative when the new rays come rushing through the aperture as I take the picture.”
“That,” he said “is my secret now don’t you go telling everyone…”