SUEÑA, VEA! BOGOTÁ
SUEÑA, VEA! (Dream, See!) is a series of work created from film I shot in Colombia during the spring of 2018. The title is an homage to the 1972 documentary film Oiga, Vea! (Hear, See!), a subversive cinema verite jab at the 1972 Pan-American Games being held in Cali that year, directed by the provocative Colombian filmmakers Carlos Mayolo and Luis Ospina (blogpost about Mayolo and Ospina here).
SUEÑA, VEA! is not overtly political in the revolutionary vein of those guys, but I referenced them not only because I feel a kindred spirit with provocateur filmmakers, but because I approached shooting Bogata and Cali on film in an improvisational manner as they did for Oiga, Vea!. And indeed as you’ll see, several of the pieces here have a definite cinematic quality in the details.
After looking closely at the magnified scans I noticed that the crops conveyed weird, understated stories that appeared when isolated from the larger composition. One of the reasons I cut and montage my transparency film is that I like creating a larger story from many sequential images, like a movie editor. When I’m piecing a composition together, I’m mostly preoccupied with the totality of the composition - what the large print will look like displayed - and I don’t always notice what’s happening in the details of the frames. I mean, those details being discovered by a viewer seeing the large prints on a wall are the whole point of my aesthetic, however making the still frames and seeing for myself these smaller stories, separate from the overall compositions, was pretty amazing.
In some of these stills, the blurred movement of the people and vehicles not only activated my eyes, but stimulated a curious reaction in my mind the same way looking at a vintage photograph does. The magnified sections of the compositions present splices of kinetic energy that alternate between the esoteric and clearly vivid.
The full scale compositions bring to mind the hermetic concept of As above, so below, or as translated from the text The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus "That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing.” I almost titled the series “As above, so below, because I get an unmistakable sense of overlapping realities when I look at the full compositions, like the merging of dream images and an awake reality.
The following three pieces are from Queremal, a very small town outside of Cali, and the city itself. I lost a lot of the film in all three places but mostly the film I shot in Cali… “lost” as in, shot the film, developed the film, and the film had no images on it! You might be asking yourself“Dave, you’re a relatively experienced film photographer, so how did this happen?” Well, I found a small camera store in downtown Bogota, Colombia that had a lot of old camera equipment and outdated film, which for a film photographer is akin to discovering gold in a riverbed by accident. I bought 20 rolls of old Kodak Ektachrome 120 film, expired in 1989, for about $3 a roll, and for the next few weeks I would alternate between shooting rolls of Fuji Velvia I brought with me and the expired Ektachrome. And that’s a key word here, expired. Buying expired film is always a roll of the dice because film is a perishable product, and the older the film is, the more chance it has of not turning out correctly, if at all. This chance becomes exponentially greater the older the film is past it’s expiration date. The compositions below from Queremal and Cali are all I have from those places, even though I shot way more, and I only have these pieces because they’re from the good Fuji film. All the Ekatachrome film came back from the lab blank! Had to toss it all.
So why even shoot on expired film if it’s such a gamble? Some people shoot on it because it can makes images look “old”, an instant vintage aesthetic you don’t have to wait 20 years of aging for your images to achieve. Some people enjoy the novelty of finding old film stocks that are no longer produced, foreign film stocks, or film stock that was produced for specific industrial uses – like high-altitude cameras or infrared photography - and experimenting to see what happens.