A long-time fan of plastic cameras, Argentinean writer and photographer Lorraine Healy is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera. In this article, Healy shares her images of the Seattle’s Women’s March of 2018 and her thoughts on what goes into photographing huge groups of people.
I recently participated in my third Women’s March in one year, starting last year on Whidbey’s small (comparatively!) gathering of about a thousand people in the village of Langley, continuing with the massive Buenos Aires march for International Women’s Day on March 8, 2017 (well over a hundred thousand people on that one), and a couple of weeks ago I went to Seattle with a group of Whidbey compatriots to take part in the “Seattle’s Women’s March 2.0”. Slightly less than a hundred thousand for this last one!
Let me start by making an obvious statement: This is an article about photography; in fact, it is an article pondering the differences between street photography, journalistic photography and spaces in between, especially when we go out and shoot an enormous group of people. This article is not interested in the politics involved in these Women’s marches—it’s focused (pun intended) rather on how to make good photos in situations when you are dealing with massive amounts of people, dogs, signs, surroundings.
My first decision about shooting the Seattle march was that I was going to stick with black and white film, like I did in Buenos Aires last year. I wanted an old-fashioned “newspaper” look to these images, and I thought it would also be a good opportunity to test some 35mm black and white films that I had been meaning to try. Deciding which cameras to take with me was harder: I kept consulting the weather forecast to see what kind of weather we would be likely to have (it has been pouring rain almost non stop in the Pacific Northwest since I don’t know when). I wanted a couple of 35mm cameras that would not weigh me down, that could take the weather, and offer me two different lenses to play with. I also took two Holgas loaded with Ultrafine Extreme B&W film but no extra 120 film—I was planning on shooting those two rolls for mostly portraits and when these two rolls were done, putting the Holgas in my backpack and forgetting about them. I can get pretty obsessive about Holgas and spend valuable time changing rolls on the fly. I was going to try to shoot those two rolls deliberately and slowly, then put the cameras away and forget I had them. I will not be covering those images in this article—I haven’t got the film back!
The weather forecast was gloomier than the day in question turned out to be, but by Saturday January 20, I had already decided on my two cameras (with sensible advice from Lomofriend @lomodesbro—Thanks, Des!!). I took a small, very light Olympus Stylus Epic with the 35mm f2.8 Zuiko lens, for a fast, auto-focus, wider option. My other camera was the recently CLA’ed Olympus OM-2 with a 50mm f1.8 Zuiko lens, for a manually composed, slightly closer approach.
Given the lack of light in these parts and the fact that it was supposed to be a rainy day led me to take mostly fast films. The day ended up being not too dark but I’m still glad that I went with mostly 400 ISO, which allowed me use to faster speeds and use an aperture on the open side of the spectrum: F4.0, with the occasional F5.6, but in general I stuck to that end. I wanted to shoot the way I experience these events: in a sea of almost blurry faces (but not quite, hence f4 or 2.8), a scene that becomes sharp to my eyes. I shot 3 rolls of different B&W films with each of my two cameras, and I’ll share results and thoughts on all of them.
I look at my resulting images, and I revisit my thoughts and decisions of that day: Was this street photography or journalistic photography or photographing for documentary and historical purposes? I think it was all of the above, possibly summarized by saying these images are one person’s impressions of an event, showing that particular person’s biases (the sheer number of images that include dogs!), the photographer’s place in the continuum of the march. All of those factors come into play when you join a huge parade (or shoot it from the sides) of people gathered for a purpose—whether it’s Saint Patrick’s Day parade in Boston, New York, or Dublin; a 4th of July Parade in a Midwestern American city; the running of the bulls in Pamplona, or any other sort of walking and marching parade.
What I was consciously looking for: gesture, the “dialogue” between people and signs, words and faces. Also, these events tend to start somewhere where people congregate for a fair amount of time (a park in the Capitol Hill area where there were way too many speeches and waiting, in this case) and end in a similar ample place where people can spread out and take their leave or hang out. So there is a very different energy to these beginning and ending places compared to the energy of shooting while walking in your march or parade. At the beginning and end places, you can take your time, ask people to pose, if they are willing (everyone was willing!). While walking along, it becomes necessary to shoot faster, shoot more knowing there will be fewer keepers, and speed up or slow down your own walking so that you will vary your “human surroundings”, to keep it interesting.
Films I used:
Olympus OM-2 + 50mm f1.8 lens + Svema 400 B&W = exactly what I was looking for!
Olympus OM-2 + 50mm f1.8 lens + Holga brand 400 B&W = perfect! One of the things I loved about the images with this film from Foma was how it caught the overcast, cloudy sky.
Olympus OM-2 + 50mm f1.8 lens + GAF 320 iso B&W = did not work for this; hardly any contrast, very grey. I think I would probably shoot this film again using a yellow or orange filter, rating it at 100 ISO.
Olympus Stylus 35mm f2.8 lens + Kodak Tri X 400 B&W+ = quite lovely.
Olympus Stylus 35mm f2.8 lens + Ultrafine Extreme 400 B&W = could have done with a tad more contrast, but nothing I could not get from applying Curves to the scans.
Olympus Stylus 35mm f2.8 lens + Cinestill 200 B&W = quite lovely. First time ever using this film, used it at the very end, when it was around 2 pm and the light was at its strongest (which was not saying much, but it was lighter than it had been at 10am)
My two favorite shots of the day, one “posed” (this handsome young man stopped where he was to allow me to focus and take his photo), one candid. I saw the mom and daughter when I turned to look back (an important detail: look everywhere, even behind you, for good opportunities!). What can I say? The fact that she was carrying her little doll in a backpack did me in. And the “dialogue” between the sweetness of the boy’s face and the angry photo on the sign he was carrying, with the obvious throngs of people around them creating “visual volume” makes up for the slight blurr.
Lorraine Healy (@lorrainehealy) is an Argentinean writer and photographer living in the Pacific Northwest. A long-time fan of plastic cameras and she is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera, available as an eBook from Amazon.com.
written by Lorraine Healy on 2018-02-07 #places #35mm #seattle #b-w #us #cinestill200 #washingtonstate #olympusom-2 #olymousstylus #holga-400-film #tmx400-gaf320 #ultrafine400 #svema400b-w #peoplesmarches