I have just returned from a short trip to Heidelberg. Looking back at what I wrote the last time I was there I see that my concerns haven’t really changed at all (and stay tuned for my next post). And I discovered there is at least one person who reads this blog ! So I will try to post a little more.
This time, I was in town for a Euclid meeting on the mountain, in the forest, and I stayed with ML for a few days in a hotel in the old town. The very centre of Heidelberg is certainly beautiful but does not seem to be the most dynamic place I have ever visited. The Saturday market boasts only one stand selling rather tired-looking fruit and vegetables. The streets at night seem strangely quiet.
The last morning there was a heavy fog over the river. It was easy to take photographs which looked like that they were taken a hundred years ago, especially with a film camera to hand, and I had fight hard against that urge. The place where we had our meeting was beautiful, a lovely glass building surrounded by the forest. With some luck, I’ll be back before too long.
It’s the end of the year. And the last photograph in this series. The sky is overcast. It is what they call on the photography forums a “flat day” (it took me a long while to understand what that meant). There was never a day flatter than this. But I am in Versailles, and I never tire of going to the gardens there. I brought my recently-repaired Rolleiflex with me, loaded up with my last roll of Tri-X.
Here in the depths of December the statues are all wrapped up for the winter. I look down the avenues of the garden and remember what Szarkowski wrote about Atget not taking the photographs that the garden wanted you to take. So I look a little to the left, and I wonder if I’ll be able to see the wrapped-up statues against the empty hedges. I click the shutter.
The Rolleiflex 2.8C that my friend Mr. Seagull ‘loaned’ me on such generous terms came back from repair, just in time for the Christmas break. It was made some time in the early 1950s. After being thoroughly serviced at Photo Suffren it was fully returned to working order. I had had been plagued by randomly blurry images which in the end had nothing to do with focus (how could that go wrong on a Rollei where both lenses are fixed together on the same bit of metal) but was in fact simply a problem of film transport. So after picking up the camera I went out and shot a roll of Tri-X in the streets around the shop.
That evening, I anxiously developed that first roll of film in my 70-year-old ‘new’ Rolleiflex. I was relieved to see the images were all sharp and in focus. But sadly, I am afraid that the weather was overcast and cloudy and not a ray of light was to had. But there’s still something there, a certain ‘medium format’ look. It’s funny, in the days when the Rollei was the press photographer’s camera of choice, medium format was the ‘normal’ format size, and Leicas were ‘miniature’ format…
Why “Ancient Light” ? Because I simply wonder about all the light that has passed through this camera since it was made, seventy years ago…