This month is a weird entry into the project. for this year. I have focused on a single place to photograph, usually a town, location or event—something with a defined history and story, and yes, even a maple syrup festival counts. And no, before you ask, I’m not a closet K-Pop fan, and this has nothing to do with the band by the same name. Instead, B.T.S. is a term used within film/T.V./theatre to indicate behind-the-scenes. The idea came from a challenge that I gave to a person over on Twitter who wanted an idea for photography. I suggested that he photograph the backsides’ of buildings. The things that could be more pretty or well maintained. I also kept this idea in the back of my head for a future photographic project, and well, here we are.
There’s no real backstory to the location here, except in my personal growth as a photographer. While I first picked up at camera in 2002, it wasn’t until 2005 that I started to see some growth and improvement both in skills in composition and the technical side of things. And this I attribute to poking my head into abandoned buildings. This often required finding back ways into these places. There were only a few that we could waltz right through the front door. So I guess in addition to getting good at photography, I also learned how to be insignificant or carry myself with confidence to be in spaces where I didn’t belong. I also learned my love of the big empty, the flat composition, and looking for details anything of interest. I further got a taste for the narrow and back areas through a trip to Montreal. I also learned to love the use of gritty, fast black and white work in these areas. I know, not much of a story, but when you have no singular space, there’s no big story or history to go along.
I’m actually rather pleased with the results I got, and even more happy that I picked three separate geographical locations so I was able to include four images from each town, Oakville, Milton, and Paris. For Oakville I used Sheridan College, which has plenty of out-of-the-way spaces to photograph and then a rather sad plaza across from the campus. While the plaza still has plenty of businesses running in there, it seems to be stuck in the 1970s in form and style. One interesting thing is that I found an entire abandoned unit tucked out behind the main set of businesses. In Milton there is of course the historic downtown, but also took the opportunity to visit Springridge Farms, while mainly a tourists/local spot it remains a working farm so plenty of interesting things out of the public eye. In some cases I had more images to work with than others, Oakville and Milton having ten images apiece made them good choices for the main body of this post, while Paris, which only had five, I ended up walking away with five images that I liked. That made it easy to select the Cafe Europa image from Paris, Ontario as the featured image for this post. It perfectly exemplified what I look for at the back of a building. Things are a little gritty, faded, and not well maintained. There’s plenty of character. And ultimately that is what I looked for in each of my selected image, good character. In some cases the compositions are simple in others there’s lots to clutter the frame. The light was mostly hard and bland, but overall I’m happy with what I got.
I considered swapping out my 28-100 this month for the 50mm f/1.7 lens, but then I realised while scouting out some potential locations that putting on that 50 would limit my composition as sometimes I would be pressed for space. So I stuck with the kit lens and instead gave myself a bit more of an edge and under-exposed the film two-stops, shooting at ASA-400. Then I was going to push the film in development, going with Adox FX-39 II at a 1+9 dilution and constant rotation to cut down on development time. What surprised me the most was how well these images turned out, yeah there’s a lot more contrast in these images, probably not helped by the light. But the images have a bit of edge softness, but there’s no increase in grain. This is what surprised me the most, was how well Arista 100 handled the two stops of under-exposure and how nicely FX-39 II handled the two-stop push in development.
I had some concerns about this month, but I also knew that I needed to spread this one out a little bit because September was a rough, hard, and would have presented difficulty in settling in for a single location. I also enjoyed the type of freedom it gave me to look at the project differently. Will I use this again? Maybe, but I will probably use the method a little more next year. Next month join me and my family as we take a well deserved vacation to the capital of Canada, the city of Ottawa. And yes, I can promise you a fun rough-and-tumble history with plenty of violence!