Get it India

Published 26 July 2019

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To say I was excited to go to India in February is an understatement. My wife Dia’s family is from Kolkata and we were heading over for our Hindu wedding ceremony - the first time I was meeting her extended family. I was hoping to get a bit of time to explore the city between wedding rituals, meeting the family and being fed kilos of sandesh.

I was having a browse for some new film to take with me and stumbled across Foma and their range. The company is based in Hradec Králové in the Czech Republic and dates back to 1921, when they started to produce photographic plates and processing chemicals. Fomapan 200 Creative caught my eye as this panchromatic black and white film is apparently good for unfavourable lighting conditions as it has a wide exposure latitude. I was keen for plenty of street photography, so I need something forgiving. And it’s pretty cheap too, which is a bonus.

In my photography gear bag I had packed my Pentax K1000, Mamiya M645 1000S and some fun accessories like a tripod, ND filter and shutter release cable. And quite a few rolls of 35mm and 120 film to keep me going. All set and ready to go.

That’s what I thought anyway. Just before we left I got some negatives back from a weekend away to Adelaide in the height of the Australian Summer. There was a strip of light across some photos from my Mamiya camera and I had to get a bit forensic to figure out what caused it. The band was across the whole negative and looked to be happening when I took a photo and didn’t wind on the film for a while. The problem was light entering from the back of the negative, meaning the light seals needed replacing as the old ones had turned to dust. I only had a few days to get the fix done, so I had to do it myself. I bought some 2mm thick adhesive neoprene strips and cut them to fit with a craft knife. Then I crossed my fingers as I had no time for a test roll.

The streets of Kolkata are overwhelming. You can’t just stroll along the footpath lost in your own thoughts, as the footpath will probably just disappear and someone will run you over. Or try to sell you something. It’s brilliant. I’m learning Bengali and the phrase to ask to take somebody’s photo (in my super formal and polite English way) is 'Doya kore, ami ki tomar chobi tulte pari?'', which  was mostly greeted with shocked faces and a willingness to have their portrait taken. Like the bloke just trying to mind his own business and get a shave by the side of the road.

Fomapan 200 Creative has a soft appearance with moderate contrast and just the right amount of grain. It worked very well on bright hazy days, where having an ISO of 200 wasn’t a problem. The wide exposure latitude really shows on the image with the Ambassador taxis (which I love), there is so much detail retained in the shadows. I also used this film just before sunrise to capture the Victoria Memorial without the heaving crowds. This image is probably my favourite as it has this beautiful papery quality that gives the scene a timeless feel.

I’m in the fortunate position of knowing that I will be going back to visit West Bengal and the rest of India quite regularly, which is comforting to know as I feel like I barely scratched the surface of exploring Kolkata. But what I did see in this city was an eclectic mixture of modern India and its long history living side by side. From The 42, the tallest residential building in India that just topped out at 64 storeys, to Kalighat Temple, which has been a holy site for hundreds of years. I can’t wait to go back.

Abar dekha hobe.

Sample Photos: Mamiya M645 1000S and Fomapan 200 Creative. Developed at FilmNeverDie, Melbourne and scanned by me.

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