martin brown

A little story behind these: Martin picked up his roll from me while he visited Portland, en route to New Zealand.  At the time he didn’t have a film camera with him but was sure that he could rouse one once he was island-side.  I believed him.  It was late November when he left.  He said he would contact me once he had taken the slides to find out whether to send them to me, as most had, or send them to Dwayne’s directly.  It was mid-December once we got a hold of me.  Since he was WWOOFing, and therefore often didn’t have internet access, it was difficult to figure out how best to coordinate getting his film back on time.  He ended up sending the roll directly to Dwayne’s with a note with my name, phone number and email.   I called Dwayne’s and explained the situation.  They said they hadn’t, yet, received any packages from New Zealand but they were also swamped so it could have been around somewhere.   I asked them to add it to one of my several other orders if they happened to find it or if it eventually arrived.  I didn’t get any word on them getting it so I assumed that it hadn’t made it by the deadline.  Then, a couple of rolls came back, separately, a week after of the majority of the rolls had come back.  Could it be?  A small miracle…

There’s a couple more stories like this to come, but in the meantime I’ll turn it over to Martin.  Here’s an excerpt from what he wrote on the experience:

Given the time and place i was in, i brought a digital camera with me to New Zealand. I was quite confident that, when the time was right, a film camera would find me. A nice SLR with some high quality glass attached to it, i thought, would be perfect for the Kodachrome. I was picturing my first “real” camera, a Pentax K-1000.

When such a camera did not appear in Auckland or Hamilton, i was not too concerned. After all, i had until late December…

I started looking in earnest when i got to New Plymouth, where i transferred buses to get to Inglewood. There was a photo store less than a block from the bus station! A “sign,” i thought. But the nice ladies at the store told me that nobody in town rented 35 mm.

On my initial tour of the Environment Centre, i spied three dusty cases on top of a high shelf in the library. “Can i use one of those cameras?” i asked Val, relieved. I was confident that one of them would be flash. (Flash is New Zealand slang for “fly.”)

Val said, “Yes,” and i opened the cases one by one.

Olympus point-and-shoot. Rubbish.

Ricoh 35 EFL. Sure. If i was 8.

And then…the big one.

(Cross your fingers for flashness!)

35 mm slide projector.

I wanted to ask Val if there were, you know, any other cameras. But i’m a good Minnesota boy; i minded my manners. With the Ricoh, at least i could adjust the f-stop (lens opening). So i took it… But i didn’t load the film. My fingers were still crossed for some flash shit.

* * *

It was not long into my stay with Val and Graham that i noticed a particularly colorful sunset forming in the west. “Gorgeous,” i thought to myself. “I can’t imagine what it looks like over the Mountain!” So i took off down the road, bare feet and all, to follow the sunset. And i had a moment’s pause: Should i grab the Ricoh? And the Kodachrome? Capture the Taranaki sunset for 180 years and more?

“No,” i thought to myself. “Surely there will be another one tomorrow.”

That evening’s sunset was downright breathtaking. Deep blues and violets, somber oranges and yellows, and a radiant pink took turns playing on the clouds. The silhouette of Mount Taranaki divided the sky, casting its own shadow towards the heavens. I walked through Inglewood for nearly an hour, soaking up every moment.

And then it rained for nine days straight.

* * *

On one of the dryer evenings, Graham organized a community tandem ride. After the ride, Val and Graham hosted a dinner party. Lord, was it good! I stayed at the house during the ride and stoked a hot fire in their handmade clay oven. Val had made pizza dough from scratch earlier in the day, so, when the time came, everyone got to make their own pizza – roll out the dough, pour the sauce, top it, everything – and then bake it the old-fashioned way. And there was salad, there was smoked fish, there was dessert, there was beer…

And, there was a photo enthusiast in attendance.

Her name was Adrian. She showed up while i was on fire duty (a “sign?” asks the left brain), and we started chatting. Somehow the conversation got back around to the Kodachrome project, and she knew all the technical stuff i was trying to put into plain speak. She told me that she was part of an amateur photography club in New Plymouth. And then the conversation drifted elsewhere.

Later in the evening, i slipped in my question: Do ya know where i could rent or borrow a film camera?

“Mmmm…there’s a man,” she said. “Robert French. He owns a photo store on Devon Street. He’s been a great help to us.” And we looked him up in the phone book straightaway.

That weekend, i caught a ride into New Plymouth. I volunteered at the Hive, i made some cool friends (Shout out, Nao, Nore, and Marion! — that’s American slang for “Hello from here.”) … and i checked out Robert French Photography. It was the same place i had gone the first time i was in New Plymouth!

A “sign?” Or just a small city?

You can read the rest of the story here, and more about Martin’s work and travels abroad on his blog, Working Membership


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