The People Roll (or the Law of Film Usage) / by Ray Phung

Danielle, looking lovely as usual

Ever since before the New Year, I have had the same roll of film stuck in my Leica.  It was a lovely, fresh roll of Kodak Portra 400.  I finished shooting it last week.  Why has it taken me so long (over 5 months!) to finish out this roll of film?  It's a frustrating feeling, a heavy burden.  I would carry around this camera everywhere, hoping to get some shots in during my commute to work, on lunch breaks, at bar outtings, etc.  Throughout this time, I thought a lot about the reasoning behind this inaction, for this is unlike the person I want to be.  Doesn't one want to be a doer? Someone who accepts the  challenge, takes the risk, faces the foe head on.

I came up with a couple of explanations.  One, Kodak Portra is an emulsion that's specifically designed for skin tones (Portra = Portra-it = Portrait, get it?  It took me a while too...).  And while it produces very awesome skin tones, most other colors are strangely muted.  Secondly, Kodak Portra is expensive.  I think I paid a little over $10 for this roll; for 36 exposures that's $.25 a shot, plus the cost of developing.  This is somewhat towards the upper echelon of film prices, except for maybe fancier slide films.  

Kelsey during a photo walk around some SE neighborhoods

I think the problem is a combination of these two factors.  The specialization of the film limits usefulness;  I felt obligated to take pictures of people, and only people.  Otherwise, why bother with muddy looking pictures?  Then add the fact that all my friends are sick of me taking pictures of them (or are just totally creeped out).  In terms of film price, an expensive film raises the risk and commitment level.  Answering the question "Is this picture worth taking?" becomes harder and harder.  In order to visualize this interesting relationship, the economist in me decided to make the chart, which I will now call the Law of Film Usage.  

 Please, do not take this too seriously! 

Please, do not take this too seriously! 

Obviously, this is based in sound observational studies, with set control and test groups.  This chart is for "fresh", non-expired film as well.  For any roll of expired film, just shift the whole line to the left a few parsecs.  And the formula I made up makes a whole lot of sense.  Don't worry, this is what I went to school for.  In any case, enough of me jabbering on about how unmotivated I am, and more pictures! Here you go: 

Feelin' Dirty...

Kyle, showing off his bike/track standing skills

A gentleman wailing on his banjo at Pioneer Square

Brunch Ladies

Self portrait and coffee

The photos on this page were taken with a Leica M6 using Kodak Portra 400 film.