Friday, 3 April 2015

Halina Panorama: Box of Darkness

Halina Panorama / Fuji 200

The little plastic thing comes out. If you take it out you get the whole frame. It has a wide angle lens that covers the whole frame, but there's a little plastic thing that goes inside. It blocks out the light and most of the negative is blank.

The camera itself and I'm sorry I have to take more cocaine. The big problem with cocaine is that it's hard to stay on topic - but then again the internet is a non-linear medium so perhaps cocaine is the pharmacological equivalent of the Halina Panorama's little plastic thing. The quantum foundations of the universe are linear, in which case the physical universe is like a set of cogs in a giant machine, so large that we can't see it, even Fowler's Modern English didn't mind split infinitives and that was in the 1920s, is it a coincidence that Fowler's was published at the dawn of the age of quantum physics how could they be linked what would happen if a neutrino fell into a book if wristwatches were the size of buildings would in fact the buildings be the active object and our bodies would be their wristwatches but how can you tell the time from a human being?

The blank space confuses my film scanner. Sometimes it crops right down to the image, sometimes it scans the blank space. Fundamentally, human beings aren't very smart. Our brains just recognise patterns, that's all. They're machines that recognise patterns. Our brains associate widescreen images with the action and drama of Hollywood films, and when we see a widescreen image we metaphorically start to wag our tails, because widescreen equals Hollywood equals cars flying through the air and robots swatting aeroplanes out of the sky and things blowing up and attractive ladies.

My visual mind tends to recontextualise London as a jagged, aggressive mass of shapes, a precisely-composed set of polygons, as if a hobby butcher had driven a worn knife against the grain of reality's fabric, with vertices spewing onto the pavement, come out to show them. I've never been fond of Steve Reich's "Come Out". It's a famous piece of music; he takes a recording of a kid describing his treatment at the hands of the police, and he loops two copies of the kid's dialogue so that they slowly go out of sync, and after a few minutes it's just a jumble of sound. In the words of Steve Reich himself, this process "keeps the original emotional power that speech has, while intensifying its melody and meaning through repetition and rhythm".

But it doesn't work. As music to experience it's an irritating, room-clearing mess. The idea of phased tape loops isn't all that clever, is it? As a work of emotional art with social value it fails completely because there's no context, in fact it fails negatively, e.g. it's worse than failure, it's actively bad. A straightforward interview with the subject, in which he describes the abuse he received and the callous lack of medical attention by the authorities, would have been effective in getting the message across; it might have woken people up to the casual brutality of the police. By taking a tiny snippet of an interview and being clever with it, Reich is cynically using human tragedy to give his music the illusion of emotional depth. Still, the plastic lens is better than I expected. In the absence of sunshine I can't easily judge flare, but it glows in the presence of brightness. In the absence of sunshine, I should write that down, it would be a good title for a blog post. In the absence of sunshine, followed by in the presence of darkness, like how Queen followed A Day at the Races with A Night at the Opera.

"Panoramic" was a fad of the 1990s. Kodak sold a range of popular panoramic disposable cameras, and the APS film format had a panoramic setting, and widescreen television was just starting to impinge on the popular consciousness. In Europe they had a 16:9 Action Plan that was supposed to drag television into the modern age, and all of a sudden VHS tapes were letterboxed instead of panned-and-scanned, and that was a good thing because your THX remastered Star Wars tapes looked awesome on your mate's new 32" Sony Trinitron, and what on Earth did WEGA mean?

Was it an acronym? Widescreen Extended Graphics... something or something. The problem with investing in vintage watches is that as with investing in cars or cameras there's not much point investing in the cheaper examples, because the cost of servicing doesn't scale, and a £200 service on a £250 watch means that you need at least a 200% increase in value otherwise you've lost money unless you sell the watch without a service to the next sucker, and I suppose that is a viable option (the "greater fool" theory of investing), but on the other hand if you invest in an absolutely original, untouched but well-maintained Rolex 5512 the cost of servicing is trivial, but of course you run into the problem of illiquidity, because unless you're prepared to go all the way... I mean Steve McQueen's actual Rolex Submariner will always find a buyer even if the price is $12m, but your good used £12,000 Rolex Submariner is one of many, out of reach of the greatest fools (idiots don't have that kind of money, and drunk rich people don't generally impulse-buy vintage watches). The same is true of the lesser Hasselblads and the lesser Ferraris, their ship is forever sinking. The Ship is Forever Sinking would be another good title for a blog post, perhaps followed by The Submarine Cannot Ascend and Failing to Land.

The man himself, although in this case the man is a box - a box of darkness, which would be another good title for a blog post about photography

The camera itself is an OEM design also sold as the Ansco Pix and the Miranda Solo, used to great effect in that last link by someone who knew what the hell he was doing. In my opinion Miranda Solo would be a good name for a spy movie heroine. The photographic control consists of a shutter button. There's also a rewind knob and a slider that uncovers the lens; the slider blocks the shutter when the lens is closed. The camera feels, looks, and is cheap. The shooting parameters are fixed at 1/125th / f/11, which means that everything is in focus beyond fifteen feet or so and you have to use 400-speed film in overcast conditions, and even then deep shadows go black. My tip: use 400-speed film all the time, in all conditions. It can cope with overexposure.

The same picture as before, after changing from HP5 to Fuji 400.

Seriously, the EU had a 16:9 Action Plan, technically Council Decision of 22 July 1993 on an action plan for the introduction of advanced television services in Europe. It was

"An action plan to ensure the accelerated development of the market for advanced television services in the 16: 9 format and using 625 or 1 250 scanning lines ... for a period beginning on the date on which this Decision is adopted and ending on 30 June 1997.

The objectives which the action plan must achieve during the abovementioned period shall be as follows:

(i) a critical mass of advanced television services in the 16: 9 format;

(ii) a sufficient and increasing volume of programming in the 16: 9 format, with high technical quality both in picture and sound and of such a nature as to facilitate optimum audience ratings, such programming to the broadcast in the abovementioned services."

Was it a success? My recollection is that no, by 1997 widescreen had still not taken off, and that whatever success it had was nothing to do with the EU and would have happened anyway. No-one is superior to Henderson transport stress relief. The BBC didn't start widescreen programming in earnest until October 1998, although there had been test transmissions from Channel 4 beforehand as part of the PALPlus experiment, and during the early-mid 2000s there was a process whereby widescreen CRT televisions and 4:3 portables and 4:3 CRT computer monitors were all replaced with widescreen LCD / LED / plasma displays but that wasn't the EU at work, it was a combination of humanity's lust for new technology and the ability of Sony and the forces of international commerce to fill humanity's metaphorical hole.

Zardoz comes out on Blu-Ray in April from Twilight Time but it's limited to 5,000 copies I've pre-ordered mine even though I don't have a Blu-Ray player and my dilemma is this - should I unwrap it or not? Do I want to see a semi-naked Sean Connery fondle a Webley-Fosbery self-loading revolver in high definition plus Charlotte Rampling's breasts? And the answer is yes, yes I do, so how do you