Wednesday, May 16, 2012

giving the truth scope

So what's the relationship between cross-processing and A Knight's Tale, the 2001 film starring Paul Bettany's bare bottom? I mean, starring Heath Ledger and co-starring all parts of Paul Bettany, not just his bare bottom? (He says in the commentary that his "buttocks broke into American film before [he] did.")

The colors aren't quite what you might expect. Nothing about A Knight's Tale is quite what you might expect, given that it's set in the 1300s and the opening song is Queen's We Will Rock You. The music, the clothes, the shots are big and bright. It's a natural look for, say, Clueless. Not so much for something set in medieval Europe with Chaucer's buttocks in it.

Chaucer has a line in the movie: "Yes, I lied. I'm a writer. I give the truth scope." It sort of sums up the movie and, to get back to photography, sums up the colors you get from cross-processing too.

It can look strange, or hyper-real, or merely old fashioned. Color colors changes our perceptions of the world. A black and white photograph can be from almost any era, but when you see a photo from the seventies, it's not just the bowl cuts and bell bottoms that are tipping you a quarter so you can buy yourself a clue; it's the colors.

I'm sort of obsessing about this because last night was my first color photography class. This class, this semester, will probably be the last class at this school to make color prints in the darkroom. The machine that you run the prints through once you've exposed them is big, and noisy, and old and hard to repair. We're also the first people to use it in over a year. Like all non-digital aspects of photography, it seems to be fading fast.

Then again...we asked for this class. We got eight people to commit to it, which was the minimum number at which the school would agree to offer it. When I tried to sign up, the class was full. That's 16 people. I got on the waiting list and was lucky to get in at all. And that machine that runs our prints through all those lovely toxic chemicals? It's called the hope machine.

There were a lot of reasons not to take this class. There is no safe light for color prints. You expose in complete darkness, which is never my favorite aspect of darkroom work. The chemicals involved are massively more toxic than in black and white photography. On top of that, if I turn out to love this, there's a good chance that the hope machine will be shut down in the next few years, and that'll be that.

I wanted to take it because I'm just starting to realize how much I don't know about color and the way it affects us, our moods, our perceptions and judgements and expectations. It can reproduce what we see, or it can give the truth scope. I think it'll be good. I'll let you know.

Freebie: desktop background of the quote above:
"Yes, I lied. I'm a writer. I give the truth scope."
From A Knight's Tale.