&* andsplat, a blog by Ben W. Fey

a blog by Ben W. Fey

The Lost Show: A Virtual Photography Show

Note: Originally this was a series of blog posts that I posted 1-10 April 2020. I have edited the original series into the following single post.

A virtual photography show

A small collection of my photographs are currently on exhibit at my church. The problem is, as you might guess with COVID-19, no one is there to see my photographs.

framed darkroom prints by Ben W. Fey hanging on the wall
My photographs on display at church

We have a visual arts ministry that includes the opportunity to share artwork in our fellowship hall and I was excited when asked to share my photography from 27 February to 7 May 2020. Since we are now meeting for church virtually, I have been thinking of ways to share my photographs. I am going to start with a blog series where I will share my photographs and provide a little information about the process and equipment used to create the images. I am also considering creating and selling a photo zine and prints (let me know if you’re interested). [Note: I did create the photo zine! See the end of this post for details.]

To start, I am going to share the artist statement that I wrote for the show:

Artist Statement

I fondly remember taking photos of the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular at Disney as a kid in mid-90s. The photos that I enjoyed taking the most were not the fire or action, but between the action when they took the set apart and I could see where the actor playing Indiana Jones hid when the giant ball rolled down the hill. Twenty-five years later I still love capturing the overlooked details around me in my photography.

I mainly shoot film (35mm and medium format) and have been developing my own black and white film at home for just over two years. In January 2020, I built my first darkroom in a spare bathroom (thanks, Austin!). All of the black and white photos on display were printed in my darkroom. The color photographs are either digital or a hybrid (color film that I shot and then scanned).

I find shooting film helps me to slow down and see the beauty around me. I studied architecture at UVA and am drawn to the built environment and how we use the space and objects around us. I hope my photography helps you to also slow down and look at something you might have passed by without a second thought during the rush of life.

Ben W. Fey

I hope you and your family are staying healthy and safe!


The Tate

The Tate Museum in London
The Tate, 2019. Nikon F2AS, Kodak T-MAX 400 35mm

As discussed in my Artist Statement above, all of the black and white photographs in this show were printed in my new home darkroom. Since this is a virtual photography show, I am not able to show you the darkroom printed versions of the photographs, but am instead showing you the digital scans I made. In order to match the darkroom printed photograph that you would see in person, I have re-edited each scan to approximate the feeling of the darkroom print (crop and contrast).

The first photograph that I wanted to share is a photo that I took at the Tate Modern art museum in London. Austin and I traveled to England last summer and 6 of the 17 photos in this show are from that trip.

For those interested in gear, I traveled with my Fujifilm X-T2 digital mirrorless camera and Nikon F2AS 35mm film camera. I find the process of shooting film more satisfying—it helps me to slow down and see the light and details around me. If I was packing for the trip again, I would bring one or two film cameras instead of one digital and one film camera.

When we first visited the Tate Modern, I had to stop and take a few photographs before we started to see the art. The enormous scale of the space, the bright light streaming in, and the child running in one of the beams of light—how could I not stop and take a few photographs?


Oxford

The next two photographs are also from our trip to England. This time we visit Magdalen College, Oxford.

Long wooden table with lamps and wooden chairs at Magdalen College, Oxford
Medieval Hall, Magdalen College, Oxford, 2019. Nikon F2AS, Kodak Tri-X 400 35mm

While traveling in England last summer, Austin and I spent a few days in Oxford. Our small bed and breakfast was not too far from Magdalen College so we walked there after dropping off our luggage. Fun fact: C.S. Lewis was a Fellow and English Tutor at Magdalen College from 1925-1954. Austin and I wanted to attend the Evensong service at the Magdalen College Chapel and while we waited for that to start, we walked around the college and took photographs. The photograph above is of the Medieval Hall, a place where students gather together for meals.

Singers for Evensong service waiting in a line
Evensong, Magdalen College, Oxford, 2019. Nikon F2AS, Kodak Tri-X 400 35mm

When we first entered Magdalen College, I stopped and started to take photographs of the first courtyard area. Little did I know, I was standing in the direct path of the choir that would sing in the Evensong service later that evening. I was looking through the viewfinder when I was startled by the group politely asking for me to get out of the way. Apparently the choir does not deviate from their path. I apologized and quickly got out of the way and took this photograph.


University of Virginia

For this section, we travel closer to home: the University of Virginia. For living in Charlottesville, I don’t visit the university as much as I should, especially as there are plenty of interesting things to photograph.

The Rotunda at the University of Virgnia
The Rotunda, 2018. Hasselblad 500cm, Kodak T-MAX 400 120 film

Another thing I don’t do enough these days is shoot with my Hasselblad 500cm. I enjoy how the Rotunda is framed by the trees in the photograph above and while a lot of the image is dark, you can still see some details of the paths crossing at the bottom of the photograph.

A piano in disrepair outside and under a tree
Outdoor Piano, 2018. Hasselblad 500cm, Ilford HP5 120 film

I don’t know why, but there is an old piano outside near the UVA School of Architecture (my alma mater). When I saw the piano, I knew I had to take a photograph. I love how the keys are stuck at different heights. If the outside of this piano looks this bad, I’m curious how bad it looks on the inside. As a musician, I’m torn on this as art—I really hope the piano was already broken before it was left to the elements.


Sky and ground

In this section, I wanted to explore the natural and manufactured—sky and ground.

Left photograph is the Grand Canyon. Right photograph is a utility pole.
Left: The Grand Canyon, 2017, Nikon F3, Kodak Ektar 100 35mm
Right: Utility Pole, 2016, Nikon D750 Digital

The photographs above are two very different locations—the Grand Canyon versus a utility pole in town—but they both cause me to look up to the sky and then back down to how the object connects to the ground. The photography on the left is from our family Grand Canyon vacation in 2017. For that trip I packed both my Nikon F3 film SLR and Nikon D750 DSLR. I didn’t realize my Nikon F3 had an issue where the shutter would randomly fire at the maximum 1/2000th shutter speed, massively underexposing random frames. I’m thankful that I was still able to get most of the photographs that I took with the camera during that trip and have since replaced my Nikon F3.

Similar to the pair of photographs above, the photographs below are very different locations—the Antelope Slot Canyon versus a car wash in town—but they both cause me to be be aware of the ground and notice the different curves that play with the available light. Awareness of the ground through my memory of climbing into the earth to see the Antelope Slot Canyon and my eye being pulled to the leaf on the ground at the car wash.

Left photograph is the Antelope Slot Canyon. Right photograph is a red hose at a car wash.
Left: Antelope Slot Canyon, Arizona, 2017, Nikon D750 Digital
Right: Car Wash, 2019, Nikon F2AS, Fujifilm Superia 400 35mm

Lake District

In the middle of our England vacation last summer we spent a few days in the Lake District. If you have not visited the Lake District, you should do that the next time you are in England. Both photographs below are from a short walk we did to Brant Fell, a hill that overlooks Bowness-on-Windermere. The views were incredible.

Tree on top of a rocky hill in the Lake District, UK
Lake District, UK, 2019. Nikon F2AS, Kodak Tri-X 400 35mm

I loved the texture of this mossy wall during our walk. The sun was shining through the trees above, leaving an interesting dotted light on the wall.

Mossy stone wall in the Lake District, UK
Mossy Stone Wall, Lake District, UK, 2019. Nikon F2AS, Kodak Tri-X 400 35mm

The Lawn

Last year I participated in Expired Film Day, a competition where people are asked to have fun shooting expired film. I don’t often shoot expired film as film is expensive and expired film can act in unpredictable ways as it ages. Overtime film becomes less stable and less sensitive to light. This can cause color shifts, grain issues, and more. I also used Expired Film Day as an excuse to adapt 35mm film to fit in my Hasselblad 500cm for the first time—resulting in photographs that cover the sprocket holes and is more panoramic. For this experiment, Austin and I went to the University of Virginia to take some photographs of the Lawn and Gardens.

Tree in a garden at the University of Virginia
UVA Garden, 2019, Hasselblad 500cm
Expired Kodak Gold 400 35mm film adapted for 120
Rotunda at the University of Virginia
UVA Rotunda, 2019, Hasselblad 500cm
Expired Kodak Gold 400 35mm film adapted for 120

In order to get 35mm film to flow through my Hasselblad 500cm in a predictable and mostly centered way I made a 35mm to 120 film adapter set. You can buy 3D printed versions of these online, but I figured I could try and make my own with existing 120 film spools that I had at home. I used a Dremel tool to file existing 120 film spools down to size and then glued them together so they equaled the height of a regular 120 film spool with the 35mm film moving more or less in the middle.

Photograph showing a homemade 35mm to 120 film adapter
Left and center: homemade 35mm to 120 film adapter
Right: regular 120 film spool

Around the corner

The photographs in my virtual photography show have been from a few different places: London, Oxford, the Lake District, the Grand Canyon, the Antelope Slot Canyon, and our home of Charlottesville. In the days of social distancing because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I miss the ability to travel with a camera. Most of the photographs in this final post are from Charlottesville (with one photograph from London).

Out of Order sign
Out of Order, 2018, Seagull TLR, Ilford Delta 100 Pro 120 film

From time to time I will go out on a photowalk and take photographs of things that jump out to me. When I was walking near Downtown Charlottesville, I noticed this out of order crosswalk button. I enjoyed two different things in this scene: the texture of the peeled-away sticker and the fact that the “out of order” sign is fairly permanent.

Snow covered pine trees
Winter Pines, 2019, Hasselblad 500cm, Kodak T-MAX 400 120 film

The photograph of the snow covered pine trees was taken from our back deck. I was about to eat breakfast one morning and noticed how the snow weighed down the branches of our neighbor’s pine trees and had to stop and take a few photographs.

London Tube utilities, wires and tubes flowing left to right
London Tube Utilities, 2019, Nikon F2AS, Kodak T-MAX 400 35mm

I took the London Tube Utilities photograph while Austin and I were waiting for the Tube to arrive during our vacation last summer. While on the platform I noticed the dense web of utilities across the way. I appreciate how organized and tidy they are—I wonder: when were they added? were they added at the same time? over several decades?

Peppers on a table at the Farmers Market
Peppers, 2019, Minolta 7s, Kodak Tri-X 400 35mm

We don’t go to the downtown market often, but when we do, I tend to bring a camera. I’m drawn to the gradient and texture of the peppers and how they are randomly spread out over the table. There is a weight to the peppers. I feel like they could fall from the top of the frame to the bottom at any moment.

I do enjoy traveling with a camera—capturing new locations and details. As I have been organizing and writing these posts, I have been encouraged that a good number of the photographs are of locations and details close to home. If asked about my photography show, I would have guessed most of the photographs were from our trip to England. Looking back, a majority of the photographs are from locations near home—and even our backyard. During this time of staying home, taking photographs of the same locations over and over as we take our afternoon walks, I am trying to slow down and look at something I passed by the previous day or week without a second thought—the beauty just around the corner.

I hope you and your family are safe and healthy. Thank you for taking the time to join me for my virtual photography show.


The Lost Show: Zine

As mentioned at the top of this post, I did end up designing and self-publishing my first photography zine. You can purchase a copy at my Etsy store.

The Lost Show zine by Ben W. Fey
Interior page of The Lost Show zine, Out of Order sign
Interior pages of The Lost Show zine, snow covered pine trees and London Tube utilities
Interior pages of The Lost Show zine, UVA Rotunda
Interior pages of The Lost Show zine, Oxford table and Tate Museum

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