brian drake develops the past


In the corner of my paint studio, I had a stack of 4x5 film carriers, with a yellow 3M sticky note that read: “black-and-white ASA 200 exposed”. Given the events of the last couple of years, I couldn’t tell you what was on them or when they were shot. The film speed tells me it’s a small batch production and not more than three years old.

Having nothing better to do, I mixed Kodak HC 110 to a B dilution and decided to process the film. When I went to hang the negatives to dry, it became clear what I had… and oh yeah, there could be a real story here, if only I could really remember the value of it.

Back Up

I have been revisiting the same location, shooting various views over the last few years. There’s something interesting about a creative revisiting the same subject over and over. As a painter, I’ve never really done that. I tend to create an encapsulated idea, and move on. Same with music, or really any creative endeavor I’ve been a part of. However, with photography, I have a different opportunity. I can revisit a static location a multitude of times, looking for a new truth, or maybe a new reality. Subtle nuances can take on dramatic effect in large format film. It’s an exercise that I’m not quite sure can translate to any other creative medium. The nature of film seems to lend itself to this process.


I have shot various views of this location with different films at different times of the year. I’ve used C4 1, expired E6 and black-and-white film. I’ve also used a multitude of formats. 35 mm, medium format and of course 4 x 5. Some negatives I have destroyed and some I have kept. In fact, I have destroyed a lot more than I have kept. That might be interesting to look at in the future: why I don’t keep “bad“ negatives around. frankly, I do the same shit with paintings. As for the sample image above, it is important to note: It is the 4x5 negative laid on a light table, photographed with my iPhone and then inverted in the Pro Camera app. It certainly is not a dedicated drum scan. It also explains the negative image distortion from not being flat mounted. But this ‘aint about my film digitization technique.

The Point?

Certainly, I was going through some sort of cathartic exercise. And to some degree, It was an exercise that started with a different intention. Now I couldn’t tell you what the value of continuing would be. I may have put the period at the end of this sentence in an almost unknowing way. Frankly, it feels a little anti-climactic. Maybe I’ll catalog these and revisit them five years from now and see something that I saw originally, or something that has more value than I could possibly know today. Or maybe they’ll just be lame photos of a place or time that never needed to be documented. As a creative, I know that will be up to somebody else to decide. I just make these things and put it out there. Sometimes shit just don’t work out. Maybe it really is what we deserve.

Interesting note: while sliding through past stories, as I always do before I update a new story, I discovered Field Notes #4 from April 2023. This may be when these were shot.