I heart film

Published on October 12, 2015

Film is dead. Or seemingly just the film types that I love the most.

For 15 years, I’ve shot solely with Fuji 160 film because of the lack of grain and sharper-than-real-life quality. Like an unhealthy relationship, though, my marriage to film is destined to end.

To give you a little background, I’m a tortured artist. Before I embarked on the project that I will eventually tell you about, I spent 5 years trying to create the world’s largest photography exhibition. In theory, it will span 1000+ feet of wall space (over three football fields in length). I say in theory because I haven’t actually been able to show it in its entirety yet—the consensus being that it is too large.

Since May of last year, I have been photographing the dismantling of the Oakland span of the Bay Bridge, shooting discontinued film with my 8×10 large-format camera, Ansel Adams style. Whereas my last project was mentally challenging, my documentation of the bridge is physically challenging. It’s not as conceptual, as artsy, or as beautiful as my other work, but it’s something that I felt had to be done.

Have you ever thought (when sitting across the table from a good friend or your parents), “Wow, there will come a day when this person telling this great story isn’t around anymore.” That’s how I feel about this aging bridge on its last leg.

Some of the hurdles in capturing these images:

  • The nearest parking lot is 3.5 miles away from the construction zone. That means a 7-mile round trip carrying all of my heavy equipment (8×10 camera, film holders, and tripod).
  • There is tight security. Nearly every night for the first few months, security guards would literally escort me off of the bridge.
  • The best shots of the construction workers are at sunrise – and I am in no way a morning person. Nevertheless, I wake up at 5 am, drive 30 minutes from San Francisco to Oakland and then bike 30 minutes, half-asleep, just to take one or two photographs.
  • The film that I am shooting with was discontinued in 2010. I have a limited supply and when I do find a secret stash on eBay, it costs $25 per shot.
  • My camera is who-knows-how-many years old and I am always having to repair the bellows with black tape, and then more black tape.
  • It’s crazy windy out there!

I’ve been escorted by security off the bridge many times, I have had light leaks ruin many of my best shots, and I have “abandoned ship” on a rainy night only to have my friend Seth send me his photo of the most amazing sunset I have ever seen.

But, all of the pain, heartbreak, and FOMOS (Fear Of Missing Out on Sunsets) is worth it to get that twice-in-a-lifetime lunar eclipse moment.

I wish that I could break up with film because my life would be so much easier without it. But I can’t, I love it too much.

Learn more about Rocky McCorkle’s project here: OldBayBridge.com