Rosenmontagszug and Analogue “Mistakes”
The Rosenmontagszug carnival and a happy Analogue “Mistake”
By Christopher Osborne.
A boy enjoys being part of the Rosenmontagszug parade.
I will never forget Monday, February 20th. Not only was this day Rosenmontagszug, a street carnival in the small German city of Rheinböllen, but it is also the day that changed my analogue practice.
The day itself was clear but cold. Rosenmontagszug (Rose Monday) is not an official holiday, but that does not stop the businesses and residents of Rheinböllen and its neighbouring villages. This is the day of the annual street carnival and not only do the locals take the day off from work, but they also take a day off from being German too. Almost everyone is dressed in fancy dress, and by two o’clock in the afternoon, the main street is buzzing with expectation. The German’s natural reserve and desire to protect their identity by avoiding being photographed completely disappears for the day too. The entire city waits in anticipation for the carnival parade to begin.
Are the deep black shadows an analogue mistake?
My wife Liz and I wrapped up in pullovers and jackets. It may have been sunny, but the outside temperature was definitely on the wrong side of zero (celsius). I took an Olympus OM2 with a 21mm lens and a yellow filter. Because it was unusually bright, I grabbed a couple of bulk-loaded rolls of Arista and Foma 100 film instead of my normal winter choice of Ilford HP5. The purists will point out that Foma manufactures Arista film for the US market, and that it is almost certainly the same thing. As it turns out, there was a difference in this case.
We walked along Bahnhofstrasse (Railway street) towards the city centre, and the closer we got to the centre, the stronger the sense of celebration. We have never seen so many people on the street at the same time. Over half were dressed in costumes ranging from animals to traditional dress. And don’t be fooled into thinking that dressing up is something that kids do. Some Mothers and Fathers were giving their offspring a run for their money.
After 20 minutes, the floats started passing by. True to the rural surroundings, almost all of the floats were pulled by tractors. Each had blaring party music, and the revellers onboard occasionally broke from dancing to throw sweets and other gifts to those of us watching from the sidelines.
Now, I’m not known for being backward when it comes to taking photographs on the street. Taking street photographs on Rosenmontagszug is a photographer’s joy. Everyone is in a good mood and more than happy to have their picture taken. The first roll finished after 8 shots. This remnant roll of Foma 100 had sat in my darkroom for almost a year after I had cut the exposed film out sometime in early 2022. I loaded the roll of Arista, and 37 shots later wondered if I should have brought more film. Still, the parade was nearly over.
A couple of nights ago I loaded both rolls into a developing tank and processed them together with another tank loaded with 4×5 sheets. I mixed enough developer for both tanks. And this is where things get weird. The 4×5 sheets came out perfectly. The short roll with 8 shots looks great too. But the full roll of Arista looks noticeably thin. My first reaction is that this was an analogue mistake. I wondered why. Chances are that the Arista is an old roll that came from Dubai. This film is probably about seven years old and has not been stored anywhere near a freezer.
Last week I interviewed Daisy Taylor from Dartford, England. Daisy is a talented twenty-year-old photography student, and there will be an article on her work here in the next few weeks. I was asking Daisy why she had embraced analogue photography and she enthusiastically explained that she liked the surprises that came with the process.
Now, I have developed significantly more film than I would ever admit to Mrs Osborne, and my results are normally extremely consistent, and light negatives don’t normally make an appearance.
I scanned the film last night, and the results are not at all what I had expected. I’m loving the deep black winter shadows. The contrast reminds me of the work of Japanese photographer Daido Moriami. I like the results so much that I am wondering if this is a gift from the analogue Gods. And I am seriously thinking about how I can repeatedly reproduce this effect for this summer’s shooting. Hmmm, perhaps I could deliberately develop everything in over diluted developer…
Images © Christopher Osborne 2023.
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