‘Mystery Is A Compass’ photo book by Jonathan Liu

A couple of months ago, I went to a Photo Book fair at the Phoenix Gallery in Brighton.

It was part of the Brighton Photo Biennial that was held from 28th September – 28th October 2018 around various places in Brighton.

The Brighton Photo Biennial is a month of free photography, exhibitions and events for professional, enthusiasts, students and families alike.

I love to collect photo books (especially film photography ones) so was keen to attend the photo book fair which was within walking distance from where I live.

Whilst at the fair, I was drawn to this book called ‘Mystery Is A Compass’ by Jonathan Liu. What drew me to the book was the simplicity of the front cover, the title of the book (I love a good mystery) and it had a couple of re-printed handwritten notes plus a photo attached to the front cover with a vintage bulldog clip.

It was a publisher stand called Duende Print who was selling the book and after having a chat with them, they confirmed to me that the black and white photos were taken using a film camera which appealed to me even more. I’ve since spoken to Jonathan who confirmed to me that the photos were shot on a mixture of large format (4×5) and medium format film along with stills from a Super 8 film reel.

The book looks into the disappearance of 20 year old Everett Ruess who was last seen in November 1934 heading into Davis Gulch off Escalante in Utah, USA.

Investigators were sent in search of him and found what looked like a campsite with some of his supplies. Further along the Canyon was an arch with an inscription at the base which read ‘Nemo, 1934’. In latin, Nemo translates to ‘No one’.

The book describes the theory of ‘Plato’s Meno’ where to summarise, there is a mystery to this unknown entity and that this mystery can act as a compass guiding you through the seemingly unknown.

Jonathan decided to follow Everett Reuss’s route to the Southern Utah desert because he wanted to find a deeper understanding of what his motivations were, and to witness the beauty that ultimately consumed him.

Jonathan describes in the book that the only physical legacy Everett Reuss left behind is in the form of a drive through fast food restaurant in Escalante named ‘Nemo’s’.

Jonathan has cleverly mixed photographs he has taken along with excerpts of Everett’s letters that were left behind when he disappeared.

I really wanted to blog about this book because I found it to be such an interesting read and I liked the black and white photos Jonathan had incorporated into the writings.

The book is a nice compact size measuring 150mm x 210mm and is a 52pp french-fold book which means some of the photos go over two pages which is a bit different to a standard photo book.

The book was published in May 2018 and there were 30 First Edition copies printed. My copy is number 28.

For more information on the book and Jonathan Liu, you can visit Jonathan’s website at http://www.jonathanliu.net

I would highly recommend the book and checking out Jonathan’s other work.

Using the Ilford HP5 Plus Black and White 120mm film with my Lubitel 166B

Since I really loved the previous black and white photos I had taken using my Lubitel 166B, I thought I would try out the Ilford HP5 Plus film as it’s a very easy film to get hold of in a few of my local shops in Brighton.

The more I use the camera, the more I continue to love it. Since my last blog, I’ve now discovered how to focus the photo properly by using the attached magnifying glass in the viewfinder and looking at the central circle in the viewfinder.

I also thought I’d test out the eye level viewfinder on the camera which is a small square in the plastic at the top so you don’t actually look into the picture part of the camera. Here are two photos I took using this method of shooting:

I didn’t feel that using the little square viewfinder gave an accurate image of  what I inevitably shot so I know I definitely prefer using the actual picture viewfinder and mainly shooting from the hip.

It was a cloudy, windy day in Brighton and the waves were immense. I wanted to capture this as best I could using the Lubitel and here are the results:

I wasn’t sure when taking the photos if I was going to find them boring once developed but I do really like them. Again for me, I just really like the style of photo this camera produces.

Highgate Cemetery Tour with the Diana F+ Camera

On Saturday 20th October I visited Highgate Cemetery to do a Lomography workshop using the Diana F+ camera.

You’ll see from one of my other blog posts that I already own a Diana F+ camera so am familiar with how it works, but I’ve always wanted to visit Highgate Cemetery so thought this would be a good opportunity to finally go.

The cost of the workshop was £20 which included a loan of a Diana F+ camera, a roll of black and white 120mm lomography film, entry to Highgate Cemetery’s East side plus development and scanning of the film that was used during the workshop.

I arrived at the cemetery’s box office (where the meeting point was) and quickly saw how popular this workshop was going to be since there were a few of us.

There were several employees from Lomography who also attended the workshop so they were able to split us into two groups.

Before we went into the cemetery, we were given a handout about occult photography in the 1800’s. We were told that with the Diana F+ we would be able to create some ghostly style images and were even offered some tissue paper if we wanted it to create an ectoplasm effect.

There was a whole bunch of Diana F+ cameras in different colours on display at the meeting point which were pre-loaded with black and white 120mm film. The nice thing was that we were allowed to pick a camera ourselves rather then just be handed one.

We were shown the features of the camera and were informed that we’d always be best off using the cloudy setting on the camera for UK weather even on a bright sunny day. The day of the Workshop was very bright and sunny which I was pleased about since we’d be outdoors. I’d also learnt something new as I personally would have used the Sunny setting if I hadn’t have been told this.

We were talked through how double exposures can be taken on the camera to try and create a ghostly effect. We were also shown how we could take pinhole photos if we removed the main lens and took a longer exposure in bulb mode.

Since the film only has 12 shots, we were also able to purchase more film if we needed it for an additional £5. I’d thankfully thought ahead and brought my own Diana F+ camera with me and some spare black and white Lomography film. However, I initially used the camera they loaned for the workshop since it already had the film pre-loaded.

We proceeded to walk round the East Side part of the cemetery and it certainly didn’t take very long to use up the 12 shots. I then used my own Diana F+ camera with the spare film I had brought with me.

I decided to take the used film home with me rather than let Lomography develop and scan them since I have my own flat bed scanner that I scan my photos on and I wouldn’t have to wait for them to post me the negatives after scanning the film etc.

Here are the results of the photos I took using the camera that Lomography loaned me during the workshop:

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I can see why Lomography used this particular camera for the workshop as the heavy vignetting produces a great dreamy effect which I think works really well with the graveyard shots and also the black and white film gives them an old fashion feel.

Here are the photos I took using my Diana F+ camera and the black and white 120mm Lomography film I own:

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I think most people will agree that the photos I took using my camera are a real disappointment and this is because the backing paper from the film has imprinted itself onto the negatives.

I can see this has happened on a couple of the shots too using the loan camera from lomography but it’s not been no where near as bad as my film.

I’ve since discovered this will most likely happen if the film is expired or not stored correctly.

I normally store my film in the fridge, however, I have to admit that I had originally intended to use this black and white film in my Diana F+ camera several months back for another project which I didn’t end up doing and I lazily left the film on the side and didn’t end up putting it back in the fridge. We’ve also had quite a warm summer in England and the room where the film was left does get very warm so I think this has definitely been a contributing factor.

Overall, I found the workshop great fun and the Lomography staff were really nice and extremely supportive with any queries we had throughout the workshop which ran from 1pm-5pm.

I thought the workshop was great value for money and such a good thing to do around Halloween time.

If they run one next year, I would highly recommend it to anyone who can get to London and is keen to try out the Diana F+ camera.