nondescript loveliness

On my recent trip to the sunny North for Splendour in the Grass I had no choice but to shoot on my Holga as the festival rules stated "no SLR cameras". A ridiculous rule, but not surprising seeing as this particular festival seems hellbent on making sure all possible funds that can be squeezed out of the weekend go their way, from exorbitantly priced on-site liquor - the only alcohol option for those unwilling or unable to smuggle in their own - to the apparent threat that patrons may take professional-grade photos and profit in some way from them. (For the record, had I taken the F4 my photos would most definitely not have been professional.) In any case, with the Holga as my designated tool, I loaded it with black and white with the aim of getting some no-frills shots of the on-site, off-stage antics.

At the outset, I was imagining taking candid photos of humorously dressed, possibly intoxicated revellers, as well as capturing some of the inanimate absurdities that are found at every festival. As usual, things didn't really go as planned. For one, I didn't end up taking as many photos as I would have liked. Another downfall of the exercise was my unwillingness to get up close and confrontational with strangers for the crowd shots. But, in keeping with the apparent rule of my photography - that each film's only certainty is surprise - there were some unexpected gems to come out of the roll.

When I turned around and took this shot of the crowd relaxing on the ampitheatre's enormous hill while waiting for Little Red to take to the stage, I assumed it would be a bit of a dud. Regardless, I followed my urge to take it because that hill, when peppered with people as it is in the shot, looked quite breathtaking and I wanted to somehow capture that. In this endeavour I think I failed, yet I still love the shot. Here's why: the scene is very clear, in that it undoubtedly depicts a lot of people sitting on a hill with trees behind them - but the individual people aren't clear enough to focus on, or to detract from the overall scene. The blurriness around the edge of the frame enhances this anonymity, making for nothing more or less than an image of a crowd.

Another reason this photo delights me is because with all my close-up flash portraiture, I had almost forgotten that in natural (good) light, the Holga can and will capture a lot of people in the frame. Not individuals, but people. Which is really what festivals are like - a faceless mass of denim-short-wearing, leather-bag-toting, Ray-Ban-loving youths looking too cool. (Of which, admittedly, I was probably one.)

OK, I realise that the word-to-photo ratio on this one is kind of unbalanced, so while I will post most of the other photos from the festival another time, below is one of those absurdities I mentioned earlier. And if anyone can tell me exactly why they felt the need to display a roped-off but open-walled pristine toilet - which was presumably not intended to serve any practical purpose despite the inevitable temptation of more than a few drunken attendees not wanting to face the lines and repugnance of the port-a-loos - please do.

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