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Long Lost Friend

March 1, 2010


Somewhere in the Sahara

The idea was to attend the Visa festival in France and then head south and go to Morocco. Amy and I, and another couple, a photographer and his wife. The other photographer had family in Morocco so our logistics were somewhat worked out for us. We had a plan, a vague one, and a map.

We landed in Casablanca then made our way north. The route took on the look of a 2,000 kilometer circle which just happened to be flat in parts. Fez, south through the mountains, into the desert, back through the gorges, through Marrakesh, on to Essaouira and then back to Casablanca.

A white Fiat Uno. No radio. No air conditioning. Lots of water.

Between us, French, Spanish, English and Japanese. And a pinch of Yiddish.

This trip took place in 2000, I know because I had a mini theme going which was Polaroids of my wife, one each day every day of the trip, and the last shot I made was her in the cockpit on the flight home from Casablanca to New York. I knocked on the door, pre-9/11, and asked the pilots if I could get a shot of her in between the two of them as they commanded the plane. “No problem, come on in!” In a blast of flash it was done. I look at it from time to time, and the others, as I made a huge book of the images after returning home. It’s tangible, tactile and homemade. I love it.

This trip was not a “shooting trip,” but rather a real vacation, but we all know what happens when photographers go on vacation. But even so, I only shot about eight or ten rolls of film the entire trip. I never made contact sheets. I just processed the film, made an edit and then moved on.

But recently, out of the blue, after ten years, my phone rang. My phone rang with an unknown number, which meant I didn’t answer it.

It was someone I had worked with prior to this Morocco trip, someone who I happened to run into IN Morocco as we were leaving the medina in Fez. He looked at the four of us and said, “Would you like to go somewhere you could normally never go?” We said, “Yes.”

He took us back into the medina and into a mosque where Islamic musicians were learning ancient scripts which are passed from generation to generation only through verbal means. We shot photos.

Well ten years after my friend called to see about using these images for a book cover and CD cover.

All you digital folks take notice, in less than one minute the images were in my hand. Yes, in less than one minute. I had good scans of all the images, but I made new ones just because I like scanning, and in the process of examining the negatives I found something. I found several things.

New images.

There were several but the one in this post is my favorite. This was shot with my Leica, which was the only camera I took with me on this trip. We had spent the night in the Sahara, lucked out with a full moon, and were milling around the next day, just out in the dunes.

I love this picture because of the light and because it is simple. I also like the fact I’ve caught a gesture. On the negatives it lives as one frame, which for me is how most of my good images are made. There is no motor sequence, no posing, no manipulation, just watching, waiting and pouncing when things are right.

Like I do with all my good images, I printed this thing. I made a digital print, 17×22, but on paper I’m not happy with, so next week I’ll enter the dark and make a silver print. I can’t wait to see how it reads in the dark. I can’t wait for the time alone so that my relationship with this image gets deeper. I might print three of these new images, 16×20 and frame them for the house, or maybe just keep them in the file for now. I just know I need to do it. I can feel it.

When I look at this image the entire scene comes rushing back. Ten years ago but it feels like a blink of the eye.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. March 1, 2010 7:50 pm

    Man, I know exactly what your talking about. Nothing like a silver print, nothin.
    I remember that time vividly. You and Amy were on one train platform, Sharon and I were on another. We were all going to the same country at that time. You got to go to the Sahara ( lucky bastard) we spend our time in Tangiers and Al Fes (not that I’m complaining, farthest from it, it was one of the coolest trips we ever did)
    Thanks for this post Dan, I’m going to go finish setting up my wet darkroom now. Viva la peliqulia!!!

    • March 1, 2010 8:02 pm

      Oh that is right. We were on the platform in Perp right? Too funny. Yes, I wish my life had more of these trips, but alas, the thrill of days on the computer keeps me here at home…….isn’t it odd how so much of our lives is now about staring at glowing screens.
      I just picked up an enlarger, for free, and am taking it over to the location where I print, going to set it up over there.
      It’s funny about printing. I get so much flack for printing analog, but when given the choice, every single photographer/collector when given the choice……ALWAYS WANTS THE SILVER PRINT.

      Our industry is so driven by tech and the new it loses track of the soul, personality or individuality of what makes photography so great.

  2. March 1, 2010 8:08 pm

    Couldn’t agree with you more.

  3. David Wissinger permalink
    March 1, 2010 11:29 pm

    Well then I agree too. (Tell me what a silver print is?)lol

    • March 1, 2010 11:56 pm

      It’s a magic print you can use in exchange for money, pelts or spices

      • David Wissinger permalink
        March 2, 2010 3:59 am

        That’s great to know because I need to stock up on pelts.

      • March 2, 2010 4:27 am

        Hey, prints and text went out today, DWISS, FYI

      • David Wissinger permalink
        March 2, 2010 8:28 pm

        Excellent! Thank you! Should look forward to getting them?

  4. eric labastida permalink
    March 2, 2010 12:35 am

    A good silver print, like India ink will stand the test of time.

    • March 2, 2010 12:52 am

      OH man, speaking of that. Thanks to a friend, I got these new journals, blacknred, and need more ink. Can’t find my old bottles. They were probably taken away by HASMAT.

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