The above video “Thirty-five Milimeteres of Sierra Leone” consists of 35mm photographs taken in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Senegal, West Africa. The Nikon N80 these photographs were taken with was a birthday present from my parents ten years ago. It was supported by a 28-50mm lens and a poor quality circular polarizer. I brought the camera with me for several reasons; it was the only quality camera I owned, there was a possibility to develop film in West Africa, and if it were to be stolen, I could find another one on Craigslist for a song (minus sentimental value, of course).
I brought eight rolls with me originally as a tactic for taking better (not always the case as evinced in the video), more planned photographs. Eventually, I found a place to develop and make prints. Film was about $2.00 or 8,000Le a roll for standard Fuji 200 36 exp., not much different than in the States. Negatives cost 1,000Le and each “card” or print was 500Le. I typically paid 18,000Le for developing the equivalent of $5.75. The novelty of having my film developed in a sunlit back room with 30 year old equipment, a Canon AE-1 painted on the flaking, sea-foam green wall, severely watered-down chemicals, a lone generator in an alley - that is only turned on from 15:00 to 17:00- and that I could smoke and watch my prints bloom, intrigued me to try out their process. A balance was struck between local processing and film-fasting (saving rolls to be professionally developed upon return to the States). I would shoot a roll over a month and develop it or save it. I developed five or six rolls locally and another ten in Boston.
The local prints have yet to be transferred to a digital format. From the nearly 450 prints developed professionally (not really a lot considering 26 months expired in the process) the video includes roughly 150 prints. Somehow, in exporting the video the prints that weren’t grainy, became grainy, and the prints that had evidence of grain are even more grain saturated. I love that little camera. At some point the local prints will find their way onto a computer. For now, please enjoy the grain-laden photographs. Thank You.