What is a visit to Tate Modern like post lockdown? I read that half of the British public isn’t comfortable heading to museums or exhibitions post-lockdown and I get it. But wanting to catch the Andy Warhol exhibition sooner than later I booked the tickets and gave it a go.
All visitors need to book a timed ticket online in advance and the day before your visit you’ll receive an email reminding you of the new guidelines (masks on, no cloakrooms, pay by card only and a one way system) and re-directing you to the Turbine Hall entrance.
From there it was very efficient during queuing and staff will also remind you to have your mask ready. The guidance marks were all clear and the staff (in masks or visors) helpful whenever you looked a bit lost.
There are one-way routes around the building, guiding you towards the various galleries. As I went around opening time it was easy to keep distanced. The Warhol exhibition space itself did not have a one-way system at the time of my visit (8 August).
The Andy Warhol exhibition itself was a bit basic, especially it being marketed as a retrospective. The exhibition is broken down into 12 rooms representing different eras. With the exception of the Factory, Back To Work and the Last Supper Room the pieces didn’t particularly shine. But for hardcore fans, I’m sure it won’t disappoint.
The Silver Clouds room was meant to be an interactive room where the metallic silver balloons floated around you, but due to restrictions they were fixed to the ceiling. And the room that was supposed to give you an impression of his multimedia shows was closed. I imagine these would have been their two wow spaces so the rest was rather low-key.
Visiting Tate Modern on a Saturday morning in August was interesting and very peaceful. Look at the Turbine Hall! The numbers are definitely kept low, but as my time slot was 10 AM I don’t know how it would be later in the day.
Polaroid cameras. Whether you’ve encountered one in a street market, stumbled over several in a dusty attic, or braved eBay to purchase them, you’ll more than likely need a helping hand to navigating the world of vintage technology, films and general know-how for these famed instruments.
Ignoring the fact you may or not be holding a limited edition Spice Girls model, the first thing to get to grips with is the film. You may have noticed that the camera seems lifeless. Well, you’re right – without a film cartridge they’re essentially a retro paper weight, but once you load up a film pack, they’ll awake and you may notice a few red lights on certain models, and focusing on some will also function.
The main type of Polaroid film for most standalone Polaroid cameras is produced by Polaroid (previously known as the Impossible Project). This Dutch-based company bought up an old Polaroid film factory in 2008 and has since produced lines of instant film for the original Polaroid cameras. The main type of film varies between three models – the i-Type, 600 and SX-70 (Spectra/Image film was discontinued in March 2020).
There’s a strange sense of excitement which accompanies firing up an instant film camera. You never know what’s going to happen, what will end up being slowly spat out of the device, and what the subject will think. And yes, they’ll immediately want to see the results. And it isn’t just intrigue, it’s the sense of connection which is often lost through digital photographs – where there’s often so much processing, as well as lengthy gaps until publication, meaning you, and the person you’re shooting, can often feel detached from what actually happened in the moment.
I’ve honestly lost count of how many times people have asked me where they can get one. There’s also a child-like sense of DIY – for example, I’ve messed around with the flash on my camera, to give different filters, and have adorned it with all sorts of marks to aid my composition. What’s more, unlike digital portraits, where you’ll often have to give great thought to setting up lights and finding a perfect setting, with this, you’re working on the fly – to the truest meaning of the word – you take what you can get and make the best of it.
Without the pitch-perfect levels of depth of field in your hands to play with and processing aids to fall back on with composition and exposure, the energy of the subject takes centre stage, closely followed by the moment and atmosphere in which the photo is taken. But giving this much attention and word count to such a simple thing is probably overstating it – simply put, it’s stripped-back fun.
My first shots were in a rather cold East Berlin streetscape at temperatures of -5C, and I soon realised that in this heat, or lack of, the pictures were heavily blue in tones or worse – colourless and overexposed. My best tip is to have a pocket inside a coat or in a shirt that you can swiftly slip the picture into. Speaking of which – you need to ensure that the photograph remains flat or there will be distortion in the image, whether folds, or lines – now this can be quite a cool effect, but obviously you might not be too keen on all your pictures turning out that way.
Whatever the weather, the best case to keep recently taken pictures in that’s most convenient is the actual box in which the film is sold; however, I’ve been using a hard cardboard CD gift box as it’s a bit sturdier and easy to remember.
Now, on the other side of the thermometer – extreme heat. Sadly, we don’t tend to experience massive heat waves in the UK, so this bit of guidance might be somewhat less useful, however, if it gets over 30°C (86°F) or so, I’ve found the shots go overly red and yellow, avoid this by storing them quickly in a cool bag or indoors. The official guidelines state the optimum developing temperature is 13 and 28°C (55 – 82° F). They also state that 4 to 18°C (41°F – 65°F) is the best temperature for the photos to be stored and recommend a fridge – though I’ve found keeping them on a shelf out of the sunlight does no harm.
Speaking of sunlight – when taking photos outdoors or in bright environments, the main thing to remember here is that when you take the shot to ensure you hide it from the sun. From my experience, development times vary according to temperatures, but for most film it’s around 15 minutes.
Thanks to the ridiculous improvements in digital cameras in the last decade or so, particularly mobile phones, we’ve all become quite relaxed with taking photos and allowing the technology to do the heavy lifting – you’ll need to ditch this attitude at the door.
First things first – if you’re indoors you’ll be using flash. Yes, that invention which was incredibly used and honed by early-adopter Jacob Riis to expose the horrific levels of urban poverty in New York City in the 1880s. While you’re unlikely to be braving squalid tenements in Lower Manhattan, this tool will be essential for getting the most out of mid/low-light settings. Even if indoor conditions seem relatively light, the film’s ISO is 600, so it thrives on daylight and dwindles in the dark. Because the flash isn’t dramatically powerful – think a mobile/cell-phone level – it means that if you take a portrait of someone indoors you need to have them stand near a wall or surface (chair, sofa, etc) if you want the backdrop to appear. Without doing this – they’ll appear a lone figure somewhat engulfed by the darkness, which can look stunning, though this may quickly lose its appeal if it’s all you can produce. If you want to get creative, you can look into continuous light sources (lighting gear) – but, because the film is daylight balanced, it means indoor lights will often appear orange unless you can properly adjust their colour.
This hasn’t caused any problems for me though, I just find it makes me more aware of my surroundings and encourages me to incorporate the subjects into their backdrops, which you can often neglect when shooting digitally in a rush. If you want to ditch the flash, outdoors is where the camera reigns supreme. The sunlit tones gracing the white frame is something else to hold in your hands. As mentioned earlier, just keep an eye on hiding the freshly-taken shot from the sun (for Colour film).
Whether in the blinding sun or dimly lit backroom, the main tool you have to hand on the 600 series are their exposure compensation dials, though you may have to cope with the fact you’re playing with plastic dials in a world of holograms and oculus rift. I’ve found that edging the dial a quarter of half way towards the light arrow (overexposing) tends to be worthwhile if it’s a darkly lit indoor scene (even with flash), while outdoors edging it 1/5 to 1/4 gives outdoors shots a bit of more dream-like effect. There’s differing opinion on this, and it will vary from camera to camera, and the style and contrast you find most visually pleasing.
Despite the fact it’s taken me more than 1000 words to reach this subject, actually pressing the button and taking the shot is probably the thing most people consider the most important part of photography. It’s pretty simple here, line it up through the viewfinder, ensure you’re within the minimum focus distance (around a foot for the 660AF), and fire away! The 660AF has two shutter buttons – a flash and a non-flash variety. The flash one requires you hold it for 5 seconds or so for the flash to charge before you can fire, while the non-flash is instant. The hidden magic of the 660AF is the sonar autofocus – which uses the power of dolphins, well sound-waves to estimate the focus points. It’s incredibly accurate, and always shocks me – no surprise that it’s the tech of choice used in pioneering driverless cars.
So, if you want to delve into the world of Polaroid cameras, get used to using flash indoors, tweaking that exposure dial and keeping that film flat, but most of all, just enjoy seeing them develop, watching the subject’s intrigue at what will appear, and being a hell of a lot more thoughtful on what you waste your shots on.
With ‘the new normal’ and the speed of things changing here in the UK I’m not sure when and how, but these are some of the things I’ll be looking forward to doing on a regular basis.
It’s not like I went swimming every week, but every once in a while when I needed to clear my head I would go to the pool and do a few laps. Initially I just missed it, but since swimming has been added to Animal Crossing I’ve been longing for some front crawl so sooooo bad. The pools are re-opening from next week on, but the hassle of having to shower at home and having to walk with wet hair is putting me off. Maybe when it’s sunnier?
Sure there is eBay and all the apps. But on there I only tend to search for the brands and sizes I’m familiar with to avoid mishaps. All I want is a kilo sale and the sounds of hangers being moved, feeling the fabrics and rummaging through boxes for that hidden gem. But again, not anytime soon.
Visit a Historic House
I save these for Spring and early Summer, so I get to enjoy the flowering gardens that usually come with. And I can’t wait to go explore historic houses, palaces and castles. With the ‘season’ being very short this year I need to start planning. Ham House, Fenton House and William Morris Gallery are top of my list and I’m keeping an eye on when and how they return.
Go on a Walk
This is the one I need most. I’ve walked every street in this neighbourhood and haven’t spotted anything new in WEEKS! I really feel like getting back on the bigger routes like Green Chain Walk, Jubilee Greenway or Capital Ring. Now they really want to get us back on public transport, this one should be crossed off real soon.
Hit up a Food Market
I can get a lot delivered and have been enjoying making a lot of things, but nothing beats going to a food market, looking around at the different stalls and trying to decide if you’re going for something familiar or new while keeping an eye open for a dessert to fall in love with.
What things are you looking forward to doing again?
Remember how a few months ago everyone wrote about the travel movies to get you through lockdown? The below movies are far from the ones you usually find on best travel movie lists and they for sure couldn’t cure my wanderlust, but they did transport me to other places for a bit.
Summary – A documentary about the last female bee-hunter in Europe must save the bees and return the natural balance in Honeyland, when a family of nomads invade her land and threaten her livelihood.
The fairytale-like landscape combined with the raw living circumstances make this documentary heartbreaking to watch. Every movie set in the Balkans is a way for me to travel back home and this made me reminisce and think about my little hill and though they are usually happy memories, Honeyland did make me think about who will take care of the elderly now the majority of the younger people moved out.
Summary – In 1950s New York, a lonely private detective afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome ventures to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend.
I do love a slow movie, so Motherless Brooklyn was right up my alley! Especially since it transported me back to 1950s Brooklyn and the fashion, music and cars that came with it.
Summary – A young, naive boy sets out alone on the road to find his wayward mother. Soon he finds an unlikely protector in a crotchety man and the two have a series of unexpected adventures along the way.
Kikujiro is the perfect road trip movie with a great soundtrack and atmospheric shots. For some reason the intro scene brought back old summer holiday memories. Not that I ever had an older man accompany me to go and find my mother, but the scenes where on the first day of summer holiday the boy goes to football practice and learns it has been cancelled, then goes to his friend’s house, who is leaving to go on actual holiday.
Summary – In 1800s England, a well meaning but selfish young woman meddles in the love lives of her friends.
I wanted this adaptation of Emma to be the next Marie Antoinette so so bad, but it did not do it for me. Despite the pastel colour palette and sharp edits it was still too dusty for my liking. What I did enjoy were the glimpses inside the manors that I, under normal circumstances, love to visit. I for sure will attend Kingston Bagpuize House, Wilton House and Firle Place sometime in the future.
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
Summary – Lawman Luke Hobbs and outcast Deckard Shaw form an unlikely alliance when a cyber-genetically enhanced villain threatens the future of humanity.
You can’t go wrong with Fast & Furious on a lazy Sunday. Also, can we give it up for having a main woman not needing to actually get saved and kick ass herself? Hobbs & Shaw travel to a number of locations including Samoa and Russia, and though most of the exterior scenes were filmed in Glasgow, there were a few shots of London. Seeing Central London and the its skyline made my heart jump a bit.
The Lizzie McGuire Movie
Summary – Lizzie McGuire has graduated from middle school and takes a trip to Rome, Italy with her class. And what was supposed to be only a normal trip, becomes a teenager’s dream come true.
I’ve never made it to Rome (I’ve done Tuscany), but I definitely hope they do a Lizzie McGuire-inspired tour there, because I’d be booking that for sure.
Since lockdown began I’ve been going for daily walks around the block for a break from the screen, a bit of fresh air and to see some green, and then on the weekend I’d do some bigger walks to the surrounding neighbourhoods.
I initially just walked to and around a nearby park, but once the lockdown kicked in it got too busy to keep distance and enjoy, so I switched to exploring side streets and some smaller local parks. The last week or so, the streets have become much busier so the charm might have worn off now, but we’ll always have the photos.
Looking back to when it all started, it still seems so surreal to me. Like when these banners started popping up, then shops in the area advertised their toilet paper range and then anything you could possibly use as outdoor work-out equipment got barricaded.
I keep forgetting that behind the main busy streets there are some boujee houses in my area. There are the cute coloured houses but also a 5 million villa that looks like it’s something that belongs in LA, a converted church tower loft and then this dream of a house. I’ve looked at the listing photos so often that I feel like I know every corner of this place.
Some proper dystopian feels on a 7 AM walk was going past an Army Reserves Centre and the scary looking trucks while a fog covered Central London was in the background. And a bit further up was a street where five houses were for sale, now I want to know what is going on there!
Hidden gems I keep forgetting about or didn’t even know existed: a mews I accidentally stumbled upon, a little park behind a church and the cutest library. I hope they don’t demolish this one to make place for flats.
Other random things I spotted were ‘take me’ spots that started popping up, this one was initially started as a book swap, but later I saw tinned food and even seedlings, then this street art that brought me home for a second or two and an obligatory photo of the local ‘Instagram car’.
Seeing the flowers bloom week by week was something that kept the walks more interesting and you were never sure what colour you would find the tree or bush in. Though I enjoyed wild flowers a lot, this house is the clear winner.
Have you explored your neighbourhood during lockdown or quarantine?
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