I'm really excited to share a collaboration I’ve been working on with Rollei. This weekend Rollei launched their new website where you’ll find my work ‘Bloody Chunks’ - The Vietnamese Underground Metal Scene. This body of work was photographed between 2012-14 when I lived in Saigon, Vietnam. Shot using Rollei’s ORTHO 25 Plus medium format film. It's extra special to me as I have been using this film and its earlier incarnation for over 20 years.
In the late 90’s I shared a photography studio in Mount Pleasant (Clerkenwell) London with Spiros Politis. 100 metres from our studio was Process Supplies, one of Great Britain’s oldest photographic suppliers established in 1928, still run by the Willes family.
I started working for The Face who were in the neighbourhood too - photographing musicians and youth culture. I used to process my own black and white films in the studio and print at Camerawork darkroom in Bethnal Green - now Four Corners. I was shooting in the studio and out on location and wanted to find a medium format camera that could do both. I found two cameras that fitted the bill perfectly. The Fujifilm 645 which was a medium format point and shoot with built in flash and auto winder. The Mamiya 7 was a range finder - which is a bit trickier to use but worth it as it had an even bigger 6x7 negative. These larger negative gave incredible detail which with my documentary work I didn’t look back from then on, I shot everything on these cameras.
One of my Fujifilm GA 645Zi cameras
One day I was in Process Supplies and I enquired about some odd sounding medium format film called Maco-Phot. It was a high contrast Ortho 25asa film ‘suitable for technical / scientific applications’. This peaked my interest, for my colour work I was already using Kodak Portra VC (Vivid Colour) as I liked punchy colours and it suited my flash photography at that time. A high contrast black and white film sounded like a great addition and I gave it a try. I loved it straight away, the images seemed to jump off the page. Processing was tricky as it was a high-contrast film, if you over processed the skin tones would blow out and show no detail. If you got it right the skin tones had this beautiful silver feel, contrasting with the deep blacks it reminded me of Weegee’s work which I greatly admired.
Below are some examples of my work shot with the Maco-Phot 120 Ortho 25 in the late 90’s to early 00’s
Romeo from So Solid photographed in London in 2002. I first photographed So Solid for The Face in the summer of 2001 when their debut single '21 Seconds' was blowing up. This shoot was for an American magazine.
In 2002 I went to Japan to photograph the Chemical Brothers, where they were launching their new album 'Come with Us'. On arrival in Tokyo I went straight to a small club where Tom and Ed were doing a live album play to adoring fans and the press. With the jet lag I didn't know if I was Martha or Arthur..
The following evening we all went to a big rave where Fatboy Slim and Darren Emerson were playing which is when I photographed 'Pokemon' who job it was that night to guard the beer supply.
As Stefan Barth the Director of German MACO Photo products explained to me “In 2004 Rollei came to us and wanted to launch Rollei films so Maco-Phot became Rollei”.
In 2004 I took this photo of American garage rock band Louis XIV in New York's lower east side. Shot on the new rebranded Rollei ORTHO 25 plus.
In 2009 my wife and I moved to Vietnam where we lived until 2015. In 2010 I went to a free outdoor heavy metal show in a Saigon sports ground. The teenagers going crazy resonated with me, it reminded me of going to punk gigs in the UK when I was their age. I was hooked. I started going to some smaller DIY metal shows in run down shopping centres, 80’s style mirrored disco’s. Photographing a small but dedicated group of fans and bands who were playing heavier metal styles - Death, Black and Grindcore. I had started shooting it in colour digital which was cool but it all looked a bit glossy and beautiful. During a trip back to the UK, I dug out my old Fuji 645 camera. On my return, I continued shooting instead with the Rollei ORTHO 25 plus high contrast film.
I hadn’t processed black and white film for about 10 years, finding processing chemicals in Vietnam proved challenging. Finally in downtown Saigon, I found a bag of white developer powder and a kilo of fixer crystals. I couldn't find any stop bath and read online that I could use clear vinegar - which I loved the idea of. Normal temperature for processing chemicals is room temperature 21’C. In Vietnam the average room temperature was way over that in the 30’s. My impromptu processing space was a room at the top of the house. I learnt the hard way whilst processing my first few rolls - they were totally over cooked (over developed) I realised the developer was starting as 21’C and heating up whilst it was processing. So I moved to processing in my bedroom which was air conditioned where I could control the process more.
From 2012-14 I photographed the underground metal scene in Vietnam with the Rollei ORTHO 25 plus film. This film seemed to capture the raw brutal energy of this music and the hardcore group who loved it. In 2014 I put on a solo show in a cool little gallery in Saigon's antique street. The show and series was entitled ‘Bloody Chunks’ named after Vietnam's first Metal record label, formed by Trung Loki. Trung is also a multi instrumentalist / promoter of Vietnams metal scene 10 years ago. The show was followed by an after party at another venue with live death metal bands. Show posters + Zine designed by Rice
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