Pushing Film with Fine Art: Tri-X 400 to 800

Every time I google ‘Pushing Film’ I could never find what I want. The examples rarely related to me as I shot for a purpose other than documentation for the past two years. Now with shooting pushed film myself, I feel I have a much better idea of why I enjoy it, what it can lend to an artist, while being able to share with you a different example.

I first starting pushing film because I wanted a ‘style’ as soon as possible, believing that style came by a conscious decision. The next reason became, well, necessity. I was shooting closer to dusk and testing higher apertures, so setting my 400 to 1600 seemed logical. With my street shooting influences at the time, 1600 also allowed a higher shutter speed in mid-low light situations. I still experiment with pushing in different lighting situations and different films, typically with a certain intent in mind. This post shows examples and context of pushing Tri-X 400 to 800. Future articles will talk about Portra 400 to 800 (still understanding this myself) and TMAX 100 to 400 (my new personal favourite!). 

I’m not a fan of listing the pros and cons for a particular method. Those have always confused my thinking mind. Art involves experimentation, which comes from a place of curiosity mixed with detachment. Therefore context and story matter more then the ‘Top 5 Reasons to Push Film Today!’ click bait. 

During this time I was shooting for SolAcademy, an amazing workshop hosted by Neave Bozorgi. At this point I’ve been shooting portraiture entirely in my home, which involves a large south facing window, meaning only indirect light. Around 4pm sun does come into the home, though it’s viscously bright, and makes for difficult compositions. This along with my backdrops (which, if you didn’t know yet, are bedsheets), meant I had to push away from the window to allow my 135mm lens to breathe. 

I chose to push my Tri-X 400 to 800. I wanted to capture something above 1.4 (a devil to try and nail focus every time) with a shutter of at least 125s to avoid lens shaking. Thus the environment was created!

The idea was to shoot 9 different verbiages. I love how these came out with a painterly, ghostly feeling at lower apertures. Enjoy.

Stripping Away

Essentialism is something I’ve thought about for a while. Everything it extends to has been an interest of mine. Call it spirituality, emptying oneself, reinventing oneself. All ways to come closer to describing why I enjoy the essentialism movement. You’re able to live in the feeling of a beautifully blank slate.

And maybe because my friends and family have always had so much. Rooms to the brim, cars filled with junk, and in my families case, a basement full of relics and what-ifs (though we’ve slowly been working on this). Maybe thats why I’ve enjoyed the opposite. To have only what I need. Not an ounce more.

However, I recently visited my teacher in LA and saw his abode. How he and his partner lived in their space was freeing. It wasn’t cluttered, messy, nor monotone-coloured-essentialism-fanboy in any way. It was washed with colours, wooden tables, contrasting with light natural and candle-lit light. Plants, flowers, incense, glorious music. You had space to dance, to draw, to think. It had life. Their home was a place to live.

Coming back, I couldn’t help but notice two things. One, how beautifully my mother can design a room. Two, how poorly I designed my own. To even extending the idea of design is an overstatement, more so not giving the attention it deserved. No wonder it felt so cold and lifeless.

My intentions and awareness of my room is different now. I want to enjoy it as a room, a space to call my own. Colours that move me. A space to be angry, happy, joyful and in peace. All that life painted over a blank canvas made of essential items. Essential to both my life and my soul.