The Pietá Reshoot: Return to Redscale

Of late, I’ve been testing different cameras and films by shooting at St. Agnes Cemetery in Menands.  If things work, I put the finished photo in a short pile for an upcoming project.  If not… I try again.

And in the category of “try again,” I’ve tried – for many years – to get a decent shot of the Pedula monument at St. Agnes.  The Pedula monument contains a recreation of one of Michelangelo’s most famous sculptures, the Pietá – a youthful Mary holding the lifeless body of Jesus.

In the past, I’ve tried photographing this version of the Pietá for competitions, including an early attempt at HDR photography.  No dice.  What I thought was decent HDR, I now consider a poor attempt at creating clown vomit.

So I kept trying.  The problem is, the Pietá in St. Agnes Cemetery does not get full sunshine; a grove of trees block the sun rays from hitting the monument at full brightness.  I’ve tried photographing the Pietá from behind; but that didn’t look too thrilling, either.

Last Saturday, I packed some Lomography Redscale film into my Rolleiflex and went for a shoot.  A few frames here, a few frames there…

Oh look.  There’s the monument.  I’ve got a couple of shots left.  Let’s do this.

Pietá 2016. Rolleiflex Automat MX camera, Lomography redscale film. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Pietá 2016. Rolleiflex Automat MX camera, Lomography redscale film. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Wow.  No tree shadows – well it helps that this photo was taken on a cloudy day.  But I got the shot.

Now you’re probably wondering, if you’re a new reader to my blog, “Chuck, why the hell does everything look red and orange and yellow in this picture?”

That’s what happens when you use redscale film.

If you take film and flip it upside down BEFORE putting it in the camera, you will expose the bottom layers of the film emulsion first.  That’s the blue layer.  This means that the final layers will be exposed last, and therefore will show up as bright reds and oranges and yellows.

I can flip my own 35mm film – just take it into the darkroom, pull it out of the cartridge, re-roll it backwards into another cartridge, and shoot.

Lomography manufactures and sells larger 120 redscale film, which takes some of the hard work off my plate.

I’ve worked with redscale film off and on for several years now.

And maybe with shots like this…

I might go back to it and try some more.