Margate has been a seaside resort for over 200 years, but like so many coastal towns these days, it’s pretty run down. Nevertheless I love the tackiness and nostalgia of the seaside, and when I was asked to go down for the soul festival last weekend on what turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year, I jumped at the chance.
The Margate Soul Festival consists of a deck full of DJs setting up in various locations in the old town and harbour. Chuck in an equal measure of dancing and drinking and things start to hot up. I know from previous experience that it all gets a bit hectic, and camera-wise I wanted to travel light. The Nikon F90x is always my first choice when things get a up bit close and personal, so that went in the back of the car.
As it turned out, what didn’t go in the back of the car was any 35mm film. Despite being a laid-back guy, this is the sort of thing that can almost annoy me. What I did find however was my Mamiya 645, left there from a trip out the day before. Now this really did annoy me, because I’m never normally so careless as to leave one of my precious cameras in the car overnight. The good news was that there was film with it. The bad news – just two rolls of medium format FP4. That’s a mere 30 frames at 645, not a great deal for a full day and night.
The only thing the F90 and the Mamiya have in common is the ability to kill someone with a single whack round the head. Other than that they are the complete antithesis of each other. Where the Nikon is fast and easy to handle, the Mamiya is heavy, ponderous, and the last camera you’d ever consider for in-your-face fast moving candid shots. So I thought about what I should do. Ration the film and take a few shots every hour? Take a load of stationary seascape shots? In the end I just decided to photograph the first 30 things that caught my eye, sling the camera back in the car and enjoy the rest of the day and evening. And that turned out to be the right thing to do. Although I try my best not to let my need to document get in the way of fun, sometimes it’s good to just not have the choice.
Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4 / Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes