Shelf Portrait #2

It took a few false starts before I developed an enthusiasm for photography, but once I did, things escalated quickly. A few months after getting my first DSLR (a Nikon D80), I’d supplemented it with a second-hand film SLR (a Nikon F80). Having rediscoverd the joys of shooting on 35mm film it wasn’t much longer before I got my hands on an old TLR (a Yashica-Mat) to dabble with medium format. I took up home development of black-&-white film, and daydreamed about having my own darkroom, and of experimenting with a large-format camera.

At length I coaxed both those daydreams into reality, but in each case I bit off more than I could chew. My circumstances never permitted any kind of permanent darkroom, and the makeshift one I was able to set up was in no way satisfactory: the enlarger I’d acquired only got used on a handful of occasions. There was marginally better success with an entry-level 5x4 camera - a Crown Graphic - but after seeing for myself just how much bigger a step up it was in terms of inconvenience and expense from medium to large format, I felt discouraged after taking and developing only a few dozen shots. At around the same time, money and free time came to be in all too short supply, with photography in general having to take a back seat to other priorities.

One of the 5x4 shots I did manage to take was of the disorganised and neglected state of my bookshelves at that time (Autumn 2011). A detail from it is shown above. I find it interesting to look at in retrospect, given just how many of those volumes I’ve since let go. I no longer own the half-dozen copies of FMR magazine, for eaxmple, or the art-books about Adam Elsheimer, A.G. Rizzoli or Jacques Callot. And I sold my first-edition two-volume copy of the Codex Seraphinianus no more than a year after this picture was taken. I hated to part with it, but the four-figure sum from the sale proved very useful at the time. A decade later I bought a copy of the 2013 Rizzoli edition of the Codex by way of a belated replacement.