Technically, I didn’t take this photograph at all, it just happened that our table was beneath some coat hooks and I asked my friend Marcelo to put the camera up there while him me and Rei ate our meal.
We were in the restaurant because we used to do lith printing together at a darkroom in east London. Lith printing is all about time, developing a print can take a very long time indeed, judging when it is done is not easy. Lith prints have a ‘snatch point’ the moment when you should pull it from the developer before it isn’t quite perfect as it will keep on developing until you put it in the stop bath. It is the one process I really enjoy because it requires you to be intellectually present during the wet process whereas most darkroom printing is about the exposure and enlargers, which are just big torches with lenses to me.
We all used to meet some Fridays and lith and talk rubbish but then Marcelo went to work in Paris and I drunkenly suggested me and Rei should visit him and so we did. We had dinner in Chartier and I asked him to put the camera on the coat rack because he’s tall and he could reach.
They were sceptical about such a long exposure, neither of them likes the light meter, but the light meter was important to me because the exposures get very long indeed in such low light and I’ve lost too many shots just guessing. I like the challenge of giving weirdo terms like reciprocity failure an outing all in pursuit of a photograph. I don’t really understand what reciprocity failure is, apart from the failure bit. It means, the picture doesn’t come out.
At first glance this photograph seems to manifest the usual tropes of long exposures, blurry things and non blurry things but this exposure is so long it actually normalise movement and is not at immediate as a shorter long exposure would be – if that makes sense. What it unexpectely revealed is how small those personal spaces are. This was an incredibly busy restaurant with waiters bustling back and forth carrying food, but you cannot see them here because the exposure is too long to capture them. The customers on the other hand are visible. They settle into little cocoons during their meals. Each person is a recognisable entity, joining in their conversation around their table with their friends or family or partners. The way each individual sits in some way marks them out and with the longer exposure their relationships are uncovered. The person in the foreground centre spent most of the 30 minutes slightly angled towards the person on their left, and that person mirrors this back. The person opposite them seems to have spent most of their time leaning in a little to make an intimate triangle and this is echoed across the room. It was unexpected but it has informed the photos I’ve taken since.