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The Comedy of Errors

Melton Original Portraits

5 May 14 words: Alison Emm
Become a part of Malt Cross' latest exhibition by getting your portrait taken with an ex-RAF bellows camera
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Sod your Instagram, your DSLR and your iPhone. It’s all well and good to be able to capture every moment of your life, sober or drunk, but with archives going into the hundreds, if not thousands for some folk, where is the beauty?

I’m being flippant, but digital photography has turned everyone into snappers, and it’s rare that anyone actually prints off their pictures, or even looks at them after they’ve been chucked up on the numerous social networks. As an analogue lover, there’s something so special about every photo you print, even the ones you mess up. Maybe it’s the lack of pixelation, maybe it’s the smell of the chemicals, maybe it’s the labour put in, maybe it’s being able to hold it. Maybe it’s just that old nostalgia for something that’s slipping away.

Whatever it is, there is something that makes film photography special. Local photographer Barney Melton may not be able to put his finger on it either, but he’s set about creating an exhibition in the Malt Cross of black and white portraits to celebrate the medium. And not just any old prints, the large format images are taken there and then in the gallery space and developed in his makeshift darkroom, also in the room. I spoke to him as he shot my portrait and he explained the camera used is a sixty-odd year old ex-RAF bellows camera and that the prints are taken on discontinued positive paper stock as opposed to negatives. Positive paper means that, like with a Polaroid, only one copy is produced, and is what allows for the quick turnaround.

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The photographs, hung on strings on the walls, are fascinating to look at. The sitters have been asked to just look ‘normal’ – straight on and side on – without any forced expression. The effect is bizarrely intimate even though they’re not smiling or pulling a face. All the subjects look handsome and from a different age. The sharpness of the central focus combined with a slight lack of focus on some areas really draws the eye to the features.

If you want your picture taken – you get the only copy posted to you to keep once the exhibition comes to an end – then wash your face and get down to the Malt Cross before the end of the week and become part of an ever expanding exhibition. If you can’t make it this week, Barney and his camera set-up will be back for the Malt Cross’ closing party at the end of the month.

Melton Original Portraits will be running until Sunday 11 May, Malt Cross, St James’s Street. Free entry. One photograph, £10; two photographs, £15.

Melton Original Portraits website

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