Posted on July 19 2019
Today we'd like to introduce to you a new community project: 'A Hundred Days in an Instant' with Ella and her Human Cannonball team. This is a photography project, a crazy car adventure, AND a worthwhile charity cause so enjoy the read and look forward to future instalments (with lots of Instax photos!) - Paul
A Hundred Days In An Instant
My twenty year old Skoda has seen better days. It has rusted wheel arches and patches of lichen growing out of the limited edition 'Pacifica' logo, to mention but a few of its quirks.
Embarking on a mad-cap adventure in a dilapidated Felicia is something most people would scoff at. Especially one bought at the back of a dodgy industrial estate outside Carlisle for £400. I plan on driving from Yorkshire all the way to Mongolia, and not by the most direct route by any means, we will be taking the road less travelled. We will be undertaking this as part of the Mongol Rally, the rally rules stipulate that the car must be small and shit. The Felicia ticks all of these boxes. The journey has no fixed route, and as such I will be taking a little detour to help build a community arts festival in Catalonia.
After this detour I will head to the start line in Prague where we will head east, starting on the 22nd of July, chasing the sunrise from this point on. After Europe we will take in Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Iran (assuming this is still possible), through the '-stans', Mongolia and Russia, if we and the car are still in any fit state we will start the return journey. I wanted to document this epic adventure, but as someone that has travelled extensively and never succeeded in keeping a timely blog or journal (or anything else except crumbled ticket stubs) I wanted to look for a fresh approach.
Documenting a Journey - The Instant Way
I have never been a particularly good photographer. I'm that one person whom once in a blue moon takes phenomenal photograph but has no idea how I did it, total luck. It just doesn't occur to me very often to take photos, I get wrapped up in the moment and never stop to pick up a camera. I have an arts background and a creative flair but I have never managed to channel this into taking viable or beautiful pictures and if I am honest nor have I had the desire to in the moment. This is always something I regret later, I always wish I had those keepsakes and memory triggers or just outright beautiful images. Throughout the planning and organisation of this project I have been forcing myself to take pictures of our progress, but these are easy things to do, change something on the car, take a snap, drive a decent distance and nothing falls off, take a snap, go to the garage, take a snap, you get the idea.
I started to think about ways to document the rally and speaking with a friend of mine got onto the subject of instant cameras, this is something I could get behind. The idea was originally to take instant photos to hand out as mementos to people that helped us along the way. I like that because it combines the creation of a memory with the creation of a souvenir. The idea grew on me and the more I thought about it the more the idea of a snap and go image appealed to me. In a world of Photoshop and filters, the immediacy of instant film really fired something within me, once you have pulled the trigger there is no going back, no editing and altering to be done, you either got a goodie or not.
And this is where the awesome people at Analogue Wonderland got involved, I was offered an introduction by the same lovely friend who offered me camera advice. She is a much more serious photographer than I but she thought this is the kind of quirky, independent project that Analogue Wonderland might like to get behind, so with the help of Paul we have sculpted this idea into a fully formed project, literally ready to take on the world.
A Project is Born - Mini Instax to the Rescue
So here we are. At the beginning of a project, where I am committing to take one instant photo a day to provide a visual log of the trials and tribulations of taking a shit car 1/3rd of the way around the world and back (hopefully).
I know I have a steep learning curve to take on. I’ve never really used an instant camera before and Analog Wonderland have very kindly supplied me with a mix of colour and black and white film to experiment with.
So with a little advice and minimal reading and researching myself, to fair I did some, I settled on the Fuji Instamax Mini in white, I picked this up from ebay with some ice blue accessories for about £35 as new. Total bargain!
Selecting the camera and film really are just the first steps and quite frankly the easy choices, the really big decisions will be around when and what to shoot. I only have one go at one image a day, can I justify squandering it on a phenomenal sunrise, do I risk missing something beautiful or far more relevant later in the day, how many times am I going to kick myself for getting it wrong….
I have no idea what is around the next corner for the whole journey or the challenges the rest of the day holds, no doubt sometimes the mundane will have the most connection to me, the person that helps us roadside, the very average plate of food to a hungry belly, the petrol station rising out of the dust as you roll along on fumes. As such I plan on writing a few words about each image and its importance to me or its significance at the point of capture and sometimes it might just be because it was beautiful or it made me smile.
I am aware that on a trip like this there will be plenty of days that are spent in border queues, having the car searched and searched again, visa offices, sick days, days waiting for a part or a mechanic. I also want to show these days, in all of their drab hum drum glory because these are the reality of a trip like this, it's not all sweeping mountain passes and smiles.
I also have enough film to still offer keepsake images to people albeit in a limited number, I had never stopped to think about the amount of space an instant camera and its gubbins and film take up. It turns out more than I had anticipated but we will make it work in an over packed car that averages 50 miles per hour.
What's it for?
I feel I should mention that I am not just doing this for myself, though I fully plan on enjoying it as much as I can, we are undertaking this challenge to raise funds for Crisis https://www.crisis.org.uk/ and Cool Earth https://www.coolearth.org/. Crisis is a charity very close to my heart and I am privileged enough to have seen the work they do up close and personal. As someone who has been a kitchen coordinator in one of their London centers I can not express how well received the centers are, the services offered really do have a life changing impact on the guests. I for one could not think of a more rewarding way to spend the Christmas period, working with amazing people in a great and positive, if sometimes a little bustling environment. I would highly recommend volunteering in whichever capacity suits you. Cooking lunch for the family? Come join us and try cooking for 400 with all of the trimmings, I promise you wont regret it.
I could not make this up, Day 1, I had planned on submitting this post around lunch time but just like that the first day went wrong, a five hour drive turned into an eight hour drive, I had expected it to be six but terrible traffic added to this. I was fully ready for us to have missed our channel crossing train, we scraped it just with under 30 minutes till leaving. I had planned to take my picture of us leaving the UK only then the vehicle got pulled for a search which was a strictly a no photography situation. So with a mad dash to the train and pretty much the last vehicle on we made it but without the shot. So instead it is us with a glass of wine in Calais as dusk sets in, very happy to be out of the car after a long hot day. I guess that is just the way it works out sometimes.
If you would like to support us in our endeavours financially please head over to https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/HumanCannonball every little helps these amazing charities in the work that they do.
I will be writing a monthly piece here for Analogue Wonderland about where we are up to and the highlights so far. I will try to update Instagram daily with the instant images wifi permitting, I'm also interested in any feedback and advice you may have regarding instant film. Many thanks and happy adventures.