Pride in 2020 is a quieter, angrier thing than in 2019. No mass gatherings, no parties, no flag-waving and parading through Bristol’s streets wearing our finest and brightest gear. Coronavirus has meant that we can’t march and we can’t party. Global societal turmoil has turned our moods from jubilation to reflection, and anger at injustices that have gone on too long. This year, instead of celebrating we’re supporting each other in ways small and large – financially, practically and emotionally.
I came pretty late to Pride celebrations – in straight-passing relationships for most of my life, it was only when I started dating someone who wasn’t male that I actually felt welcome and able to join in. Part of me wishes I’d grown up in the queer community, so that now I’d be seasoned – now I’d have stories to tell of past girlfriends, gay bars I’d been to, queer media I’d consumed when younger. The bisexual passing privelege is a complex thing – we can deny and suppress ourselves as much as other people do.
Last year was only the second year I’d been to Pride with a big group of friends, marching all together, sharing beer on the street and dancing to the floats and music as we went. I was armed with my Pentax LX and a roll of Revolog Kolor. I’d had the film sitting in the fridge crisper for a while, and the promise of rainbow gradients seemed too perfect to pass up.
I was still getting used to the feel of the LX in my hand – heavier and more precise than the cheap but trusty Cosina I’d used up until then, with a viewfinder metering scale that uses a little orange tab to denote the correct shutter speed. One of my favourite Pentax features was also a welcome addition over the Cosina – the small window in the viewfinder that shows the current aperture setting, without needing to take the camera away from your face. Thoughtful additions like this, plus the ability to precisely wind back a frame (essential for multi-exposures) are what drew me to the LX in the first place. There’s also a certain pull towards a camera that’s often reviewed as one of the best ever made – so far, I’ve had no reason to doubt the opinion.
Included in the Pentax LX’s extensive feature list is weather-sealing, an aperture-priority mode that allows for long exposures of up to 125 seconds if needed, and interchangable viewfinders (mine came with the common split-prism that I prefer). The ability to use Pentax’s extensive library of K-mount lenses is also a bonus – there are hundreds of different lenses to choose from. The body itself is light and small, and underneath the black paint is black chrome, for those of us who don’t really like the brassy look that’s seemingly obsessed over by Leica shooters. Even the connection of the strap to the body of the camera was well-designed: the unique press-on lugs mean that the strap can swivel on the body without risk of scratching the paint. Japanese design at its very best.
Pairing this precise design with a film that promotes random results might be a contradiction, but what is life, if not full of those?
Revolog’s handmade 35mm film is produced in Austria by Hanna Pribitzer and Michael Krebs, a pair of photographers who met on a course in 2009. A year later, Revolog was born, and they currently produce twelve different special effect films. Revolog Kolor, the film I chose to document Pride 2020, features a rainbow of gradients overlaid onto the images. Similarly Revolog Jelly, Revolog Stereo and Revolog Solar all offer splashes or gradients of colour. The boutique film-brand also produce films with pre-exposed textures – bubbles, streaks of lightning, or crackles. Their film is the antithesis of perfection, counter to predictability – which is exactly why I enjoy them.
The Pentax LX and its standard lens, the Pentax SMC 50mm F/1.7, is a pairing made in heaven. The best photographers always say that the best cameras are the ones which become an extension of our hands and eyes – a tool which we don’t have to think about using, so that framing and technique can be at the forefront of our minds instead. I’m not quite there yet, but with more practice and more subjects to shoot, I’ll get there.
In some ways, my photography at Pride last year mirrored my position in the LGBTQ+ community as a whole – trying to become more comfortable with myself while embracing the opportunity to be bright, bold and colourful. Whatever Bristol Pride 2021 looks like, I’m looking forward to what the next year will bring.
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