11 January 2013

Labia Theatre

For Lily who is both a marvellous cook and poetic writer and photographer, and Braam, who appreciates benign decay but not necessarily the pigeon shit that tends to come with it.

http://labia.co.za - it's still running, and still the only independent movie theatre in Cape Town. Go and watch an art movie there in an atmosphere of authentic shabbiness, tinged with sadness and served with beer. It may not be around forever.

Update 14 Jan- A digital photographic aside

I've been concious that I need to deal with my tendency to take too many pictures, with not enough care given to each one. I've been looking over transparencies and negatives from the days when money and therefore film was very limited, but my time was cheap. I took better pictures. Exposure and composition tended to be spot on, even on transparency film where one has a half stop margin at best. Far more of the pictures were of meaningful subjects.

Now don't get me wrong, I love digital. As an environmentalist with a technical bent, how could I not? Anyone who's ever done darkroom work is aware that the chemicals are super-scary. Sure my best selenium toned prints are lovely to look at, but that stuff will kill you and is environmentally toxic even in tiny amounts. Digital is benign by comparison, and done right can provide quality that required far more time, and insanely expensive medium format gear back in the day. Plus you don't have to spend hours at a stretch locked in a pitch black, humid hole reprinting the same bloody print to get it right. The magic of seeing that image appear under the orange light soon disappears after the fifth time you've fixed, rinsed and dried it, checked under realistic viewing conditions, and still haven't got the exposure and contrast right.

Sometimes, digital does let you get the moment that would have been almost impossible before. The image above is one of around 65 shots. I wasn't just shooting randomly, I only pressed the shutter when there were flying pigeons potentially located in compositionally useful places. No motor drive, single shot only. It's never easy to compose with fast moving elements, but the great joy of digital is that you can check those difficult shots, and when you've got it, you know. I realise it's not a picture for everyone, I've left it quite flat and cold, but I love the composition, and what I didn't even notice at the time, the way the diagonal viewing line of isolated pigeons bottom left and top right just emphasises the stillness of all the sitting pigeons, in contrast to the two flying.

And yet. There are too many mediocre pictures. In the world, and on my computer. I don't want to photograph less, but this year should be a year for deleting, for taking fewer pictures, and going over old ones. Expect some posts from the analogue archives.


  1. The Lips! We used to joke that that's where we went to get bitten by erudite fleas.

    1. It really is quite neglected and moth eaten, although still a whole lot cleaner than the Waterfront Nu Metro in my experience. It would be really tragic if its apparent lack of maintenance or any upgrade does eventually kill it

      Also, while on the topic of Labia fleas, I should warn readers of a sensitive disposition not to Google either "Labia fleas" or "Labia closing" without refining their search terms more carefully or changing their safe-search settings to max, lest they experience the trauma of one poor Twitter user who innocently tried to find out about its recent troubles, and was graphically reminded that most of the internet is more interested in female genitalia than the financial woes of one small art-house cinema.