You Never Forget Your First: Bolex H-16

I can’t believe that I’m about to use this word non-ironically, but there’s just no other way to describe today’s mutually beneficial excursion other than synergy.

It started with my good friend and colleague Chris Higgins, who is hard at work on a documentary about Jamie Livingston, a director and cinematographer known for his music video work in the early days of MTV, as well as for the unique documentation of his own life: he took a polaroid every day from age 17 to the day that he died.  Chris previously wrote about Livingston in a fascinating article for Mental Floss magazine, but there’s much more to the story to explore.

Chris Higgins adjusts focus on the Bolex H-16 movie camera
Chris Higgins adjusts focus on the Bolex H-16 movie camera

As part of Chris’ exploration of Livingston’’s life and work, he’s taking the time to familiarize himself with the specific media and tools he was known to work with, including the Bolex 16mm camera.  The Bolex is dear to my heart, being the 16mm camera I got to operate on my own, and it’s a remarkable camera for so many reasons: a fully adjustable shutter, clockwork operation, loading that is almost automatic, and a straightforward process for creating double exposures in-camera.  

Maria frames up a shot

That last feature is of particular interest to our intern Maria, who has taken a workshop on the Bolex, but hasn’t had a chance to put it to much creative use. So it when I realized that I had some expired (but well preserved) Kodak Tri-X film stock, it just made good sense to for a little film field day with Chris and Maria, and give fellow intern Rhiannon the opportunity to practice her camera skills by documenting the whole thing. It was a great way to spend a summer afternoon, and I love being able to provide our interns with an experience that  speaks to their creative interests.

Our 100-foot roll of film is now off for processing and digital transfer, so in just two to three short weeks (sigh) we’ll get to share the fruits of our labor! Keep your fingers crossed for us, because I really, really hope I remembered to close the pressure plate…