I Shot a Roll of Kodak Portra 160 by Esmeralda Holman

Feb 6, 2020
5 min read

“I want to portrait a very good fine art photographer, in her own home, kitchen and bed. She is sick and on good days she can photograph for an hour. I want to document her days. Her ups and downs. Her anger and frustration when she is in bed most of the day.
– Esmeralda Holman –

I am a newbie at photographing analogue. In September last year I started a study photo Art at an art Academy in Belgium, something I always wanted. The first year is all about analogue using Kodak T-Max 400 mostly. I got a Ricoh XR7 from a neighbour for free and my joyful journey shooting and developing film started.

Following #kodaktmax400 on Instagram I saw Vincent’s post offering a Kodak roll for anyone with an idea for a photographic story. At that point I had only shot, maybe two rolls of film and I have to confess, I didn’t even know if Portra 400 was color or blank and white. But I had a story to photograph and my enthusiasm would hopefully make up for my lack of knowledge.

I did know however that I needed a 400 speed or higher since I would be shooting indoors. So when Vincent replied with:

“The only color film left are Portra 160 and Pro Image 100. Would any of those suit you?”

Who was I (ohw, so its color ☺️ ) to turn that down. Soon after I received a Portra 160 from Vincent and some research online had shown me promising beautiful colors. I decided not to push one or two stops and just give it a go at 160.

While I photograph a day in the life of my dear friend Jacqueline, she tells what being chronically ill does to you:

In addition to my health, I lost my independence, my social life, my work and hobbies. Friends hardly ever stop by. Some also lose their partners. It is often very lonely and you are actually always in mourning.”

I used a XR Rikenon 1:2 50mm mostly wide open at 2.0 or 2.8. At first handheld but as light condition got worse during the course of the day I used a tripod and the setting light from a studio flash for some extra push of light (I did not flash though). I really felt like I was pushing the film, myself and my friend to our limits.

My Experience With Nation Photo

Luckily I did not have to worry about developing and scanning. I could easily send the film to Nation Photo and let them take care of that. With a promocode from Vincent I could order ‘Normal’ developing and HD Raw digitization scans.

In addition I ordered 4X6 prints on matte paper with a white border. As soon as it was on the mail it was out of my hands and I could not wait to see the results. Christmas and probably some strikes made that waiting so long that I was convinced my film got lost in the mail. I even called the French postal service, something I can not recommend, and I basically considered the roll to be lost forever. But a few days later it was miraculously delivered in my mailbox. (Nation Photo does provide a perfect track and trace but I had given up checking it.)

With the prints I instantly had tangible result and I was blown away by the quality. It was so much better than I had imagined. I absolutely love the colors and I completely fell in love with that fantastic subtle grain. Of course, I have nothing to compare it with but I did remember to have felt like this before. When I was 17 I was leaving Europe for éver, taking a flight to the United States. First time in a plane I ended up in business class by mistake. I didn’t know, I had nothing to compare it with. Till I returned home to The Netherlands 6 months later flying economy. Shooting with the Portra 160 and the chance to have it processed by Nation Photo has been like that amazing business class flight, leaving me spoiled for ever.

I haven’t done any editing on the scans so what you see is exactly how I got it.

Obviously Jacqueline was the first one I showed the photos to. She too, although the photos were confronting to her, was very pleased with the result.

“This is the reality for many chronically ill people like me. You spend months or years in bed watching the normal life outside. My dreams fly ahead. I want to travel again with my camera on my back and create images. I want to be free. The future is smiling at me from my bed. “

Jacqueline is a fine-art photographer and has Addison Biermer’s disease, hypothyroidism, SIBO and a metabolic disorder. If you want to see some of her work have a look @jacquelinemarienolte on Instagram and if you are curious about mine you can find me @esmeralda.holman also on Instagram.

Thank you for reading my version of ‘I Shot a Roll of’ and thank you, Vincent, for this opportunity. Esmeralda

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