Photos & Projects

February Frames with Bernie, The Strokes, Nikon and Tri-X – By William Le

May 5, 2020

I’ll admit, as a political science major in college (at the moment, anyway), I’m not very passionate about keeping up with the politics happening in my own country compared to politics outside of it. Maybe it’s chronic fatigue keeping up with American politics; maybe I just would rather look outward than in. Every once in a while, though, I can fight through the fatigue.

Before I continue, I want to emphasize this isn’t a political article; you can probably guess my personal politics, but I want to focus on the film photography we love. With the exile of me and my friends from our university, I also wanted to remember a moment before COVID-19.

I had a bit of a tough choice of what I wanted to bring along, mostly because I had decided to go literally the night before, which didn’t give me a lot of thinking time. Eventually I made the call to channel my inner Steve McCurry with a Nikon FM2n with a 105mm f/2.5 AI lens. This was my first time actually using the 105mm, so I also brought my 50mm f/1.8 for comfort. Tri-X was chosen also for familiarity, and though I intended to push it a stop, I forgot to and shot it at  box 400 speed. Two rolls were pocketed, and I was ready.

The Journey There

I took Pre-Calculus twice in my life, so I knew we had to leave from UMass Amherst early to beat traffic. So, we opted to skip our last classes and went about our way. Me and two other buddies hopped into my duct taped Toyota 4Runner, making the drive to the University of New Hampshire on February 10th. Other friends of ours took separate cars, to make three in total.  The ride was – for the most part – your standard roadtrip, with only one mild inconvenience on the highway.

This will forever be my grandpa’s excuse on why we can’t turn the heater up in the car in the winter.

The truck must’ve gave up fairly recently, with the lack of first response vehicles or police. There was enough of a traffic buildup for me to ask my friends to rummage through my satchel to get my camera, and for me to throw the aperture onto f/8, vaguely frame, focus, fire and forget before the cars ahead stopped gawking. I briefly locked eyes with a man in a striped polo (who I assume was in the truck) before driving away.

What an eventful start, no?

The rest of the trip was spent on song recommendations (mostly mine), talking ’bout the truck, and talking about the rally. To see Bernie Sanders and The Strokes in one day? We were ecstatic! To our dismay, the line into the stadium was longer than we thought, and we stood in line for well over an hour (Maybe an hour and a half? Two?). I snapped off a couple shots, trying on the 105mm, and found I really liked it. The title image was shot on the 105, and so was this one:

I must’ve interrupted this man’s train of thought.

We stood in place in the cold for so long I was choosing favorite fingers. When the sun set and the floodlights blinded me, I figured dying of hypothermia in New Hampshire as a Massachusetts native was a death I’d have to come to terms with. Eventually, the line moved, and we eagerly embraced the warmth (I kept all my fingers by the way).

Once inside, the we all opted to stand on the floor and skip the seats, as to get as close to The Strokes and Bernie Sanders as physically possible. We had no idea who was gonna show up first, so me and my newly re-convened group of friends hedged our bets between Bernie, The Strokes, and whether or not Bernie was gonna backup for Julian Casablancas, or if Casblancas was actually backup vocals for Bernie.

Building anticipation.

The Beginning (AKA Before Bernie)

To our surprise, the first people to traverse the stage was a band calling themselves Sunflower Bean. Not knowing what to expect, I listened and was pleasantly taken back with a pretty decent lineup of songs.

We are Sunflower Bean, and we are here to make you think about voting and Bernie Sanders and stuff!

Nick Kivlen of Sunflower Bean, using a microphone probably as old as my camera.

It was at this point that the front part of the crowd started to aggressively mosh, to the point where I was teleported from the left side of the stage to right in the middle, with someone’s fist conveniently finding the small of my back to cushion its impact. I was in the mosh pit maybe three times, though by divine intervention my lens never fell out of my jacket pocket.

It was to my pleasant surprise that the stadium was well lit, enough to shoot my FM2 at 1/60th consistently. Dodging and enduring the occasional punch, shove, kick and body made me feel like I qualified for combat pay. The fact that I kept switching between the 50mm and the 105mm added a bunch of risk as I tried to size up the best shots while simultaneously trying to vibe.

Once Sunflower Bean finished their set, speakers came up talking about the platform, policies and positions of Bernie Sanders and his supporters. Always a lukewarm supporter, I found these speakers to be exceptionally convincing and passionate. These included Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Dr. Cornel West, Cynthia Nixon, and other prominent names.

Dr. Cornel West in his element.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also in her element.

Bernie Sanders

The crowd was energized from the beginning, but when Bernie Sanders went up the stairs, well, are crowds electric? Because mine was absolutely electric. The cheer was loud. Bernie Sanders, in his signature style, advocated for Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, the little guy, and railed against the 1% and the current president. Like him or hate him, being in that crowd was an experience I haven’t felt before. Inspiring, really.

Bernie Sander (someone bumped into me at the last second and I pressed the shutter without reframing).

Voice of the 99%.

The crowd loved every minute of it.

What also put a smile to my face was when Bernie Sanders introduced The Strokes. I like to believe that Bernie is a personal fan of theirs, seeing how excited he was to shake their hands.

The Finale

I lost my mind when The Strokes started off with “Burning Down the House”, which remains as one of my consistent all time favorite songs. I also realized that the lighting disappeared, and so I snapped a quick photo before I decided that photography was now a fruitless endeavor in the dark, and I enjoyed the rest of the concert.

The Strokes actually burnt down the house with their performance.

I spotted a couple other people running around with film cameras at this point, specifically a K1000 and a Canon AE-1. Brave fellows, charging right into the mosh pit to try to get up close. I did my tour of duty earlier and left it to the young bloods to get at it.

The Strokes also played some brand new songs off their album releasing on the 10th of April (with my favorite being “Making Bad Decisions”).  When the lights flooded the arena, Casablanca sang “New York City Cops” as fans flooded the stage, literally shoulder to shoulder. Police in vain tried to stop the crowd surfing and people jumping onto the stage, only to be met with a defiant chorus, crowd and band. As the lights slowly turned back on, I took my last shot and called it a day.

Love Is A Bernie Sanders concert rally feat. The Strokes.

Epilogue

Well, not much is left of this long, winding tale. We stopped at a McDonalds afterwards for a post-midnight meal, delaying our arrival home till 2AM. I was thoroughly exhausted at this point, and my back was acting up, so I fell asleep pretty quickly. It was a good way to spend a Monday.

If you want to see the whole three hours for yourself and form your own opinion, click here and/or here.

If you liked my rambling and the photos I took, you can always follow me on my instagram @le.analog! Cheers!

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Andrew Bearman
    May 5, 2020 at 6:51 pm

    Some great shots! Really like the classic un-pushed Tri-X look and the sweet sharpness + bokeh of the 105mm.

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