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Tony Steers


Members of the Cumbre Tajín Festival de la Identidad, perform the Mexican ritual ceremony Voladores.

5 men climb to a tiny platform at the top of a 20 meter pole, and while one man sits on the platform beating out a rhythm, the other four descend on ropes, setting the platform spinning as they spiral back to earth.

Days are long and tiring at Glastonbury Festival, and I had a single frame remaining on the roll in camera. At 400 ISO, totally unsuitable for hand holding at this late hour, so when we came upon this performance I chose to sacrifice that final frame and quickly load a roll of Ilford Delta 3200. Problem was, it was only the 3rd film I’d loaded into that recently acquired camera, and being almost pitch dark, had to work by touch. Panic started to set in as the performers had already started to climb the pole. Film loaded and wound to frame 1, another problem became apparent: without a torch and reading glasses I couldn’t see to change the film speed setting on the camera. Guesswork – I know the OM4 goes up to 3200, so just push the dial all the way ‘til it stops. Quick meter reading from the spot-lit platform. Nothing doing, even wide open. They’re on the platform, preparing to leap. Panic rising. Calm down, deep breath. Turn the film speed dial all the way to the other end of its travel. Glancing up, they’ve left the platform and are, arms outstretched, gracefully, but surprisingly swiftly earth bound. Another quick meter reading, much better, slow enough to show the swirling movement, but “hand-holdable” (ish). This was the first of just 3 frames exposed and is my best shot of 2015, not just for its (dubious) aesthetic or technical merits, but also for the memories it recalls.

Olympus OM4 - Ilford Delta 3200 - Developed in Kodak D-76

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