Ricoh is an XR-10 35mm SLR camera. Up until yesterday, Ricoh didn't belong to me - he belonged to the artist Stephen Nelson. But now I want to give Ricoh away too.
Let me explain. Yesterday, the third annual Free Art Fair took place at London's Barbican Centre. My girlfriend had wanted us to drop by, in the hopes that she might win something to hang in the front room. The idea was that you perused 52 artworks, filled in a form and then hoped that your name was drawn. The 52 winners would then choose a favourite work, in numerical order.
A rail replacement bus service meant that we had arrived late to the Fair and missed seeing most of the artworks on display. There was only time to see a handful of works before they were returned to storage. The paintings were mostly brash and slapdash, the conceptual sculptures were difficult to love and Bob & Roberta Smith's sperm-infested marmalade wasn't really right for the mantelpiece. Things weren't looking promising.
Just as I was walking out to grab lunch in the hour before the draw, I chanced upon a work called Blow Up by Stephen Nelson. The title was a tease as Nelson had shot two rolls of 35mm film on a Ricoh SLR camera and included them, undeveloped, in the glass cabinet along with a spare lens and a rusty old carry case. The mystery of it all appealed to me.
The crowds had been so huge, we figured our odds were small so took our time over lunch. We walked back in to the Barbican foyer when the draw was already under way. Literally, the next name called was mine. Number 17. I figured the larger works or pieces by bigger name artists would have gone first so Blow Up was a safe bet (you only had two chances and no idea what the previous people had picked). The guy on the door of the storage room ticked his clipboard and handed me the camera.
On the bus home, it all seemed a little surreal. I knew I could have simply developed the films, pocketed the camera and forgotten about the whole thing, but the generosity of the artist and the serendipity of the whole process left me thinking that the story shouldn't end there.
I'm going to shoot a roll of film with Ricoh over the next week or two. Afterwards, I was thinking it would be interesting to add my roll to Stephen's undeveloped rolls and then pass Ricoh on to another photographer, on the proviso that they repeat the process and pass it on again. I'm not sure about the logistics of it all - do we post the camera back and forth or onwards like a chain letter? Will we have enough interest to do a draw each time? - but I'll work all of this out, via this blog, over the next few weeks.
I'm really intrigued by everyone else's input here too. Any ideas, insight or even interest in taking Ricoh for a week would be really appreciated. My vague ambition is to end up with a bunch of great photos, taken in isolation by photographers across the country (the world?) on this same old SLR camera. Welcome to the first tentative step of Ricoh's Adventure.