There’s a bit of a back story to this post, so I suppose the best way is to start from the start.
Around this time ten years ago I was three months pregnant with my youngest, and seeing as my first pregnancy was completely different to this one, I had some questions I looked to the internet to find answers to. This is where I came across an iVillage message board with other women due the same time as I was. Long story made shorter, I found answers, interacted with some of the regulars on the board even well after our babies were born, and then a group of us formed our own private board away from the rules, regulations and adverts of iVillage (hello swear words!).
The board and friendships thrived for a few years, then around the same time Facebook started to really take off and we kept in touch that way. We now have a Facebook group of around 70 of us where we check in with each other almost daily and have become a regular part of each other’s lives. I count some of my dearest friends as some of these ladies – we have been through so much together – births, deaths, marriages, divorces, funny times, bad times, everything! It is incredible to think that ten years after asking a few questions to strangers I would have some truly amazing and inspiring women in my life for it.
The biggest down side to our group for me is that only two of us are in Australia, and we live 8 hours apart, but that said we have managed to catch up a couple of times when life has allowed. The others are in various parts of the USA and Canada, and while they’ve had a few meet ups, I am yet to get over there. It is something I am determined to make happen some time in the next few years, it’s starting to make my heart ache that it still hasn’t been able to happen yet.
To celebrate our ten year anniversary, we decided to do an anonymous gift exchange, and then when our gifts arrived we had to film the “un-boxing” so we could all see our reaction. Mine arrived one morning as I was running out the the door and I didn’t have a chance to open it right away. At a glance I only saw the word Hollywood and in my excitement I forgot that there is more than one Hollywood in the entire USA. I couldn’t think of who I knew from there. I knew a few girls from CA, but none had moved to Hollywood that I knew of. Then I noticed FL and thought I knew who it was, but then I had two other friends that live in Florida also and couldn’t remember the names of their towns. Regardless, it was exciting and I couldn’t wait to get the mundane things I was doing done so I could actually stop and video opening this thing.
I finally did this parked out on the top of a valley with the phone attached to my rear view mirror. When I opened the first box, there was a running shoe box inside – this should’ve been my first clue, but I was distracted by the hints of glitter that were stuck to the sticky tape holding the box shut.
Inside the shoebox was a letter – it was from one of my dearest friends from the group. For privacy purposes we’ll just call her J for now ;) J studied photojournalism in a past life prior to becoming a kick-arse lawyer, but hadn’t shot any film in at least ten years.
As I read the letter it became apparent that this was my gift… she had very secretly started shooting film for this gift exchange and had taken photos of all of the places around South Florida that she would take me if I EVER make it over there some day. This alone was exciting enough, those of you that know me know that I am a massive promoter and fan of shooting film, but when I opened the tin that the film was in, it was HP5 which meant I could actually develop the film myself at home in the kitchen. I was so happy with this that I started laughing (and swearing).
Because it was so hot and humid that day, I decided to spend the rest of the day doing what I was originally planning to do – shoot a few rolls at a newly discovered abandoned farm rather than go home to develop straight away. There was no way I’d be able to keep the developer temp at 20°C, let alone try to load film onto a spool inside a dark bag with the amount of humidity in the air.
The following day it had cooled down enough that I felt it was OK get souping without the humidity causing a nerv0us breakdown ;) There was still some struggle loading inside the dark bag, it got sticky in there pretty quickly, and unfortunately this affected two frames when the processing was finished, but apart from that a pretty great result from Team J & D!
What made the gift even more awesome (if that was possible) was that J ran a massive marathon the following day to the parcel arriving and ran it in the shoes that I had the box for; it just made our friendship seem a bit more solid if that makes sense. We’ve been friends for ten whole years but sometimes it feels unreal because there isn’t anything tangible I guess. Not that that makes a friendship, but it is like a re-enforcement of our foundations.
These are the results below – I haven’t put all of the photos up for privacy reasons, but there are still a lot to look at. Once I have a decent computer again I will clean the negatives properly and rescan them – there’s some water spots and lines on some of them still.
It’s lovely being able to tie in places that J has talked about with images now instead of imagining what I think Florida is supposed to look like thanks to TV and Google. It’s definitely on my list of places to visit when I eventually do get over to the States. I hope this post brought as much happiness to you reading it as the project did to me. I couldn’t have asked for a better, more thoughtful gift :)
Click on the images to view in light box.