almost confiscated

February 13, 2015

in blowg, foto

[2010, b+w, c-41 400iso, self-developed]

The Dutch Police were beating this guy or it looked that way, but people were definitely screaming and I couldn’t really tell what was going on and there were sirens and lots of cops everywhere. We were drunk, maybe me most of all, stumbling home from the bar, stumbling onto this scene.

I decided to take a photograph. With flash.

Two police immediately grabbed me, threw me to the sidewalk and yelled at me to stay put. Drunk, not understanding their commands, I tried to get up. They pushed me back down. I waited. They returned, brandishing nightsticks. ‘Delete the picture,’ said one. ‘I can’t. It’s film,’ I said.

‘Give it to us then,’ they said. So, reluctantly, I fumbled with the camera, their hot breath eeking down my neck, and popped open the back, exposing nearly a full roll of images that I had taken on my study abroad trip. I tore off the canister, quickly pushed it into the cop’s hands, slammed the camera closed and ran off.

Once home, I reopened the camera in pitch black and put the film in an all-black canister, then sealed it with tape. I waited another two months before coming home to the states. Only, the fun doesn’t stop there. As I was deplaning in Pennsylvania, a man ran up to me with a ziploc bag in his hands. My entire bag of film that I had shot on my four-month stay in the Netherlands. ‘You left this on the seat,’ he said. I didn’t even have time to thank him, but he single-handedly saved my entire semester of memories. I would have been devastated to lose the nearly 300 pictures I had taken.

Then, as I was boarding my connecting flight, I was randomly selected for a personalized TSA screening (not the kind where they show you films of CIA agents torturing random strangers to protect your freedom… the kind where they root through all your baggage) because I had unwittingly admitted to customs that I was bringing a bong into the country. I had bought a very fancy bong with a velvet case in Tilburg and hadn’t even had a chance to use it. I was so excited that when the customs agent asked if I was packing any pipes or smoking devices, I cheerfully announced my souvenir purchase.

That was the wrong thing to say, apparently. Suddenly I was talking to a tall man with a gun who said he would have to take my bong away. ‘Wait, isn’t it legal to buy paraphernalia such as this in the state of Pennsylvania?’ I asked.

‘Yeah, that’s state law,’ the TSA agent said. ‘We’re federal law.’ And he whisked away my unused, brand new, 40 euro ‘water pipe’ (if only I had used the right euphemism…) presumably to use himself after his shift ended. He began to search through the rest of my baggage for drugs. I didn’t have any leftovers, but I did have a coke spoon (that was a gift for a friend, honest), plus a box clearly labeled for psychedelic mushrooms that the guard didn’t notice.

‘What’s this?’ the guard asked. He held up the black canister of film. I quickly explained the story, only with details about the canister getting ripped instead of being intimidated by peace officers who waved nightsticks in my face. The guard graciously decided he didn’t need to open this canister, which would have ruined the film and let me keep it.

Finally, a few weeks after getting home and recovering from a profound bout of culture shock, I self-developed the film in my bathroom using expired chemicals I had dumpstered. Amazingly, some of the images were saved!

The cops clearly suck, but I am also clearly an idiot. Anyway, I have never risked so much for so few images. Please enjoy them below.








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