Have you ever been to Costco? I remember going as a kid and this would be my Disneyland in San Jose, California. The bulk candy, the never-ending aisles and who could forget the food samples?! They were divine, though sometimes the ladies serving them were not.
Another fond memory rings when I reminisce of the film print pick-up area right as you walk in. Mom would always drop off the film rolls and later pick up the prints the next time we visited. She would ask me to open the packet with the condition of no fingerprints were to be found on the photos. At the time, I only saw them as “just pictures” though for her, she saw past memories you can hold onto in the present and future.
Here I am today in 2016 running a photography business. I capture meaningful moments that turn into unforgettable memories. Anne Geddes in 1956 said,
"The best images are the ones that retain their strength and impact over the years, regardless of the number of times they are viewed.”
As long as I can remember, I do not have a memory ever using a film camera. This changed in December 2016 when my photography mentor Jon Esteban encouraged me to take up film. I was reluctant for some time because I felt it was outdated. I mean, why use a camera that only has manual focus (cameras vary,) no instant review of the photos and go through the trouble of getting the film developed? It did not make sense.
Putting my doubts aside, I picked up my wife’s preloved 1970s Pentax Spotmatic II, and got it inspected at Super 8 in Newtown, Australia. I was told that the camera is useable and was taught how to install the film (Kodak Proimage 100.) It was the beginning of a new relationship.
A day later I marched like a nomad around Sydney, photographing as I would on my current digital cameras. The sound of the shutter was music to my ears, even though I did not know how the photos would turn out. I believe that is where the wonder truly rests. I did not have the luxury of checking every shot I captured. It was through this experience and many journeys later I drought down some lessons I’ve learned along the way.
True Beauty In Slowing Down
After going through a few film rolls, I’ve learned to slow down and be more intentional with my shots. Bringing my eye to the viewfinder as I fine tune the Exposure Triangle to bring out the best on the other side of the camera. Though you would do this on most cameras, I knew I had to be purposeful when I clicked the shutter. A second chance was unlikely as I am limited to roughly 36 exposure shots. Every shot counted. “What is in the background?” is a question that comes up more often since using film.
I’ve experienced the busyness of major cities around the world to the opposite extreme of the stillness of being the only one on a mountain. I can attest the familiarity of our surroundings will lose it’s colours unless we see our day-to-day with new eyes. Film photography taught me to slow down and observe the beauty all around me to see the potential in every setting. This was the spark I was missing when I solely shot digital.
Tangible Vision Comes to Life
Every photographer has a different way of shooting as every eye sees differently. Every photographer’s dream is to capture photos the way they imagined it to look like. The camera lenses and body we use (and in this case film,) is the middleman between the vision and reality. I personally use the Fujifilm XT-1 and XT-10 for my business and they work tremendously for me to achieve my outcomes. Though it was not until I produced my first roll of film on my Pentax Spotmatic II where my love for film was complete.
No postproduction in Lightroom or Photoshop, no in-camera adjustments other than the Exposure Triangle, just natural lighting and my film camera produced the work you see on this page. We so easily scroll through hundreds of photos a day on our phones and computers, though when was the last time we held a physical photograph? This experience changed everything. The photos on this page, I own a print of each and the feel and look is nothing compared to what is on our screens.
“Photography takes an instant out of time, aftering life by holding it still.” - Dorthea Lange.
If you never tried out film, I would personally love to encourage you to give it a try. It may change the way you see the world.