Film photography is going through a bit of a renaissance at the moment and I've unashamedly jumped on the bandwagon and here's why. I've included some of my favourite frames from my recent film reels too which I hope you enjoy looking at.
I can remember getting my first digital camera, 2 megapixels! When I got it I wasn't a 'photographer' the way I am now but it did however represent a certain freedom. I could suddenly take as many photos as I wanted and document my life. It was part of whole series of new tech that became available as I hit my late teens. Mp3 players, mobile phones and access to the internet. Although I have a vague memory of life before all that, (my first car had a tape player and I used to velcro a walkman cd player to the dashboard that skipped over every bump in the road), I have never the less become an adult in the connected digital age.
So why did I pick up a film camera again, when I own several top of line digital cameras? I was given my Grandad's old Canon AV-1 a few years ago, a really great little camera. I had a little go with it, just because I had it really and although I liked the results it went back in the cupboard for another few years. It wasn't until recently that I reached a point in my life where being a mother, always busy and just constantly connected to everything and everyone became a bit too much that I really thought to pick it up again.
I realised that I probably spent as much time looking at facebook in any given day than I did anything else, including my child. I found myself commenting on everything, giving opinions on and judging people for things that I really had very little understanding of. It's easily done when your on your own with only a small child for company for long periods of time. Looking at other peoples lives on facebook can make you feel both isolated and inadequate, not many people present a rounded view of themselves over social media, me included. So I made the decision to take a step back and boy did it make me feel better. The first few days I genuinely shocked myself picking up my phone and almost instinctively trying to open and scroll though the now deleted app and feeling a quite real sense of loss, honestly that scared me a little. Once I got over the initial withdrawal I really felt more comfortable in own skin again and although I still use social media I keep a much tighter check on the amount of time I spend on it, I caught myself just before the point of no return and I'm thankful for it.
I don't want people to think I'm down on social media altogether, I'm not! It has many many benefits and for many people I think the opposite of my experience with it is true. It brings them comfort and connection when they need it and I won't argue with you about the benefits its brought to social mobility, my experiences are personal but I don't think I'm alone. What has this got to do with film photography? Well my withdrawal from facebook sparked a bit of a desire in me to just slow down in general, stop trying to do everything all the time and just focus on what matters. So I decided to pick up the film camera again.
When your shooting on film you have no screen to check what your doing, you can't just make a rough guess and work from there. You have to think before you press the shutter. Am I using the right settings to get the results I want? What results do I actually want? Is there a better way to do this? Every shot matters, there's no second chance at that frame. When you do take a bit of a risk, it's fun and challenging and getting it wrong is just as beneficial as getting it right. It slows me down, focus's my thought process and I produce better work because of it.
I'd like to think that over the last few years I've become a fairly economic photographer anyway, I try not to just shoot off hundreds of frames and fix my mistakes on the computer later but I still fall into the trap of doing that sometimes. I have caught myself thinking, never mind that's not quite right but I will fix it in 'post' as we photographers call it. Shooting on film takes that opportunity away. Mess it up and there is no photo and you've wasted money to boot. The lack of instant gratification is refreshing and ultimately very rewarding.
Next theres the look of the images. There's just something about them, they have a depth, warmth and what I would describe as a soul that I just don't see in digital. They are less perfect, a bit more forgiving and I think better for it. Here's a wee secret, not all but a lot of photographers who shoot wedding and portrait work in a similar style to me, relaxed documentary feel to it edit their work to look like it's shot on film anyway. Those colour modes on your compact camera, or filters you put on your instagram photos, probably based on the look from a particular film stock. So if your going to edit your digital photos to look like film, which I do, why not just shoot on film?? Why pretend to do something you can actually just do for real. As I mentioned I've always gone in for minimal editing of my photos anyway, some photographers whole look and style is based on how they edit the images, that's a real skill too if your into the results you get from it, but it's just not me. So the fact that shooting on film basically removes the need for editing altogether is just another benefit for me.
Now I get that if your a client of mine your probably not that interested in the process of how the photos are made, you want the end result. In the case of my photography the results from my film and digital work are now fairly similar because I try hard to shoot digital with my film head on. Think, question and respect every frame. I don't think I would give up the flexibility that digital photography affords me when shooting a wedding for example, being able to jump about in different lighting conditions producing consistent images is just too important to wedding clients BUT there is an undeniable magic to film photos and I will be offering that to clients too.
Just because you own a record player doesn't mean your giving up your spotify subscription, but if your honest with yourself you know which one makes you happier! So there we have it, I love film, I love geeking out over film stocks and cameras and if I'm shooting for myself it's pretty much all on film. Getting my developed images back is exciting, seeing the success and failures is both rewarding and disappointing in equal measure and yes theres a bit of a fashion for it right now, but think that comes from my generations desire to take a step back from our crazy busy connected lives and I honestly don't think for me at least it's a fad. Check back in a few years and see!