The main reason I returned to film photography, after years of shooting digital, was the feeling of nostalgia – remembering the washed-out square prints from my Kodak Instamatic, with the colors that weren’t quite right, and the horizon that sort of faded into white. The mechanical cameras, dusty, smelling of attic and mold, that you could take apart, and marvel at how the tiny levers and gears somehow meshed together and made the whole thing work.
But the more I rediscovered film photography, and managed to progress far beyond where I had been back in the “instamatic” days, the more I realized it’s not just about getting a different product – it’s actually a different process. With a digital camera, I tended more toward a “spray and pray” technique – snap a bunch, look at the LCD screen, click, look down at the screen, click, look down – delete, click, click click. I’d come home from a trip with 5, 6, 700 pictures, run them through Lightroom, end up with maybe 50 or 60, and maybe 5 that were really good, worth sharing on Facebook.
But when you’re shooting a roll of 120 film, where you’ll get 8 photos, the process becomes completely different. You’re focused on the framing of the photo, waiting for the right moment, thinking about the light, where the sun is in relation to the subject. And you won’t know the outcome until a week from now. If you finish the roll, anyway.
There’s a fun project happening over at Against the Grain, a new-ish podcast about photography, which takes this last point to extremes. They suggest that people shoot over the course of an entire year, and wait until next September to develop the film. You can structure the rest of the project however you want – shoot every day, shoot selfies, vary your film, vary your cameras, a roll per month – whatever. Just wait until a year from now to develop the film and share it with the group. The point is, take it slow.
How I will be participating
I thought a bit about what might yield an interesting result, maybe provide some insights, and actually be doable. I’ve got a pretty full plate, and I wanted a sampler without ending up with hundreds of photos next September that really didn’t tell me anything.
So what I’ve decided to do is to shoot with a different camera from my collection every month – but in time sequence. This month I’ll shoot with a camera from 1890, next month from the 1900s, the month after from the 1910s, and so on. I can cover ever decade through month 11 – the only camera I’m missing is a film camera from the 2000s. But I’ve got nearly a year to come up with one.
The film will all be Kodak Tri-X. I’ll choose the best from each month, and maybe we’ll learn something interesting about the last 120 years of film cameras in the process.
What are you going to do for “Let it Develop 365”?