Kicking it old school

As I have mentioned before, most of my personal photography (when not on my awful phone camera) is using the technologically advanced (for 1978) Canon A1. Part of this is to slow me down and challenge myself, but in the era of instant results and gratification (or disappointment) I’d forgotten the excitement and anticipation of simply walking to the shop to collect my developed prints.

I’ve had a few rolls developed now (I’m not burning through them with abandon - it’s too expensive, and I’m trying out different films to see what they look like), and I’ve noticed a few things.

 Film photography: Ilford FP4 Plus, top left and top right; Ilford Delta 100 (other B&W images); Kodak Portra 400 (colour images)

Film photography: Ilford FP4 Plus, top left and top right; Ilford Delta 100 (other B&W images); Kodak Portra 400 (colour images)

First, there is truly something special about film. Despite all the instagram filters, Snapseed edits and Photoshop actions, film-created prints have what the French call a certain I don’t know what. It might be imagined, or it might be because of other differences between digital and film, but it feels different. And having spent years looking at super-clean digital images, the differences in contrast with film and the inherent grain take a little getting used to. But it’s all part of the soul of photography and the photograph.

Second, having a print in your hand as the primary output reminds you exactly why we have photographs. Not to look at on a screen and forget a second later, but to create a lasting record of an event, time or place. To flick through a stack of prints adds a tactile element that swiping a phone cannot recreate. Everyone should try it!

But, as you can see in the accompanying images, I do also have the negatives scanned and stored digitally. None of the images here have had any additional digital processing (bar a slight crop or two to a couple), which is a welcome change from many of the digital images (especially those shot in RAW) that often need a little tweak to correct the colours. Instead, the film defines the look. And why would I want to change that.

In short, I am loving this personal project and I’ll continue doing it. Yes, there are difficulties - not wanting to take ‘frivolous’ shots because they might not work and will cost me money; not having the flexibility to change ISO (which is taken for granted with digital photography), meaning that once the sun starts to go down my 100 ISO film isn’t going to be much help handheld, and I can’t shoot with wide open apertures in daylight with a faster film; not being able to switch between black and white and colour until the end of the film (yes, I could play silly buggers with half exposed films and re-rolling, but that’s not going to happen); and the time and expense to get things developed. But I’m stretching myself on purpose, and am back to making - rather than just taking - photographs. And that’s making all my photography better.

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