To continue learning, improving and finding my voice I have made a small experimental step into the world of film based photography. I am old enough to have used a 35mm film camera as a child (and teenager) until digital dominated and became the default way of working in the industry. At that point in my life I had no idea that I would pick up a camera professionally, I only used a film camera like 95% of the public, for happy snaps. I never learnt how to actually "use" a camera properly. Point and click, load in film, take it to the chemist to get processed.
Move forward 15+ years and I learnt how to use a camera in the way it was intended, but something was missing and I still need to find it.
My interest started again with film based photography because my editing was slowly looking at emulating some of the looks that you naturally get with film. This style is becoming really common in the digital world. Apps like Instagram have made it cool to emulate polaroid and other film cameras. The issue with this for me it's not really a look that was aesthetically complete. Note, I don't think there is anything wrong with throwing a filter on a digital image, I do it all the time.
Added to my interest with looking and watching the work from industry professionals that use medium and large format cameras to achieve a look that just isn't possible with a 35mm based camera. At a workshop run by Australian fashion photographer of the year (2014) Peter Coulson, I saw the range that a medium format camera could produce first hand. Peter allowed me to have a quick play with his camera and it was like getting behind a Ferrari. The issue is that these cameras are stupidly expensive ($50k anyone?). That being said, a non-digital version of these types of cameras are now quite common on Ebay. The trade in older cameras is actually really big but I never got around to purchasing a system as I didn't really know where to start.
In the last couple of months I got chatting to fellow photographer Ed Jones about his conversion back to film photography. As Ed lives in Wynard (about 2 hours from me) it took a while for both of us the be in the same place. Last week I was up his way for a job and real world interaction happened. One of the outcomes from this meeting was Ed lent me his Mamiya 645AFD medium format camera to try out. This made me stupidly excited but also nervous. Each roll has 16 frames on it, I cannot see what the exposures will look like for weeks (currently Christmas/New Years). Will I screw this up completely? Do I actually know what I am doing? Am I overthinking this?
So with camera in tow I did a shoot with my friend Jen. It took 2 hours for me to use 16 frames. I had to slow down. I had to use my external meter. I had to be sure before pressed the shutter release. I couldn't help but to look at the back of a camera that doesn't have a LCD screen. I have no idea if anything came out.
From this the realisation that I need to do more of this type of photography. Even if I don't publish anything, I need to do more. Why? Because I need to use it to build my confidence. I need to be able to take an image on any camera and "know" that I got it without looking at the LCD. I thought I was really confident before, I could shoot a theatre production (stupidly hard) and only look at the LCD every 30-50 frames and know I had something but that is still a crutch. Digital gives you ability to just shoot, space is cheap, it's easy to view instantly. I want to be able to pick up a camera, look at the light of the subject, do my setting and know that I got the shot regardless of using a digital or film based camera. No confidence LCD checking required. Chimping is a crutch that we all use, but I am determined to become a better photographer and use film for improvement as well as aesthetic creativity.
So while I want to use a film camera for the amazing look it provides (original objective), it has taught me something more valuable. How to slowdown and really think about what I am shooting and that, I feel, is something totally missing from anyone that picks up a digital camera and I didn't know I was missing it until last Monday night.
So what about the frames I have shot?
Well we will see if I totally screwed up after New Years. More experiments to come over the next couple of weeks.