Today I took a few photos using Kodak Tri-X film in my Canon AE-1P. It is a traditional camera – film, manual functions, and a good weight in your hand. Makes you think. Using it always makes me wonder why I see the world the way that I do. Film photography really makes you think a lot more about the shot you take because film is more limited and more permanent than when you work in digital formats. You have to infer things about the environment and how they will translate to black & white film or color film. You will not know for sure what you are capturing until the film is developed. What will be successful? How will the focus turn out? Will the final photograph portray what I feel and see here?
Photography is not about the mechanical usage of a tool (the camera), but the vision of the user and the story being told. It is an expression, a secret being shared. It is about how the light, the person, the object, the intensity, the composition affected you and how it might affect others. It is a form of creative writing.
I am just going to go ahead and insert here the difference between my film SLR and my DSLR. I shoot with my film SLR primarily because I LOVE it, for the mere love of photography, for myself. It is the most true to me. I get along with my film SLR better. It is more straight forward to me. Digital photography seems noisy. You fiddle with all the fancy controls instead of really focusing on what you are seeing and feeling. I shoot with my DSLR not only because I love it, because it is a source of income. It is more practical for drawing revenue. But oh man, me and my film SLR are like giggling school girls passing notes in class. People do not really expect film photography in every day life anymore. Culture has shifted to quick, fast gratification. Have it now, get it quick. Click now, think later. Film photography is about knowing how things work in an intimate way. Anticipating how colors and light translate to black and white or how colors change according to the type of film. It is just different. I was working in film before digital became a possibility. And I hope I always love my film camera more than any digital camera. It has been by far one of the most influential gifts ever given to me. I will probably spend thousands and thousands of dollars on digital equipment in my lifetime and somehow my film SLR, gifted to me by my uncle on a whim, will probably always be the more profound object in my collection.
I think my friend’s comment the other week may best express how I view the world. She said something along the lines of “Are you taking photos with your mental camera? Click, click, click!” as we were driving through the Valley countryside. I was. I was thinking how beautiful the view was, how much I would like to share it with others and have them feel what I feel when I look out at the mountains. I think artists in general have an acute sense of personality and appearance – details of what makes a person or thing a certain way. And this intuition is special to us, we want to express the uniqueness in such a way that we can affect our viewers and how they perceive their worlds. Or at the very least, our feelings and perception of the world, of ourselves, is released through our work. So when I saw the view, I wanted to share the affect it had on me, my perception of space, beauty, and form.
In my pursuit of one quote that simplified how I see the world through the photography (unsuccessful), here are a few quotes that stuck out to me:
“It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.” – Paul Caponigro
“A lot of photographers think that if they buy a better camera they’ll be able to take better photographs. A better camera won’t do a thing for you if you don’t have anything in your head or in your heart.” -Arnold Newman
“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place…. I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” – Elliot Erwitt