I don’t shoot film because it’s trendy. I don’t shoot film because it’s what the new generation wants or thinks is “cool.” Trust me, I have NEVER been cool. I’ve always gone against the grain, been my own person, and often paid the price for it. I spent (wasted) much of my life apologizing for who I was, who I am, who I wish I could be, because I never fit in…
In 2005 photographers were selling their film cameras on eBay and buying new digital gear, spouting unfounded facts about how digital was better than film, that film was amateur and “over.” I was pressured so hard to make the change to digital, because it was “better.” It was peer pressure like I’d never experienced before, even in junior high. I was, once again, the odd kid out. I was, once again, different. I’m not going to lie … it was hard. When I say “peer pressure,” I mean like LITERALLY every other photographer I came across pretty much said I was an idiot for not switching to digital. I told Mark I’d close the business down before I switched to digital, and I meant it.
There’s nothing like developing your own film, printing your own print. You put the negative in the enlarger, focus, look through the grain-finder, sharpen, cut strips of photo paper, make test strips with a piece of cardboard, counting two seconds between each step. You find your exposure, put the paper in the enlarger, hit the button, watch the light wash over the paper, pick up the paper, take it to the chemicals, slide it in the developer, and watch an image emerge before you. There’s NOTHING like it. It’s so emotionally stimulating and tangible. It’s real. You can touch it and feel the texture of the paper. You can archive it in a frame and know that in two hundred years, people will still be able to look at this very image. That can’t be replaced with a digital camera. Not for me. It’s about the experience of the analog medium, not just about the way it looks.
Last week when I was shooting a boudoir session, and I peeled the first black and white Polaroid and handed it to the client so she could see herself, her eyes widened, her mouth opened with excitement, and she let out a loud yelp, losing her breath, like she was five and I’d handed her a banana split for dinner. “This is amazing! You’re amazing. You’re an ARTIST. Anyone can point a digital camera.” It made me think (again) about why I do what I do. I smiled, joyous that I’d shown her her beauty in a matter of minutes, and it was still analog.
Saturday at Cortney and Craig’s wedding, I took some Polaroids, and Cortney LOVED them. Why wouldn’t she? She was wearing a wedding gown from 1962, so why not use a camera from the same time period?? Then when I came home, and I started scanning the negatives, I realized how perfect the film went with her dress and her theme for her wedding. (She walked down the aisle to “This Magic Moment.” Does it GET better than that?) I had created art. Tangible, analog art that she can hold in her hand.
I’m so glad I stuck to my roots and continued to do things MY way. It’s been a journey for sure, and a lot of hard work, but totally worth it. Yes, film is trending now, and photographers like Jose Villa and Elizabeth Messina have blazed the trails for us, making hipsters drool over vintage cameras and pay extra for their weddings to be captured on film, but that’s not why I do it. I do it because I LOVE IT! If my work is good, it’s because I’m passionate about it and excited about what I’m doing. It’s because I’m trying something new and unique. It’s because I’m being ME, and I’ll never apologize for that again.