In 2003 I got my first camera.
I’d received the camera as a Christmas gift in 2003 and started immediately to take photos of my surroundings, first the people in the house of course — little snapshots with untrained eye, indoor plants, favourite pets, my own feet. You know, the usual stuff. Soon thereafter I went out into the neighbourhood.
January 2004. Notice how flat it is? I would frame and edit this differently now.
Most people are not prodigies, most of us have to practice to develop some skills. Some people have a natural eye for composition but need to work on technicals, some people the other way around. Unfortunately some people stay this way forever, being highly technical but lacking that ‘something’ that makes a striking photograph, beyond a perfect exposure. I’d like to think I’ve taken some good photos, but I’m nowhere near a prodigy and I’m not super technically sound either! Woe is me!
Black & White is more forgiving in general, and that’s probably why I started there. Aside from having a naturally morose teenage attitude towards everything, the aesthetics of black & white have always been with me.
I started at the local Community College in a Film Photography course, but didn't last long because during that time I was not interested in film photography whatsoever! The dark room did not interest me, and after exposing and developing my first roll, i stopped going.
My next camera was a Canon Rebel XT, which was a perfect little entry level DSLR and I recommend the Rebel line for anybody now starting out. In fact, I still use a Rebel SL1 and it suits me just fine.
Later on I went through a series of Advanced Photography Workshops with a local photographer who had worked as a professional photographer in New York City in the 80s. I also worked as his photographers assistant on several shoots. He shot almost exclusively with an old Hasselblad, and my main job was to keep notes on test shots and number the exposed film rolls, putting them away carefully in little bags, aside from moving lighting and holding reflectors. His first advice was to buy the book 'Camera and Lens' by Ansel Adams and read it cover to cover. Well I got the book, but I never read it. I still have it, and i still haven't read it! Dry technical books just don't do it for me... I'm sure I'd be much better than I am if I paid a bit more attention to it!
I have never worked as a photographer.
Sure, I've been paid once or twice to take photos, but I've never been a professional. I've been an amateur photographer for over 10 years, off and on. I don't particularly like to call myself a photographer because I think that should be reserved for the professionals, hence why I often say 'amateur photographer'. I also like to say I'm a fauxtographer!
My next upgrade was a Canon 80D which served me well and had for several years before I sold it for something that could take video (the SL1).
Eventually my wife and I were given an old 1950s Praktica as a wedding present and so I began experimenting more with film here and there. The cameras were much cheaper and while the film had a cost attached, it was still cheaper than a mid-range DSLR for sure. These were mostly pretty experimental, with free or cheaply bought expired film, old camera and some cross processing techniques.
Taken with medium format Zeiss Ikoflex, a Rolleiflex rip off :)
Film Photography exposed me to a different philosophy altogether. The whole process is, for lack of a better word, more precious.
You have a completely manual camera, nothing but a shutter release button and some pre-set manual shutter speeds.
You have the film, with its own specifics and limitations. You load it up, which is a very tactile excursion — you're opening your camera and handling the film itself, turning knobs and pulling levers like some ancient engineer! You close the camera and wind to the first frame. You begin shooting. All throughout the process you have no real idea what's going to come out. Maybe the film is badly expired, maybe you put it in wrong, maybe you have a broken seal and your film is going to be completely black! Oh no! For every frame that comes out well it becomes more precious to you, because it took more work than just pointing the camera with the autofocus on Aperture mode and clicking the picture. Not to downplay the skill it takes, but the skill is different when you're dealing with 24 or 36 photos per roll and you can't check anything until later.
Film photography helped to teach me about the value of Non-Attachment. and how we can enjoy the process without necessarily being attached to the result of the process.
I still like film, but I'm not able to shoot it anymore since there's nowhere around developing it. I've thought about setting up a small dark room and trying out the caffenol developer technique - literally developing black and white film with coffee. Could bring some interesting results!
Now here we are! If you been following me for a while you know that I still love black & white, but I've also developed a love for closeups of insects and other animals!
Photography, for me, is a multifaceted skill which balances an eye for composition, technical skills for capturing the light effectively, but also positioning it (or yourself) in a way to make the light bring out what you're trying to achieve. It can both capture and evoke emotion, if done well, but it can also be completely mundane — a freeze frame of a point in time that can never be repeated. I'm very interested in time, and how we can re-live previous moments. Photography can do that, in a way.
It also forces you to stop and look carefully.
That alone is reason enough for me to love it.
Follow for more on photography, cryptocurrency, and sometimes random time travel stuff.