As we head towards Valentine’s Day, is there any advice you can offer a lonely landscape photographer to help me find love, and turn my life from a sad monochrome to a vibrant Velvia?
Yours forlornly with film,
Upper Skeginton, Rishole
Thank you for your letter, one of many I’ve received on this very subject since my first outing here a few weeks back. There’s truly nothing quite like Valentine’s Day to remind photographers that the first word in SLR is Single, just like your poor self.
The good news is you have the power to make the change from Sad Lonely Reject to Totally Luscious Rogue, but, as the old saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with taking a long hard look at how bloody awful the current location is.
Film photography can be sexy, suave, even dangerous. Photography the likes of which will have you fending off potential suitors with the stinky end of the dunny stick…and there is landscape photography.
Nothing puts the tin tacks on your sex drive quite like the word “Anorak”, but it’s not just the anorak (although really that’s enough) – it’s the woolly hat, the getting up before 10am, the sipping piss-warm tea from a Thermos flask, the genuinely wanting to visit places like Wales. It all adds up to make for a person less desirable than a photoshoot with Terry Richards (allegedly).
The good news is, it’s never too late to change, unless you’re over 60 in which case your better off just getting a cat.
For the under 60’s, gear is the first thing to address. Great big medium and large format cameras and sturdy tripods are like support knickers, totally practical and you’ll love the look you get from them, but they can lead to a lot of awkward explaining when all someone wants is some action.
What you need is a black Leica. A Leica sends out signals which act like catnip to potential love interests – it says you’ve got a stack of cash, it shows you’re easily led by others, and above all else it offers reassurance that there’s no risk of going anywhere near Wales in the near future, or any other thistle riddled sheep dump for that matter.
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Once you’ve got your Leica you need to dress to match. Think somewhere between a stereotype of a suave Frenchman, but without the odour of garlic and Gauloises, and the kind of smug fancy art critic you’d love to punch in the face. Avoid anything over fussy, you really don’t want to draw peoples eyes away from that Leica.
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway; heading out to shoot landscape in the UK is as much use as a knob in a chocolate teapot when it comes to looking for love. Unless your Tinder profile says “Desperately seeking Sasquatch” or “Looking for Loch Ness love” then you need to swap the hills and dales for the bright lights and big cities – you know, where the people are? I am aware of the possibility of meeting others out in the wilds, I believe these folk are called “hikers”, but it’s my understanding that they wear so many layers of clothing it’s essentially impossible to accurately assess species, let alone gender.
So a city it is, one of the cool ones. If you’re unsure if a city is cool or not, go in any cafe and order a coffee. If the process is more involved than a tax return and ends up costing more than a roll of Portra, you’re in a cool city. You may feel a little nervous about where to go and what to shoot – after all, this isn’t your home turf, but fear not! The key thing is to put yourself where the desirable people are, then just point your camera meaningfully at anything for prolonged periods, the less visually interesting the better. Onlookers will be drawn to your intensity of purpose, and look to see what’s caught your eye. When they see only humdrum tedium, they’ll automatically come to the inevitable conclusion that you’re seeing something they aren’t, because you’re a True Artist, and have VISION, and are better than them!
You have a Leica, after all.
Having cast your net, all that remains is to shoot those fish. Interested parties will engage you on the subjects of your photography and art as a first step, but you should remember that very few people actually want to hear about those things, so don’t start bringing up things like “aperture”, “metering” or “ISO”, otherwise those fish will be chewing their own legs off to get out the trap. Instead, remember you’re an artist, and a Leica owner, and so allude mysteriously to “the light”, “the chaos of man” and “the essence of the city”, and be sure to say how beautiful a portrait of them in the natural light from the window of a mediterranean villa would look.
At the very least this should get you a relationship which will last you through that first roll of film. After those 36 shots it’s down to you to either do the developing, or just chuck it in the cooler and go find a fresh roll – after all, if you never get your pictures developed you never have to find out if you’re crap at photography.
Best of luck getting your telephoto pointing at something interesting.
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