In the ’90s and ’80s, everyone shot film. I was barely walking back then and could comfortably fit under a kitchen table standing upright. My dad owned a couple of cameras, so did my grandma and grandpa. I have a few negatives and lots of small prints from that era. But it wouldn’t be fair to count any of that work towards my own “first” roll.
Photography wasn’t a thing for me until I got my first digital point-and-shoot, once they became affordable – which was around the same time flip phones were all the rage. A decade later, I met my wife-to-be. She suggested we visit a Lomography store to try something new.
It was a toy store for young adults—shiny plastic boxes of various colours under the glass. Photo books full of saturated scans alongside each camera. Opposite the cash register, an entire wall, dedicated to hundreds of small prints, towered over the relatively large, well-lit store space. Smack in the middle of Toronto’s hipster central.
Back then, my mind was free of the nonsense that comes with spending too much time around great cameras. I cared not for the depth of field, sharpness, or feel in hand. The trends didn’t matter either; I was clueless. I just wanted to try something new, unique and have fun doing it with my girlfriend. Once the time came to choose, I picked one of the whackiest plastic machines on display: Lomography SuperSampler.
A week later, I got the results. Surprise: it worked! Most shots were over- or under-exposed, as expected: the camera has no way to control the shutter speed or aperture. For my sake, it was a good thing: back then, I’d probably ruin most shots given a chance to adjust any of the settings. Thankfully, the film’s forgiving latitude let me keep most of the frames; digital image editing made virtual push/pull a breeze. There’s a massive amount of grain, and given the age of the negative combined with inadequate storage, today’s scans also got scratches. Still, the gimmicky frame layout, along with f/11’s “focus everywhere” was enough to please and delight. It all just worked.
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SuperSampler is not a versatile camera. The thing wouldn’t expose indoors. The “strips” prevented it from being a camera that’s good for most occasions. Eventually, something snapped, and the plastic box broke.
I’m thankful for my reintroduction to the creative medium that today drives me to process my emotions and share my stories. Though the first touchpoint seems to have misled me to believe that analogue cameras are fun yet less capable than the modern digital “standard.”
The true potential of film didn’t click with me until years later. For the most part, I thought of it as a creative effect, to be used sparingly along with my digital workflow. With time, however, I got frustrated with chasing megapixels. Resolution and clarity were never enough; the process felt broken. So I gave film a second chance, hoping to gain some artistic freedom. In turn, it led to an obsession, characterized by chronic bulging pocket and the annoying “wait for me!” on every stroll with family and friends.
The journey’s far from over. I still remember the days when I thought of photographers as “lazy” creatives; “all one needs to do is press a button!” There’s lots to learn.
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Yes, getting the exposure right is a good thing!
We were shooting film in the 60′ and 70’s too!!
Of course, David, since the 1830s!
I just forgot to mention that ’90s and ’80s were the years I personally remember as being exclusively photographed on film.