I asked my self this question very recently: can one photo make a difference?

You betcha! Here is the photograph that made the difference for me:

Rediscovering my 35mm soul through one photograph - Minolta XD-11 with Tamron 28-200 zoom lens; Kodak T-MAX 400 film.
Rediscovering my 35mm soul through one photograph – Minolta XD-11 with Tamron 28-200 zoom lens; Kodak T-MAX 400 film.

For more than a decade I’ve focused on medium format photography (Mamiya 7, Mamiya 6, Mamiya 645). This has left my half dozen or so Minolta 35 mm cameras very unloved. Oh, I would occasionally take them out for road trips; my snapshot, on the go cameras. For those times you just want to jump out of the car and take a quick picture, without dragging out the carefully pack ‘real’ camera gear. But I’ve increasingly used my ‘hand me down’ Nikon D-40 for that purpose.

Last Spring I decided to roll with my Minolta XD-11 as my road trip camera. We were on the highway, heading home from a photography workshop. My husband had seen an abandoned bridge he wanted to photograph on our outbound trip but the light was not ideal, so we stopped on the way back at the same roadside rest area.

While he was setting up his 4×5 view camera, I grabbed my 35mm, which was loaded with Kodak T-MAX 400 and wandered around. And I saw this image across the road, walked over for a closer look, took a couple of quick shots, and wandered back to the car.

Later in the year I actually printed this image in my home darkroom and shared it with my photographer friends, and showed it at a friends gallery. The response was so positive that I entered it in an online gallery contest. And Success! It made me re-evaluate my relationship with my Minolta cameras (XD-11, X-700, SRT-201, SRT-101). I also realized that I should not discard 35+ years of experience with this camera format.

So take a second look at those 35mm cameras that you’ve packed away. Most won’t sell for much on eBay. So use them, or pass them on to the many student film photography programs that are asking for donated cameras. One that comes to mind is the Weston Collective Scholarship Program – if you know of others, please feel free to leave contact information in the comments.

I leave you with this thought, generations of photojournalists made a difference with one 35mm image.

Thanks for reading,

~ Kathleen E. Johnson



Share your knowledge, story or project

The transfer of knowledge across the film photography community is the heart of EMULSIVE. You can add your support by contributing your thoughts, work, experiences and ideas to inspire the hundreds of thousands of people who read these pages each month. Check out the submission guide here.

If you like what you're reading you can also help this passion project by heading over to the EMULSIVE Patreon page and contributing as little as a dollar a month. There's also print and apparel over at Society 6, currently showcasing over two dozen t-shirt designs and over a dozen unique photographs available for purchase.

About the author

Kathleen Johnson

Kathleen Johnson is a World Traveler, Outdoors Adventurer, Research Scientist and Photographer. She has been making photographs since childhood, but began serious photography as an undergraduate taking her first B&W photography class, and renewed an interest...


Join the Conversation



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. The love of 35mm never goes away.
    I think we just forget about it sometimes.
    Then you pick it up and bang it’s once more your favourite medium to shoot with.
    I do love my medium and large format gear bit there is a beauty and ease of use in 35mm that we kind of pass by in the search for bigger and “better” negatives ☹️

  2. Sadly, we had to leave Monterey for better jobs and affordable housing…….I am now in the Denver Area. Feel free to contact me if you make it out here……

    I will be in Santa Barbara June 8-10, but that’s pretty far south of you.

    1. More Frames are definitely better for learning and experimentation. Lot’s of great 35 mm equipment on ebay. The photographer makes the photograph, not the camera!

  3. That photo is stunning, love it!! I use many formats but 35mm for me gives a bit more room to experiment just because of the number of frames. I can’t afford to plough through roll after roll on 120 so 35mm is my teacher film. I got my Practika Super TL for next to nothing on ebay + some GDR lenses that serve me well. All the best Alan

  4. Words of wisdom to go with a beautiful image.

    And Ma Mamiya, I’m very impressed with Kathleen’s medium format camera collection!

    Kathleen, are you still living and shooting somewhere in the Monterey area? I’ll be in Santa Cruz two weekends from now. Would be cool to share a coffee and chat.