As a teenager (I’m 55 now) I was the kid that was always carrying a camera – a Pentax K1000 that my grandfather gave me – and at the time I thought that’s where my career would be. But life, as it does, took a different path, and my careers (I’ve had a few) lay in other directions.
I continued to shoot a bit of film into my 20’s but by the time I was 30 (1993) I’d pretty much stopped. I had a Ricoh R1 (I still have it, it still works) that replaced a lot of my 35mm SLR gear. I’d gotten sick of carting a body, 2 or 3 lenses, and all the assorted odds & ends with me on holiday, which was really the only time I was using a camera. A pocket-sized point & shoot made more sense.
When my kids started to arrive – late 90’s onwards – there were a few random digital cameras, again mainly point & shoots or cheap SLRs, but I think a lot of my photography in those days was done with (poor quality) phone cameras. And yes, most of the images are lost to upgrades, equipment failures and the like.
But about 3 years ago, having chosen to take a big reduction in working hours and at a bit of a loose end, I decided that I’d always wanted to really study photography so why wasn’t I doing it? A part-time course was found and I was off and running.
“Are you back in the darkroom?” a few old friends would ask. I’d spent a lot of time in high school agitating tanks and playing with enlargers so it was a fair question, and I’d always respond “Nobody shoots film anymore! Digital is so much easier.”
In early 2017 after cleaning out some cupboards in her home, my mother handed me the same Pentax K1000 and 50mm f/1.7 lens that my grandfather had given me in 1977. I never intended to start using film, it was just a memento of my past, and a memory of my grandfather. So it just sat there on a shelf about my desk at home for a few months, almost daring me to use it. And of course, I did! That fateful first roll might have been ILFORD HP5 PLUS, I’m not really sure, but I was very quickly drawn into a vortex of film and old cameras and lenses.
I quickly decided the K1000 meant more to me than a camera so I bought a cheap Pentax SuperA and a couple of lenses on eBay, then a Kiev-88 (who doesn’t want to try medium format?) and then because I was enjoying MF so much, and I’d always wanted one in my earlier camera life, but could never justify the cost, and because they’re “so much cheaper now” a Hasselblad 503.
Yes, there are a few others on the shelf now too. Analogue GAS is just as dangerous as the digital version!
I’m still trying all sorts of different film, trying to find what suits my vision. For colour it’s currently Ektar, for black and white I’m not sure. Between Kosmo, ILFORD Delta, FP4 PLUS, HP5 PLUS, Kodak T-MAX, JCH Streetpan and a few others I haven’t really found a go-to emulsion yet.
…and I’ve got 2 rolls of expired 120 AEROCHROME in my freezer: after seeing the amazing work of Richard Mosse I just have to try it!
I still shoot a tonne of digital images for the Diploma of Photography I’m working towards, and I as much really enjoy my Canon 5D but there is something very satisfying about having to manually wind film (no, I can’t see myself with a motor drive); about having to trust your skills and not be able to look on the back of the camera to see how the image turned out; about the look of film, about the depth it has that digital doesn’t; about way old lenses capture an image differently to modern ones; about waiting; and about working with old equipment – I have a love of classic cars too!
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