My return to film was not a definite decision I made one day, but more of an evolvement of my feeling towards photography. I grew up using film for photography, and even completed a City & Guilds in Photography as late as 2004. There I learnt to process my own black & white film, and also print in the darkroom. By 2008 I had slid in to the digital world, by which time I am sure most people had.
I still kept an interest in film and this led to me buying a medium format camera in 2007, first a very very used Mamiya 645 and later selling this for an absolutely mint condition Yashica 124G in 2011, which I still use today.
It was soon mid 2016 and although I ran the occasional roll through the Yashica I never had any of them developed, so I had five or six 120 rolls waiting on development. One day on opening the refrigerator door, I looked in the compartment in the top of the door full of film. Five assorted pro packs of five 120 rolls of Kodak, and a couple of mixed 35mm rolls looked back at me. I also had a further dozen 35mm rolls in a box in the wardrobe and it got me thinking if I was ever going to use the film I had left over.
Looking at the dates, they had all expired in either 2009 or 2010, showing just how long I had been in possession of the film (I had at this point never purchased any out of date film). For a birthday gift, I received an Olympus TRIP 35, purchased from ETSY, refurbished and in mint condition, so it was time to use the film. I loaded the TRIP up straight away with an old expired Lomography 400 Colour Film, and went to the local town.
I felt liberated carrying a camera around that I could actually fit in my pocket, all I had to do was point and shoot. I didn’t have to wait for focus to lock, if I pressed the shutter I was guaranteed that the shutter would fire at that point. I just wished I could remember to change the focus scale more often. The first frame was taken as soon as I walked out of the door and what better subject, than that of an object I love: one of my cars.
Using the whole film over a couple of days the thing I felt more than anything was a connection with photography. Although I would try my best, I wasn’t concerned if the frame was correctly exposed or in focus, as I would only ever find this out when the film returned from the lab. On completion, I sent the film along with some previously exposed 120 rolls to Peak Imaging for developing and scanning and a few days later I got the developed negatives and scan CDs though the post.
The scanning was only of low resolution, but I got to see my results straight away. I had taken a few frames in my local town, but also travelled to Newcastle where I visited the indoor Grainger Market. This is a fabulous but small indoor market full of bakers, butchers and grocers, all working hard to compete in the world of superstores and online shopping. Sure the photographs are not all in focus, the composition is not perfect and they are not perfectly exposed, but this didn’t matter. Limitations of the camera as well as my ability played some part in that, but more importantly I enjoyed the process of taking the photos.
The Olympus Trip is surprising stealthy, even if mine is bright yellow! The low light and slow shutter the Olympus Trip chose on my pressing of the shutter helped capture the movement of the butcher cleaning his Butchers Block. I was happy with the results.
It was now late 2016, I looked around on the internet to see if people were still using film, and to my surprise there seemed to be a resurgence in film photography. I could do this, and I would not be alone! I started using Twitter a little more, and I found a one-off meet up happening in Manchester. I am originally from the North West of England and know the city well, so I asked to be a participant of what was #MCRWLK 2016. The website is no longer live, but I was in.
On October 22nd 2016 I travelled to Manchester to attend the walk. Starting with coffee and camera chat, then taking a tour of the city just off the beaten track, it was great. Live Tweets were sent out by participants during the day of scenes, and people shared work over the next couple of weeks on twitter with the #MCRWLK 2016 hashtag. Some of my efforts from the day can be found here. I am nowhere near as an accomplished photographer as many of the participants, but I enjoyed taking part, meeting the people, and better, the photography process.
My return to film has been a revelation. It has allowed me to enjoy the photo taking process and not be disappointed when the image on the LCD is not as I had envisaged. It is interesting to see what can be achieved using the basic Olympus Trip, and learning to love the imperfections, limitations or just plain mistakes. In the past my film choice was primarily driven by budget but now I am also learning about the differences in emulsion and I intend to experiment more. I have also found a whole new community on Twitter and the Internet which is pretty much dedicated to photography on film from which I can learn, and hopefully contribute.
If I want a perfectly exposed, perfectly focused and perfectly composed photograph, I can use my digital Fuji X-Pro2. It is impossible to ignore the convenience of digital equipment and great quality of the photographs produced but just sometimes it’s nice to be different. With correct exposure the look and feel of film is unique. Photographers have spent hours in the digital ‘darkroom’ trying to replicate the feel of film on digital files, but just sometimes the files from scanned film is so good with files like these below, why bother with digital in the first place?
My next step is a better 35mm camera, and a return to self developing.
Thanks for reading.
~ Steven J Parkes
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