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More Than Nostalgia

I often receive various comments when people see my camera. Some think that my use of film in this digital age is really cool. Some think I've lost my mind. Others just scratch their heads and depart confused.

I've had people assume I use a film camera for the "nostalgic" appeal. I've had others assume I use film to prove something. Yet, there are those that assume my use of this dated medium must equate to my own "personal issues". Obviously I'm trying to prove something or make myself artistic, right?


Film photography for me is something that is part of who I am. I cut my teeth on film. I earned one of my degrees (commercial photography) behind a 4x5 view camera. I've photographed weddings with a Mamiya RB67 with Sunpak flash...hand held. For those that don't know, this is the equivalent of holding a bowling ball in your hand for 8 hours. Not the easiest task to say the least.

As with most photographers, I shifted to digital photography, though reluctantly and late. It was easier. It was faster. It provided instant gratification. It didn't take near as much thought with all the settings and custom menus.

It also wasn't fulfilling. Something was missing. Instant gratification became instant creative death for me. I hated it.

I couldn't figure out what was wrong for the longest time. Then, one day, it all made sense. I lost the connection with the subject I was shooting. I lost that oneness that only film can provide (at least for me). There's something about slowing down, composing your shot, and demonstrating your learned and proven skill set to achieve a final result. With no preview. With one shot. With no room for mistakes.

You must know your craft and the tool in your hand intimately. You invest hours testing developer and film combinations to give you the desired tonal range you seek. You invest time (and yes, money) in various film stocks to test grain patterns in order to provide you with a final piece that produces the emotion you intended.

You and the camera become one. It becomes an extension of your body so to speak. Once you snap the shutter, the image lives on only in your mind. You spend your day remembering the light and recalling the mood that the image set forth in your soul.

Then, as you begin the developing process later, everything comes together. I am reminded of the Normal Maclean quote:

"Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it."

For me, film is the river. Life happens all around us. My view through my Nikon F2AS records these snippets of time. Then, as I develop the film and hang it to dry, I get to see the end results for the first time. Gazing at the negatives, I get to relive the moment when I heard the sound of the shutter. For a moment, I'm in that very spot once again. For that moment, time stands still and I'm alive unlike ever before.

Whether it be film or digital, I encourage you to find your river. Tell your story.

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