Oh, sweet film. I got a film camera right when COVID-19 broke out and we were all confined to our homes. It was March 2020, and seemingly randomly I thought, “I want to learn film photography.” I got a film camera shortly after, and it was during that odd, unforeseen period of time that my friendship with the world of film photography began. Due to the fact that the world looked quite different, and I was spending days in my small blue house in my (former) small town of Waco TX, I had plenty of time to experiment with my new camera. Funny enough, I had NO idea that there was a learning curve with it. I look back now and facepalm that I didn’t know anything about exposure, ISO, or any of the factors (controllable and uncontrollable) that make up a photo taken on a film camera. All I had was my own inspiration of what was around me. I could have had the internet to consult, but as I said, for some reason I subconsciously thought, “There’s a camera in my hands, there’s something in front of me, let’s shoot.” I used (and still use) Kodak Portra 400, which is a classic. I don’t even remember how I knew that that would be a good film stock to use. It’s all a blur (and so were several of my images as a result of the newness of manual focus to me), but it quickly became my favorite thing to do.
I remember getting my first roll of film back, and it feeling like the best day ever when I received my film scans in my inbox. The first film photos I ever took. It’s so nostalgic even now – especially when I reflect on that time period of life. I was taking a gap year in Waco TX, living with three other girls, and working a job with ridiculous hours (3:45 am-1:30 pm is not for the faint of heart). We were forced to slow down. Much like the process of learning and shooting film. You don’t have the option necessarily to get “snap-happy.” Each exposure is valuable, each moment of light measured (or in my case at that point, not measured or considered at all) to create a visual translation of magic as captured through this sentimental medium. I started to love the process. It went a little bit like this in my head as I held my film camera on a walk in my neighborhood during that spring: Observe. Ohh, this sunlight falling on the sidewalk. Love this warmth. Bring camera to eye. Manually focus – what am I focusing on? Is this going to be dark or too bright? I’m winging it. The light is too pretty not to. Let’s hope that turned out okay. Turns the corner near my favorite house along our street. Aww, the kids who live here have been playing with chalk on the sidewalk. What a happy thing. We’re capturing that for sure – I think it’s focused? Hard to tell. Oh well. Let’s head home. Maybe there’s a moment there to capture.
Watching the first scans I received from the lab was invigorating. The photos weren’t all that good, but it was the experience of shooting film that hooked me.
While these shots aren’t winning an award, aren’t that exciting to view, and aren’t even completely in focus, they’re nostalgic and meaningful to just me. I shoot more film now, and am always learning it better; I love shooting film at weddings. While those are the more visually beautiful scenes and moments, these first scans are ones that I shot just for me. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t even know I would be a photographer one day (I only wished for something that special). All I knew was the sun was shining, the world looked different, and I had an insatiable appetite to see the beauty around me through a creative lens I hadn’t before. This art had no intention to be published or to be viewed by people who might want to see more of it. I’m wanting to channel more of this into my artistry today – to shoot without parameters. To shoot weddings & couples with the only motivation being seeing the moments and people in front of me, capture it all as honestly as I am able, and preserve it through photographs.
Art is not one size fits all. Art cannot be defined by society’s expectations placed on you, or the expectations you place on yourself from putting yourself and your art in a box contained by what certain people define as beautiful. It just can’t. It ceases to reach its full potential of authentic artistry when it is confined to something previously imagined by another. Don’t get me wrong; I am daily inspired by my fellow photographer friends & their work, creatives in other industries, and simply the mundane moments of life that we come to expect each day, like the sun shining on the same wall at the same time each morning creating that shadow you love. Remembering the first photos I captured on my film camera, and recalling the purity of the experience, is important. I was alone with my mind, with whatever I began to imagine could come to life. There were no barriers, no expectations, nothing to box me in. While what and who I shoot now is more visually nuanced, involved, and dynamic (such as a wedding), I carry with me this first visionary and uninhibited creative: drawn into beauty not for a certain outcome but for beauty itself.
I’ll be sharing more film photos in the future here, as well as the stories with them, and narratives I weaved mentally & emotionally in and out of them.