Listen to me read this piece here:
I was struck recently by the urge to take up film photography again. I know — it’s not about the camera, it’s about the photographer; and with the amount of technology these days, including VSCO’s film emulators and the fact that Hipstamatic can create images that make me assume a tintype was involved, this fact of personal artistry is more noticeable than ever.
For me, the issue of film photography involves an element of reality. Of settling down. Of being somewhere long enough that I have to compose the image, create it, and wait for weeks to see it realized.
It may also have to do with the issue that my current state creates a fog of constant memory loss. Last week was the same as two weeks ago was the same as five minutes ago. So photography means something different to me; it brings things that were lost back to the present.
I bought a Contax G1 rangefinder off of eBay. I’d wanted a rangefinder since sometime around 2003, but had doubted my ability to compose images with that kind of off-kilter lens. I bought three rolls of color film. I began to take pictures.
And for a time, I ignored the fact that the exposure window wasn’t changing. I could hear the shutter going off. I thought I could hear the film winding forward. I knew that the exposure window had issues because I’d purposefully bought an as-is camera, which was almost two-thirds the price of a G1 without cosmetic problems. The exposure window said, 00. It said 00 for the duration of one hundred beautiful, nonexistent photographs.
When I finally brought the camera into the hall closet, which was the darkest place that I could think of, and opened the back of the camera, I felt for the film. It wasn’t wound. I went back into the light. I took the film, some of which I knew was exposed and therefore useless at that point, and cut a new beginning to the film. The curve wasn’t accurate; I did the best that I could. When I took care to begin the film again, I could see in the distorted window that the exposure now read 01.
In the end, I had approximately 20 photographs out of a roll of 35. The exposed film, I’m assuming, wasn’t developed. I probably lost some images. But do you see what I had? Those images above — those are my home. Those are real.
Are they worth more than the one hundred beautiful, nonexistent photographs? Without those, I’d still be taking beautiful, nonexistent photographs. Surely I’d be on my two-thousandth beautiful, nonexistent photograph. Instead, I had to discard the old start and find the new beginning. The new beginning was rough, to be sure; and yet in the end, that’s how I created beauty.
What new beginnings are you facing?