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    • Lauren

      When I was a kid I had a fascination with photo negatives, which has grown into a lifelong love for photography and storytelling. I was the kid begging for a ‘shot of the camera’ and the one that everyone cursed for putting fingerprints all over their photos. “Who’s that?” I’d ask as I searched through old family albums—it didn’t really matter who it was in the photo, I was just fascinated at this fleeting moment of time in my hands. I wanted to hear the story.

      My photographs are my most cherished possessions but those that are most precious to me are the ones that have no value to the outside world. The photos that take place at a family meal or a holiday with friends—the ones that have zero value to anyone but me and those pictured. Sure, I can sell a landscape that I’ve photographed in the dramatic mountain ranges of Scotland, but so can the next person. Those photos that hoard my drawers and memory boxes, of the faces that have filled my life with love and laughs, those are the priceless ones.

      I bought myself an Instax camera over 2 years ago for a vacation I was taking. The 46mm x 62mm instant photos that I took on that vacation began an ongoing obsession to take as many ‘instant’ moments with my loved ones. Why? Because it means I have an instant print and, if we’re honest, we’ve all gotten a little lazy at printing our digital photos. I worry that, when the day comes that my kids look through my photos as I did my parents’, there won’t be much for them to look at. I don’t want to diminish their experience of sitting around old family albums and marking their own little fingerprints on the family albums. There’s some things that the digital age just can’t replace, and, for me, this is one of them.

      So that begs a question: Is film photography more important now than it was before digital photography made us a little too comfortable?

      I have an old Minolta X300 35mm film camera with a 50mm lens that cost me around 30 quid on eBay a handful of years ago. It’s cheap, scratched, but it’s solid and the lens is immaculate. If film rolls were a little cheaper and I was a little less reliant on digital, it would be my forever go to camera.

      Every so often I get a little lost with photography. Instagram, Twitter, and all that other white noise, can often leave me feeling uninspired. HDR, composites and such like, plague my newsfeeds, and, while I do admire a lot of that style of photography, it’s not really my style and I find it hard to remain inspired when that’s the ‘trendy’ way to take photos. I learnt photography with a film camera and spent days in darkrooms and I think that ‘authentic style’ carries over into my digital work—or so I’ve been told. I’m currently stuck in an ‘uninspired’ rut. So what’s my plan? Pick up that good ol’ Minolta.

      I can often lose what my story is in the images I take digitally--I think that's one of the burdens of shooting digitally. Something that looks 'okay' may be worth a shot on digital but when I’m shooting on film my mindset totally changes.

      The joy of digital is that you can put a memory card in the camera and shoot 10 shots or 100 shots for the same cost. The downside to that is that you can get a bit too comfortable with what you're photographing, and photos can start to look 'samey'. Does that make sense? Or is it just me?

      When I find myself in a digital rut I pick up that bashed up Minolta and throw in a roll of film. My film preferences vary but I tend to use Kodak Ektar 100 or Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400 film for my colour photos, and Ilford FP4 or HP5 for my black and white photos. I’ve gotta say though, I do prefer the grainier of those options. I want the images I take on film to scream: "I was shot with film". One of my favourite things in photography is film grain and there’s no digitaI camera that has yet come close to replicating it; Fuji is close with their X-Trans sensor but it’s still an obvious digital replication.

      36 shots on a roll of Superia X-Tra 400 film costs around £4 - around 11p per shot. Plus, the £30 to get the roll developed and scanned full res from DS Colour Labs (I used to develop my own film, but we live in a convenient world now, right?). So that 11p becomes around 94p per shot. Needless to say, I slow things down when I’m shooting film. I become more mindful of what I’m photographing—whether it’s a landscape or a photo of my Mum with the light hitting her just right at dinner. There’s also something quite beautiful about manually focusing a lens.

      I’m never open about this, but I’ve suffered in the past with anxiety and depression, and whilst my digital photography was a massive savior for me, it was my film photography that really allowed me to ‘escape’—it’s unpublished work but it’s the most mindful photography I have ever taken. Photography (or any creative art/storytelling) is the best source of expression and I challenge anyone to argue with me on that.

      The digital age is as much a curse as it is a blessing. We have instant access to the world thanks to digital technology, but it has brought with it a fast-paced life where speed is a necessity. When was the last time you just stopped, stood for 20 minutes, and thought about the photo you wanted to take? Has it been a while? Go do it. Don’t forget to be present in
      the moment.

      On a professional level, I do urge anyone doing pro photography to understand it's true art form by picking up a manual film camera and exploring it. I don't think you can understand the importance of the exposure components until you're paying good money for a roll of film and realising that you don't have the same freedom to under/over expose. Plus, what a joy it is to
      have those photos ‘revealed’ to you after the film is developed. It’s all a process. Sometimes it’s nice to just slow down a little, right?  

      There’s an ongoing battle between analogue and digital just now: vinyls vs digital downloads; books vs e-readers; film cameras vs digital cameras. Who will prevail? Digital always will. It’s too convenient, too easily accessed, and a whole lot cheaper. But who should we secretly root for? Analogue. Don’t give up on it just yet.

      I touched on this a little at the beginning of this post, but the real beauty of film photography – besides the slowing down and thoughtfulness of it – is that it’s tangible. History becomes tangible with film photography, isn’t that wonderful?

      Cheers.

      http://www.laurenmacneish.com/

    • yaypie
      Ryan Grove

      What an insightful post. I was nodding as I read it, and by the end I was even a little sad despite being a strong proponent of digital media.

      You're so right when you say that the digital age is as much a curse as it is a blessing. When there are few limitations, it's easy to forget how much the old limitations helped shape our creativity and our experiences.

      I think you're also right, for better or worse, when you say that digital will always prevail. But I wonder if there are ways to hold onto some of those old experiences.

      For example, what if there were an iPhone app that let you pay for a virtual 36-exposure film roll with an in-app purchase, then mailed you a packet of printed photos after you finished a roll? The cost would provide an incentive not to waste your shots, and the automatic "development" step would reward you with real printed photos you could put in physical albums without giving you an opportunity to forget or procrastinate.

      Maybe, if we just put some more thought and effort into it, we can save what we might otherwise lose. What do you think?

    • bstrong
      Brian Strong

      I worry that, when the day comes that my kids look through my photos as I did my parents’, there won’t be much for them to look at. 

      I worry about the exact same thing!

      I'm surrounded by people that occasionally post an iPhone photo to Instagram and often post Instagram stories that will disappear forever. How will their kids ever get to experience what we did? Maybe it's even more sad to think that the kids won't care? Maybe I'm just being old and nostalgic?

      It feels like photo technology has become so good and so convenient that's it's just made us so lazy. Portrait-mode and fancy one-tap filters are supposed to make everyone a pro photographer, right? Well I think it's actually making most people very mediocre photographers.

      When I look at photos from my childhood, I think "wow my parents were very good photographers" and it's probably because they were. They had to actually learn the variables to properly expose a photograph. The limited light sensitivity of the film meant they had to buy a reasonably fast lens. They had limited resources (film), so they had to make every photo count.

      This is the primary reason I shoot with a Leica. It places constraints on me. It slows me down and makes me think. I have to work to get a photograph. It makes me fail a lot and forces me to learn more. It's made me a better photographer and it's given me a better appreciation for the photos I've taken. Most importantly, I want my kids physically touch these photos and feel the time and effort that went into them.

      📷: My son at the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

    • Chris
      Chris MacAskill

      Great post, Lauren. It's wonderful to see you here. 😎

      My father bought a Hasselblad film camera way back when and I swear, you could get the best, most creamy, dreamy photos from that camera. I inherited it and have loved it ever since. Here he is with my mom, shot with medium format film. I miss the wedding photographers who shot gorgeous, cherished for a lifetime, wedding photos with medium format cameras.

      I need to get an Instax. Sometimes when I'm out shooting my photo essays, it would be wonderful to hand out a shot to the people I'm photographing.

    • Lauren

      I'm glad you enjoyed the read. I worry with posts like these since people can often feel like I'm dissing digital, but it's just encouragement to observe both digital and film.

      I think you might be on to something with that app and please sign me up if you ever put it into fruition haha. At the moment I need to print out an order form from the lab I use, fill it in, then post it with the roll of film and my payment details (which, alone, is pretty unsecure). If the process was streamlined it would make all the difference. Did we just create an app? :P

    • Lauren

      I never thought of the future generation not actually caring about 'real life' photo albums. That would be sadder than not having the printed photos at all. Nostalgia is a funny thing, my parents still hoard all our old videotapes and refuse to part ways with them even though they don't have a VCR player anymore.

      I think you're right re creating mediocre photographers, but there's that bittersweetness again; everyone with a smartphone can tell visual stories now, but should that come at the expense of die-hard photographers who've spent years learning their craft?

      Ah Leica, I had the Q for a while, the 'pretend' Leica haha. I'm fully mirrorless now and shoot with a Fuji X Pro 2, probably because the camera feels like a good ol' rangefinder.

      (Super cute photo of your son too :-D)

    • Lauren
      Lauren

      Thanks, Chris. Sarah Beth got me onboard. I love the concept of being able to follow stories I care about.

      Say no more, Hasselblad and medium format = the perfect pairing. It's conversations like these that make me wish we we could time travel; experience the best of both worlds.

      I definitely recommend an Instax, it's such a great offline sharing tool. :-)

      Also, great photo of your parents. What a handsome pair.

    • SarahBethArnold

      Wait,
      Lauren...
      Did I just read you used to have a the Q? Did you get rid of it? I think your approach to cameras is so interesting as it's so different than what I do. I tend to stick with the same camera for years until I can afford another one. It's interesting to see you exchange through cameras. I'm thinking that helps one really get comfortable with any camera usage (as this is something I struggle with.) I'm all in with Canon and have been since I was 12, even though I occasionally use Nikon. I'm curious if you feel there's any camera you wouldn't be comfortable shooting with.

    • SarahBethArnold

      I love that you can really see the family resemblance in this picture. I really see you in both of them, Chris. That's something that fascinates me so much about not only genetics, but the importance of photography to our family history- and history as a whole.

    • Lauren

      Haha, you read correctly. I got rid of it last month. I felt it was just gathering dust since 28mm isn't what I typically use. It was my sole camera on my trip to Paris at the end of 2016, and worked a treat. But I found it somewhat redundant for my style of landscapes in Scotland, and since that's mainly what I shoot nowadays, I decided to cash-in.

      I switch up my digital cameras a lot, but I still have every film camera I've ever owned--isn't that weird? I guess it shows where my love lies.

      Hmm, a camera is a tool, right? So if I only had one option available I'd be fairly comfortable to take a photo. Once you know where the shutter dial, aperture dial, and ISO dial is, you're good to go, right? The rest is gimmick. But I have been shooting mirrorless for 4 years now and I can probably bet my last buck that I will never choose to buy a DSLR again. Do you have a preference to Canon? I used to shoot Nikon and had a brief spell with Canon. I always felt the colours were warmer with Nikon and a bit more green with Canon. Maybe that's changed since then.

    • SarahBethArnold

      My father was a film camera collector as well, Lauren! I believe there are a good 20 film cameras sitting on my mother's mantel in Southern California as we write. It was he who actually gave me my first camera to shoot with, which was the Canon A-1 when I was 12 years old. I was in college at the time, using it to develop my own film. Once he could tell I was really serious about photography, he handed over his Canon 20D about a year later. I used it for years, (mostly because I was 13 and couldn't buy my own-anything.) I think I just got comfortable in Canon and have stuck with it since. I am not opposed to any other brand and I absolutely love trying new stuff out, but I think it's merely habitual at this point, 14 years later.

    • bstrong

      everyone with a smartphone can tell visual stories now

      That is certainly a benefit, but I feel like it's so easy that most people are just telling visual stories about the food on their plate rather than truly being present with their company and surroundings.

      Ah Leica, I had the Q for a while, the 'pretend' Leica haha.

      I think the Q is a fantastic camera! It is by no means a pretend Leica. It's the real deal! 😀

      The Fuji X series is great. I had an X100f for a while and it certainly gave me a similar feeling to what it's like shooting with a Leica.

    • SarahBethArnold
      Sarah Beth Arnold

      I truly love this woman. What a kind, talented human being, Schmoo is. I was lucky enough to meet up with Schmoo and her husband, Travis when I was in Berlin earlier this year. They gave me a little tour and informed me of some of the street photo laws in Germany. They are apparently far different than in America.

      It's illegal to photograph anyone on the street without permission. The only thing that makes it legal is if it's a group of 6 more where there isn't one subject particularly in focus. It was interesting to hear of that cultural difference.

    • Lauren

      More often than not I hear that our generation got into photography because of our parents. That’s such a sweet story and what a great memory of your first camera. My Dad was the guy behind my love for photography too. Looks like we have some cool Dads 😀.

    • Lauren

      “...rather than truly being present with their company and surroundings.”

      Amen to that. 👌🏼

    • SarahBethArnold

      I know you and your dad are working on that bridge progress project. I can't wait to see the final product! Do you have any you can share with us!??!?!

    • SarahBethArnold

      Man, so much truth. I am guilty of this at times....
      There was an article that went out about a year ago surrounding how restaurant turn around times have doubled now that everyone takes pictures of their food. DOUBLED I think that's mind boggling that we've just forgotten how to be here and now with the people we care about. I've tried to make a conscious effort to be better about this after reading that.

    • Lauren

      Oh we finished it when the bridge opened. The book is complete. I'll try and send you a PDF :D.

    • ivar

      Good read, and something that has been keeping me busy as well. For me film photography is now more important than before, although I mainly shoot digital.

      Shooting analog is to me a way out of this fast paced life for me; I work in a sometimes physically and mentally demanding environment, the information we get through the internet are amounts I can not keep up with and I need a way to deal with it all. I shoot analog when I can. I have been shooting 35mm for a while and I recently received a Hasselblad from a dear friend that I am now using . The simplicity is awesome and it helps me find my 'slow life' or whatever you want to call it. It helps me cope with life I guess.

      All the negatives from my first camera when I was a little boy till now I still have in binders and I could never get rid of them. Same with prints of old images. We have tons of family photos dating back to mid 19th century. The tangibility of those negatives and photos is something that can not be compared to anything we have now, and I hope someday my son can appreciate that feeling as well.

      (I also shoot film as sort of a personal way to rebel agains the "instant gratification" way of thinking; everything must happen "now", what happened to having a little patience and appreciating & enjoying it even more when you do get the photos?)

      Is film best? I don't think you can say that as it is apples and oranges to me, but for me it is definitely important.


      My wife, shooting with my grandfather's (film) camera (shot on film):

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