It seems appropriate that every time I explore a new venture with my photography, it is in the spring – a time that seems to be intoxicated with a lovely air of beginnings and renewal. I originally opened my Etsy shop in late February 2009 (close enough to spring…), I had my first real photo shoot in May 2009, and our big move was in May 2010 (which, for some reason, coincided with a jump in my comfort and knowledge of my camera). And here we are, in 2011, and I experiencing another exciting photography related event…
A beginning in film.
I have a very modest collection of film cameras. Some 35mm, some medium format. Some instant, some vintage, some manufactured in the past decade. Some working, some for display. I love my cameras. I can see them from my desk, from the playroom… I can even peek around the chair and down the stairs to catch a glimpse when I’m sitting at the couch in my living room. There are only 5 of them, but they are really special to me. Whenever I think about going out and shooting with the 3 that are working, I get this warm little tingle and my heart rate speeds up. I sometimes get the hiccups. I’m not sure, but I think that these are symptoms of passion.
The only thing holding me back is money. We’re in a financial jam. It feels like we are forever treading water in a deep pool, and at the end of every pay cycle we find ourselves just barely there, with our heads poking above the water. In situations like this, we find ourselves forever prioritizing, and necessities always top “toys”. I can only rationalize something as “for the business” so many times a year. So, the point of all this is that I can’t afford to buy beautiful and pristine vintage cameras in perfect working order whenever my passion sings to me. There is not only the initial cost of the camera and potential lenses, but the repeating cost of the film, the cost of developing, the cost of scanning and printing (and associated supply costs to ensure a clean scan), and the cost of organization and storage of negatives and prints. Let’s not forget the cost of display, because I am, after all, all for the movement of displaying my images instead of hiding them.
The point? I love photography. I am passionate about it to the point that it doesn’t matter WHAT I shoot with, no matter what I can and cannot afford, but there is nothing like intensifying the passion by exploring different avenues, acquiring different tools, and expanding my knowledge base of all things photo.
It makes me thinks back to my days in school when I was studying Human Development at Penn State. We read about a number of cases in China (or maybe it was Germany – this happens all over the world, all the time. This just happened to be the example) where due to overcrowding and lack of personnel, infants, babies, and older children in orphanages were kept in cribs the vast majority of the day. Their basic needs were met – they were clothed, they were fed. They had a small amount of time during the day for exercise, but they didn’t have anything “extra”. The outcome? Every aspect of the development of these children was delayed. Their fine motor and gross motor physical development was under developed due to not being able to exercise their muscles in a wide range of activities. Their language was basic due to lack of interaction with adults and other children. Their psychological development was also basic due to lack of stimulation, problem solving activities, etc. Their emotional development? The same. They lacked any notable attachments (healthy or otherwise) with caregivers which caused socio-emotional issues.
All of these “extras” would have created well rounded individuals. So, maybe having “toys” in photography is like children having toys. You don’t necissarily need to spend hundreds upon hundreds of dollars on a single toy for your child – the same benefits could be obtained by a toy under $100, but by having the toy, they are given an opportunity to develop. These toys are now being viewed as a necessity (it’s just consumerism that drives the idea that some toys are far superior to others, not the idea that the use of the tool is what makes it essential), as they elicit healthy growth and development in children. So adding to my collection of “toys” has the potential to develop my skills along with increasing my passion!
My passion and love, however, are regularly fueled with “the basics” of my iPhone and my “big” camera. I know that even though I’m DYING to get my hands on this, and some of this, and this, and even this, patience insures that it may not happen today or tomorrow, maybe I’ll get it someday, and in the meantime, at least we’re all eating!
So here I am being patient. Not complaining, just spamming Facebook every now and then to let the world know that I still want it, I haven’t yet gotten it.
And then, a new and dear friend (don’t you love it when that happens in your life? I mean, we meet all the time, but out of nowhere you find a friend, and they are just… awesome? And your kids like each other too?) sent me a random message one day asking me if I’d be interested in a film camera. Her mom was cleaning out her living space and was hoping the camera would go to a good home.
Of course I said (as calmly as I could manage), “Sure!” not really knowing the details.
Then a few weeks pass and we keep missing chances to get together. This kids are sick, stuff comes up. You know.
Then we have a playdate and we *almost* forget again. But then she runs to the car, and she when she comes back to the house she is carrying a carseat with a beatiful 70-210 f/4 lens cradled inside. Whoa, a lens too?
She runs back to the car.
When she comes back she is carrying a GORGIOUS leather case, and inside is a Canon AE-1. The camera is wearing a lovely 50mm f/2.8 lens. The camera and lens are hugging a Speedlite 188A. And all I can say is, “Um. WOW. Thank you. Thank you so so much!” And I begin insisting that I need to thank her and her mother appropriately and words really aren’t enough to show my gratitude.
And then later, when I have a second, I take a look at that 70-210mm lens and it’s a macro.
I was gifted a camera. With a working battery. And two lenses. And a flash. And a case. With manuals…
Speaking of manual, this is my first film camera that is 100% manual. No auto light evaluation. No auto focus. No shutter priority, no aperture priority. I even have to manually set the ISO based on the film I’m using. I have load the film, I have to wind the film.
I’ve been trying to find a comparison with another hobby, and I’m at a loss. It’s like being gifted a vintage guitar? It’s like coming across and turntable and a vintage record collection? I suppose. It is about a dedication to the passion because there is no convenience. The items have to be better cared for, and more time, energy and funds have to be devoted. In return, you receive a different kind of quality. Ironically, another friend sent me a link to this article the day before I received the camera, a discussion on analog vs. digital. A thought provoking read.
So now I’m rambling because the excitement of it is hitting me again. I have to step out of the comfortable nest that the convenience of digital has created around me. I have pull out my knowledge of the science of photography, the elements and principles of design as related to composition, and I have to shoot with intention. Because I don’t get unlimited shots. I get 24 – 36. And I have to pay for every one of them. Literally.
Someone asked me why the Instax camera was “better than” my good camera, why I would want something like that. How do you explain the reason behind passion? Why an artist who uses charcoal ventures into oil pastel. Why an electric guitarist goes acoustic. Why a chef who focuses on Italian cuisine takes a trip to France…
I tried to answer as best I could…