Film is not dead – it’s the name of a forum I tag into when I share images taken on film on my Instagram account. I have an absolute love for film, as many photographers do. I love the feel of it; it takes a totally different image to that of a digital camera and whilst I love my digital camera just as much, the results from the two are very different.
When I was completing my photographic training in London, I spent 6 weeks learning from a guy called Bill Ling, an amazing tutor who I learned so much from. Bill is a photographer who grew up on film and inspired me to buy my first film camera. I loved spending time in the dark room learning this craft at Holborn Studios and also seeing frame after frame of polaroids of the artists of years gone by. Bill told me that photographers used to get a Polaroid back for their film cameras to test their settings and these were usually signed by the artist being photographed and these now adorn the walls of the studio creating a piece of history that’s so exciting! Of course, these cameras are only available second hand now (at least I believe this is the case?) and he recommended a Nikon FE, which was the professional film camera of its day and the one Bill still uses now. As a Canon girl, the stepover to Nikon seemed a bit out of my comfort zone. However, the Canon of the time was not as easy to use as the Nikon and given that these cameras are so different to digitals, it made little difference to change brand. A google search threw up Nicholas Cameras in Camden (yay, back there again – I LOVE Camden!!). This place is an emporium of bygone times. Of course it has the modern day stuff too, but it has box after box of old vintage film cameras and accessories, a time-warp in both smell and sight. Several boxes in and out comes this battered up old camera, with no lens or cap (I had kittens about that one!), but after a quick clean up it was good to go. I was very fortunate that they also had a 50mm 1.4 lens in stock to go with it which cost as much as the camera body! Again it was a bit battered with all the stories it had to tell, but this lens was just perfect for what I wanted to achieve.
It was surprisingly simple to use, although much more limited in its capabilities, and making that move (albeit just for personal work) from digital to film is a steep, steep learning curve. Firstly, trying not to take 5 pictures where one would do. Film is very expensive to process. I’ve just had 3 rolls of 36 back and to have 5×7’s printed with a high resolution CD was over £130!! Secondly, metering is totally different and with the ASA (ISO) being determined by the film itself and the shutter only going up to 1,000 meant there are some pictures you just can’t take. I’ve learnt a bit about push and pull process so you can get a bit more from the films speed and enjoyed trying this out at a family wedding this year. I’m also looking forward to getting my hands on some other older brands of film not readily available – watch this space!
All this said, the overall feel is so worth it. The excitement when you’re waiting to get it back from the lab, for it to drop through your letterbox and the feeling of opening the parcel to see what pictures you actually have, is irreplaceable in today’s digital age. It takes you back to the all important decisions you had to make, when coming back from a girls holiday to Ayia Napa – do I pay a bit more and go for the hour service at Boots or shall I pay a bit less but have to wait for 3 days??? Decisions, decisions!!!
So, I’ll leave you with a few examples of some of my absolute favourite film captures of a journey that continues and a massive learning curve that will never end!