My Brain On Film
There's one thing that I've become quite aware of over the last few months and that's how far deep I was embedded in a digital-everything lifestyle. To think that film could even come close to what digital cameras offered me seemed absurd, or to think that writing with a real pen in a notepad was more convenient than just using a note taking app on my phone seemed silly.
Why would I want to shoot to an antiquated, grainy negative that required me to wait to see my photographs, sometimes for days or weeks?
I look around and see other photographers happily shooting film as if it's the most normal thing in the world. On the other hand, I had all but shunned it and thought it too unpredictable and unreliable. In contrast to then, I wrote recently about the satisfaction I've felt whenever I made a film photograph in comparison to a digital photograph.
In the nineties, and early in the 2000's when I was in high school, writing on paper, reading a real book and taking photographs with film were the way things were done. I have records of my time from primary school and high school, even old negatives from disposables I was given by my mum or dad that didn't need a cloud backup solution to remain in existence so long as they weren't thrown out over the years.
There's something great about expressing yourself creatively on physical media as opposed to digital, whether it's through photographing on film, printing your photographs or journalling with a notepad. I'm a prime example of someone who had lost touch with traditional and physically tangible methods of expression.
Film is an enlightening experience after shooting with the instant gratification of digital cameras for so long. When I take a photograph now, I instantly throw it out of my mind and remain in the moment, or try something new. When I'm connecting with a friend, collaborating, coffee or just hanging out, film has allowed me to remain present while still remaining a photographer. To me, that is the most important thing in hindsight.
Developing film is like cooking. I have to put effort in, I have to understand the process, to ensure my photographs are developed properly, but what results is a sense of wonder and accomplishment every single time I pull the reel out of the rinse and see my photographs recorded there for anyone to see.
And that's where patience comes into play. You have to exercise it in abundance with film. I've become less worried about immediately seeing my photographs. I'm in photography for the long haul, and in some strange way, the patience and "simmering" time between taking your photographs and seeing them along with the physical nature of it all makes it feel a little closer to an artistic endeavour.
On top of that, the results I get from Kodak TRI-X in particular have so much texture and life to them. Even having simulated Tri-X with my digital files, they don't feel the same, and rightly so.
Some of my most cherished and accomplished portraits often appear that way only after a good deal of time has been spent letting go of the rush you get when you first capture and process them. I become more critical the longer I sit on a piece of work, but I also learn to enjoy photographs I thought were only okay, realising their potential later on. Certain music in the same way can require time to really appreciate and love.
All of this has given me a profound respect for shooting digital like I shoot film. To enjoy the connection between me and the subject, to rely on my instinct for light, composition and focus, and to let the work simmer before I see it and process it for displaying. I have a great desire to dive into printing my work more, so I'm planning on investing in an Epson P600 fine art printer soon to realise this.
Many people never see themselves in print, and that's something I want to change with my work.