The fear of film: nostalgia, trust, passion, and breaking habits of the digital age

Recently we’ve had an itch. A thirst for knowledge to better our understanding of photography and grow deeper in love with this form of art that has consumed us. Some of our readers may remember back in the day, when film was normal, it was the only option for recording memories through photographs, and some may have grown up solely in the digital age where options are limitless. We grew up with both. But, over 10 years ago when we decided we had an interest in photography, digital was the latest and greatest and everyone was doing it, so we did it too. And we got hooked (still are) but now we want to take a step back into time, and go back to the roots of photography where it all began with that oh so familiar sound of a film canister popping open and the aroma of a fresh roll of Kodak 35mm.

The Fear

When we first created Copper Hill Photography we promised that we would be open and honest about this journey. So I’m going to be humble and share that through our entire journey with photography, we can both admit to having dealt with fear related to it. That may sound strange if you haven’t lived it, but art truly is in the eye of its beholder. So to share with the world what you perceive as beautiful and meaningful and hope that they feel the same can be scary. Its vulnerable to spend so much of your time eating, sleeping, and breathing this one thing and hope that others see the value in what you do too, and wondering if your good enough? That fear grew with film. Now all those same fears are there, only there are added fears like “Do I know as much as I think I know?” “Am I doing this right, because I only have one shot?” “ Am I wasting my time because none of these photos are going to turn out?” With film, you can’t just look at the back of your camera to check for exposure and composition, we’ve tried but its just not there. We’ve said before and we’ll say it again, that we never want to stop learning, we’re not simply going to wish that we were better photographers, we’re just going to be better, more convicted photographers. And this is what we mean when we say we want to push our boundaries, to push past the fears, trust our ability to create and our knowledge and just do.

Nostalgia

It has been close to 15 years since either of us have regularly shot with 35mm film, and it was definitely well before we knew anything about photography at all. Growing up we both had handled many point and shoot film cameras. I remember using those old 110 film cameras, you know the one that looks like an oversized remote control. I took it to summer camp with me one year and had great fun with it. The photos were terrible, but I enjoyed it. Years later I played around with that film that did the panoramic modes but never laid hands on a professional grade SLR. We had been dreaming about one day getting one and finally I surprised Priscilla with one as an early birthday present. I searched internet forums and found that the Canon 1n was a great bang for the buck, which is exactly where I want to start with this new endeavor. So out of curiosity I checked out eBay to see if anybody had any good deals and made a snap decision to put a bid on one with only one minute to spare before bidding was over. Needless to say we are now the proud new owners of this well taken care of, vintage, piece of equipment.

There is just something special about film, it’s hard to describe. I guess the best way to describe it is Authentic. It is real…Physically. You hold it in your hand, you send it out and wait with anticipation to view your captures and after it’s developed you can even hold it up to the light, squint your eyes a bit and see an image and say I remember taking that photo! Try doing that with an SD card and you will look a little crazy.

Trust 

Obviously the biggest difference between digital and film is the physical media itself. You put trust into this hunk of meticulously engineered metal that the mirror will flap up, the curtain opens for the perfect amount of time, the film collects the light, and the frame moves into a safe place for a hopefully perfect exposure. But the trust goes further than the equipment itself. You have to trust your knowledge of actually operating the equipment. Film is expensive. You can’t just take a million photos hoping that a couple turn out to be art. You see Priscilla and I are kind of control freaks when it comes how our cameras work. We shoot 100% manually all the time. I’m sure a lot of you will not understand the concentration and thought process that goes into this, but just understand that we do not rely on the camera’s computer at all. With film this has even more implication. The other part of the trust is that this delicate roll of light will be handled properly and developed with care.

Passion

We have decided to dabble in this vein of photography because we have a passion and appreciation for photography. Modern digital cameras have come a long way but we feel we need to know where it all started. I feel like the limitations of 36 frames per roll will actually make our art more intentional and purposeful. In a way, the limited amount of photos it is kind of freeing. You are not endlessly firing off frames, you have to think about exposure and composition and do it right the first time, because you can’t just review it and take it again. We’ve always thought that photographers that came from the analog era probably have a better knowledge of how cameras work. We want to get back to our roots, and develop more confidence and trust in our own skills.

Breaking Habits of the Digital Age

Priscilla and I have been part of a generation with many changes. We began our lives in a fairly analog world. True we had color TV, microwaves, and even the original Nintendo. Things quickly changed in our young lives to a more digital and virtual world. Evolving at a crazy pace. Digital cameras became more that just a cool gadget. Modern day cameras like Iphones, pro DSLR’s, and GoPros have brought photography to the masses and now everyone is a photographer. In a way, the ease and accessibility of digital photography has made us lazy, and by us I mean all of us as a whole. We think to ourselves “we’ve taken great pictures and they’ll be safe on our computers forever for us to refer back to and reminisce with whenever we’d like”. And while that’s great that all of these lives are being so freely and richly documented, they are also forgotten lives… we call this the ”the lost generation”. Photos get lost when computers die, some never make on to new computers purchased and they are forgotten about. I know this sounds kind of dark, negative, and harsh but hear me out. People are not printing their photos. There was a day when hallways were decorated with photos of loved ones, we no longer see this, and that saddens us.

We have by no means been anywhere near perfect about printing our own work but we have vowed to print more of our work to preserve memories for real. You can’t fully trust that years down the line your family will dig through all the photos on your outdated computers or see all your favorite photos on your Facebook wall or the smartphone you had back in 2017. They will see the actual photos in your albums and on the walls of your home. We believe that shooting with film will inspire us to print more. Call us hipsters for embracing an old technology, but there is authentic beauty and depth to be found in those old but strong roots of photography.

Not about to abandon evolving technology! 

We are not bashing nor are we trading digital for film. Digital photography has far too many advantages to abandon it, so we are going to be hybrid photographers to experience the best of both worlds together. We still plan to shoot primarily with our digital SLR’s, to ensure the look that our supporters have grown to love us for.  We’re doing this for us, we just want to push the boundaries of our knowledge further and get back to valuing the purpose behind photography. It is a back to the basics learning technique, we are going to focus on doing things right on the first shot, and even if it isn’t 100% correct, it will be authentic and adventurous and part of the story! Take a look here at our first hybrid wedding…

Let the Adventure begin!

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