You know those sleepless nights spent on the computer, jumping between Youtube videos, tech blogs, facebook, weird twitter accounts ecc ecc? Well, I had one of those over a month ago.
No, wait. That's a lie. I have one of those EVERY OTHER DAY.
But in that particular one, over a month ago, something different happened : for some weird reason, I kept stumbling upon content that had to do with medium format film. Youtube videos of photographers talking about it (yes, Zack Arias played a major role there), reviews of medium format digital bodies and comparisons with film, entire new bodies of work shot of old Hasselblad cameras and tons of other stuff I couldn't recall to save my life.
Long story short, before giving my eyes a rest from hours and hours of internet and surrender to sleep, I found an old Mamiya 645E body + lens bundle on Ebay Australia and bought it for dirt cheap.
My first film camera. EVER. My whole body was shaking with excitement as I was waiting for it to be delivered the following week and, I swear, I felt like I started growing a tail just for the sake of being able to wag it.
When the camera finally arrived in my hands, I made sure I had enough rolls of 120mm ILFORD DELTA 400 film to start shooting right away.
It took me an insane amount of time to shoot the two pictures above. Something I would have never expected and needless to say, never experienced before. Two frames in and I had already learned something important about the difference between shooting digital and shooting film :
- It's not how many photos you shoot, it's how many you don't shoot.
Having a limited amount of exposure for each roll of film (15 on a 120mm roll of film due to the 6x4.5 ratio of this camera) you really want to make sure you use all of them to their fullest. With digital I'm used to shoot a couple of frames JUST TO GET THE EXPOSURE RIGHT. Or to try this angle, or that one.
With film, you'll find yourself putting the camera in front of your face and get right to the moment of clicking the shutter just to go "No, not worth it" and put it down again. I'm pretty sure most of you will go "DUH, tell me something I don't already know" but for me that was kind of an epiphany.
So I skipped the whole "let's get comfortable with this new awesome camera before I point it at someone's face" and went right to it.
I gotta admit it, hearing the shutter of this beautiful beast of a camera is a little orgasm.
And I wanted to shoot more and more and more. But I rapidly realized another giant difference between digital and film:
- You naturally want to keep it down to ONE frame per subject
Suddenly, it's not a problem to wait. To slow down. To take two extra seconds from the beautiful stranger that agreed to have their photo taken. Or two extra minutes. Or to capture a moment and not the next one.
It's not about how many different variations you can later choose from, it's the one you feel like capturing.
Point in case, the guy with the baseball hat lighting his cigarette: I kept him there for a couple of minutes, staring at me without clicking that shutter. It simply didn't feel right. He then asked me if he could light up his smoke and when he did, I felt it. I shot it. And now, looking back, I couldn't be happier.
When I received the scans two days ago, the third big difference between digital and film was made obvious to me (my friend Mauro Palmieri had already explained this to me though).
- You gotta make sure you keep your exposure constant among all the frames in a roll
Again, something we're absolutely not used to when it comes to digital: if you voluntarily overexpose some frames in a roll, you gotta keep overexposing the others or the developing of the pictures will suffer. As you can see, in some of these photos, the blacks are not as deep as they should be.
It's funny to learn all this new "old things".
But there's a last one, MAJOR thing that my first roll of film taught me. And it's one I really wasn't expecting, that hit me deep inside and gifted me with a whole new emotion.
- With all the time that goes between shooting a frame and getting it later developed once you finished the roll, you will eventually forget you shot some of those photos. And it will be amazing to feel again moments you let pass by in your memory.
When I received the scans, I almost cried. These photos fell so REAL compared to most of the ones I shoot everyday. Stumbling upon them, I started remembering certain smells, sounds and details about those moment, imprinted in my memory somewhere I couldn't recall.
This last picture hit me more then any other.
My first beer with Annalisa, the moment I first discovered what's behind that familiar face of hers. The breeze blowing her hair on the rooftop bar. The weird canadian couple we met. Entering random doors on the way to dinner and walking in an artist in her studio. Pork. Asking strangers to put glitter on your face. Cycling in the rain. Following strangers to a bar. Running away from them when you realize they are putting drugs in everyone's drinks.
All of that, because of this portrait.
Maybe it's just me, maybe i'm just over excited about discovering new things about photography.
But I swear that it had never happened to me before. Digital pictures, most of the times, don't bring all this luggage of emotions, sensations and memories with them.
So, in the end, will I stop shooting digital and shoot film only from now on? FUCK NO.
But will I keep on shooting film for the things that really matter to me and I want to remember? HELL YES.