WARNING : the following camera review doesn't revolve solely around pictures. And there's a GREAT reason why. Just bare with me ok?
I'm talking about the need of giving something back to the people we encountered and that were unbelievably nice to us. Some of them gave us food, some of them gave us drinks, some of them payed for our meals, some of them offered us shelter during bad weather, some of them allowed us to watch their band practice. Everyone of them gave us something different, but they all have something in common: they all gave us a little bit of their time, a little bit of their life.
And I felt extremely powerless in not being able to give something back. Sio, on the other hand, always made little comics as a thank you token to everyone. And I was terribly envious of that. Sure I could have taken portraits of those people and mailed them the photos, and in some cases that's exactly what I did, but it's simply not the same. In this gifting process, I would have had people waiting for those pictures and I didn't like that idea. It's like when you give your friends their christmas presents and they say : "Mine's on the way, you'll have to wait a little bit for it". Once you finally get your present, it really has to be an amazing one or you won't feel that pure joy of receiving something. The moment's gone, it's not a present anymore, it's something you now EXPECTED.
So anyways, prior to having Fujifilm as our technical photographic sponsor for the project, I didn't know much about the INSTAX cameras and, frankly, I didn't like them a whole lot. They looked like toys to me, with their pastel colors and chubby shapes. When I was invited by Fujifilm Japan to meet them at their Headquarters in Tokyo, for the first time I saw the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 and fell in love with the design and features.
It took me TEN days (because I'm an idiot) to realized that camera could represent the solution to my problems. I bought it in a store in Hakodate, sadly already very close to the end of our travels.
And EVERYTHING changed since that very day.
First things first, let me tell you why I ABSOLUTELY LOVE this camera:
- It looks like a Fujifilm X100s (aka: it's gorgeous)
- It's so lightweight you'll forget you have it on you. I did, multiple times. You will as well.
- The battery lasts FOREVER. (Forever being approx. 200 photos!)
- It uses Fujfilm Instax Mini film, with their awesome and convenient cartridges of 10 film sheets.
- It creates beautiful, saturated and sharp credit-card sized memories
- It's FUN to use
- People love having their photos taken with instant film
- The face most people do when they see the film coming out of the camera is PRICELESS.
So why was this camera such a big game changer for me, you ask?
Well, simply because until that moment I had never been able to produce tangible moments with my photos. You have to realize that, as a self taught 26 years old photographer, I was “photographically speaking” born in the digital age and had never worked with film before.
Out of the blue, with the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90, I was finally able to take a quick photo of someone or something and immediately have it there. Finished.
Without thinking of how to retouch it, how to name it, how to use it.
I started snapping away photos of all the people we met. And printing (literally) all of those moments that felt important to me.
Because, you see, when I have a camera in my hands, I stop LIVING the moment and I start putting all my focus on CAPTURING it. There’s a thin line between the two things. And some people don’t feel it: they just naturally flow between living something and capturing it, they’re are able of not taking themselves out of the picture (figuratively). I can’t and it’s always been kind of a problem for me. Now the fact itself of being able to give a photo to someone is my way of BEING in that moment.
Anyways, for the rest of the trip, I started collecting great moments, memories, feeling on Fujifilm Instax Film and loved it.
But I didn’t understand the real power of this camera until, a month later, I was flown to rural Ethiopia to be Steve McCurry’s first assistant on assignment.
In breaks between shootings, every one in the team I was with didn’t miss any chance to ask the locals to pose for a picture. A guy standing next to a hyena. A mother holding her newborn child. Kids playing with branches in the forest. Smiles.
And what bugged me was the fact that, most probably, those people would have never seen the photos they were posing for. Everyone was deliberately STEALING a second of the life of someone else, without giving anything in return.
That’s when it hit me. I pulled out my instax, a couple of film packs, and started shooting away. With the difference that I never kept the photos. I would shoot a slide of film, show them the film processing and after thanking them, giving the credi card sized memory to them. I never kept any of those.
And it. Felt. Amazing.
Wanna know why?
Because for the first time in my life i could stop saying “Hey, can I TAKE a photo of you?” and started saying “Hey, can I GIVE you a photo?”
And I actually still do. And that’s the superpower this camera has.
Long story short: in the last 5 months, I shot over 1000 Instax films. Do you know how many do I have? 59.
The more time I spend shooting with this camera, the less photos I have. And I love it.
Because it makes my day to be able to give something to the people I photograph. Or to the people I like. Or to anyone, at any given time.
As a photographer, the most important part of my job isn’t taking pictures: it’s looking, hearing, being there. And even though I might not ask someone for a picture every time, I sincerely just feel grateful for being there, for all this humanity to be constantly around me, inspiring me.
Too emotional? Maybe. But that’s exactly who I am. With or without this awesome camera in my hands.
And now, dive into the few photos I have. Most of them are always with me, in my wallet, where I want friends and family to be when I travel alone : close to me.