The Reel Deal
Recently, I’ve begun dabbling in the exhilarating realm of film photography.
Being surrounded by several avid film connoisseurs, the romantic in me has always urged to re-create the tingling, mind-numbing sense of awe I felt when I saw my friends’ photographs for the first, then tenth, time; yet I preferred to admire rather than adorn the camera strap around my neck.
Then, in a moment of spontaneity, I decided to purchase a disposable film camera and take photographs of life — as seen through my eyes — in Hong Kong, with the end goal of mailing them all to my pen pal in Ireland. Over the course of several months I meticulously planned, worried over and took 27 photographs of buildings, people, hiking trails and the like. Along the way, I began to develop an appreciation for the focus of film photography, and, suffice to say, I began to enjoy it… a lot. When I finally got my pictures printed, I spent many hours poring over each and every detail, laughing, sighing, gritting my teeth, calling my mom to take a look. I realized I had a lot to work on, but I was in love.
Before my trip to Scandinavia, I made the decision to capture many of Sweden and Denmark’s beauties via this newfound art form. Obtaining the camera was no problem; as I gushed to my sister (over Skype) about how much I wanted to experiment with film, she coolly noted that my dad’s old film camera (purchased way before I was born) was sitting, idle, in a little box hidden deep in her closet. A battery, a roll of film and a lot of cleaning later, the lens clicked to life — uttering a single zip noise — and, for the first time in my life, I stepped behind the camera that had been before me all throughout my childhood. I was ready to see the world through the eyes of a camera that had seen me so many times.
There is something mystic about film photography, at once so real and impermanent, that cannot be replicated in the oft-bloated excess of digital media. Something about the lighting seems a little different, the setting seems more alive, the picture takes on a greater meaning that is made more perfect by its own uniqueness. The amazing thing about film is that one cannot dwell on a picture for too long; once it has been taken and the gentle hum of the film echoes in a deep pocket, it leaves the mind and only re-enters it once the image returns, vivid as ever, in solid form, in what is a most beautiful reunion. One has no time, nor the resources, to fret over whether or not a certain angle was the correct one, and thus faith is thrown to chance and chance alone. The spontaneity then allows for the photographer to appreciate the moment as it is, without worrying over how to capture it, fully. Faith does the job.
And so it did.
This evening, my dad returned home with the seventy-five film photographs I had taken in Sweden and Denmark. For four hours, I did nothing but laugh, smile, sigh, scrutinize the details and thank the serendipity that blessed me on this trip. Yes, there were certainly images that had looked a lot better in my head; but there were also many images that I remember plagued me for hours in their uncertainty, yet turned out more wonderful than I could have ever hoped for. To my delight, everything also seems a little more poetic… not that Sweden, nor Denmark, needs more poetry, that is.
I’ve learnt a lot about film over the past few weeks, and I’m itching to learn more. The great thing is that I think I always will. Film brings with it such lovely surprises, and there are infinite surprises in this world I wish to stumble upon in the days, and years, to come.