Analog Film Photography in 2022

With my new(ish) Lumix digital camera propelling my photography forward and motivating me to just SHOOT MORE, January was truly a busy month of collecting stories around me and culling & editing all of the images. I'm so grateful to live in a place that inspires me to shoot, provides different locations that inspire me to try new techniques (new to me) and has exciting subjects and characters all of the time.

So interestingly enough, February was the month when I unwrapped my old 35mm camera (a Nikon N65), filled it with fresh batteries and a roll of film. An almost (possibly?) 20 year-old roll of film at that! Let's start with unpacking the first part of that:

For better or for worse, Instagram acts as a kind of library of photo books and zines for me. I follow and scroll many many photographers' pages, from hobbyists to some award-winning photo journalists and fine artists. All of them inspire me. I began to get more curious about the ones who like to shoot analog-style, with film. How do they develop those rolls of film -- by themselves in the bathroom sink? Some do, yes.  Or at a lab they trust? Some do, yes.

WHERE ARE the old photo development labs in town now anyway? I'm not interested in messing up my bathroom sink with chemicals and hanging rolls of film next to my hand-washables. I'm not interested in buying one of these new development kits and screwing up what could be a roll of GOLD IMAGES (ha!). Long gone are the little yellow Kodak shacks I used to deliver my 1 roll of 35mm or disposable camera I took of my schoolmates on the last day of school. It was costly and my allowance was bare minimum!  Long gone are the well-known 23-minute photo locations where I used to take my 6-10 rolls of film after a day of location scouting for a movie I'd be scouting for. Oh man, we used to sit there and wait for each roll to come out and start taping the 4-8 verticals together to make many, many panoramics. It would take us hours at the end of the scouting day, sitting there with our big fat dispensers of scotch tape and file folders. And the creatives would flip through the precisely taped-together pans in a millisecond if they didn't like the location INSTANTLY. Thank goodness the development process was quick and convenient. No matter what part of the Los Angeles area you'd end the day, there was a 1-hour or 23-minute spot.

But no more. So even if I wanted to shoot some film, what's then?

Well, I did. I did shoot some film. And I did try (and like 👍 ) a photo development lab en route between me and my day job yaaaaay!  I've shot a bunch of rolls in fact, and February isn't even over! You can see how my first few rolls came out on my instagram highlight Analog. Added bonus: they can print some of my fine art images in smaller sizes, and because they are local, I am more able to produce prints on super short notice if needed.

As to why I study the analog photographers I do, it's because 1) they are so good at it, 2) so many comments about my "photo style" use words like "vintage" or "retro," and 3) those comments aren't wrong. Without knowing what technically pulls me in, I do like that analog look in general, and often work towards that feel in my photo editing. For me, there's a film tone full of memories to the photos I held in my hand growing up in the 1970s-1980s time period. Kids taking shots at weird angles while in motion, on bikes, with bright colors behind them or wearing them. Photos that look like the after-school specials I'd see. There's a sentimental tone in photos from the 1950s-70s because they were usually of the generation before me, family members with cool old cars in front of small houses, in black-and-white or faded over time to muted colors. Those remind me of bad educational films made for my parents' generation that we watched because they still hadn't been updated for my generation. All of this is to say, NOSTALGIA. Film photographs, no matter when they are shot, illicit a nostalgically-connected quality for me. That might be why I sometimes edit my digital photos like I do. It might be why I take photos of everything. I'm trying to preserve a moment that will one day be nostalgia.

Yet if anyone -- I -- can mimic it enough to suggest the nostalgia digitally, why bother with the slow analog film process? My colleague/friend and award-winning photographer Hannah suggested that those reasons are as individual to the artist as their style of photography. I can see for me, trying film again was about curiosity, self-challenge, competitiveness and a meat & cheese refrigerator drawer full of leftover film I'd moved from fridge to fridge over the last 15-20 years.  (The film, not the meats & cheeses!) For these last two decades, going for some thawed steak meant hearing the rattle of film canisters. Mostly Fujifilm Superia 800CZ, which we LOVED to use in my early location scouting days, these several rolls were not only expired film that perhaps smelled like pepper jack cheese, but they were clutter if not put to their intended purpose. This month, I decided to allow them to live their best life, whatever they had left. It was time to find out what all the "film hoopla" was about. Would I be "wowed" by the analog quality? It was time to see if I could remember what little I knew about shooting with film, if my consistent camera practice (albeit, digital) has taught me better technique, and if I could call myself a "photographer" just because I could learn to shoot again with film.

This was not the month to make final determinations on any of those inquiries judging by the results of my first attempts!! Between the expired film, an older camera that works a little backwards from my current one, and the reality that my knowledge has been slowly self-taught through trials and fails, I expect this re-learning curve will be a long process. One that I can hopefully sustain with growing curiosity, a steady income flow and encouragement from my peers and you all!

Follow me on Instagram to see some of my better analog outtakes, and just maybe, some limited editions of these analog shots will eventually follow...? Until the next long rant --

In gratitude,