film, happiness, wanderlust and joy: an explanation of why I shoot film

shoot-116I try to shy away from it, but there’s an inevitable argument that is forced upon you when you shoot film.

I’m not much for the discussion, really. I find it interesting that film shooters are always forced to justify their medium. Some of us voluntarily do it, but I’d be willing to bet that they are the minority. The question “why?” when posed to us is rarely curiosity, it’s an assault. A doubt of our common sense or our sanity. An implication we are doing something wrong. And our responses seem to belittle our questioners, perpetuating the activity.

I don’t engage in this. Personally, I am not so conceited as to think I should dictate to someone else how they do their art, how they pursue their passion, or go out of my way to criticize and belittle anyone who doesn’t do things the exact same way I do them.The one good thing all this kerfuffle does, though, is occasionally make me wonder why. Why do I do things the way I do?

I feel my skills as a photographer only grow when I shoot film. I can give you semi-empirical evidence to support this, but it’s beside the point. I only found my voice as a photographer on film. The why of that is a process related phenomenon. I deeply enjoyed John Kossik’s piece on the scientific method and using film, framing it as the need to think before we do and not the other way around (you can read John’s piece on Japan Camera Hunter here). The results I have achieved have fueled my passion for process and my process itself. I am not that good of a photographer. But I may yet be one, and the process of becoming is bringing me joy in ways no other thing can. shoot-118

There’s a great poster making the rounds of the internet I had found some time ago. It contains something called the Holstee Manifesto. You can read the Manifesto in it’s entirety here. The bicycle community is abuzz about the Manifesto today. It contains some excellent thoughts about life and passion and joy. Several of the dictum on that poster speak to me as truth, because I know them to be true from my experience. “Travel often; getting lost will help you find yourself.” Taking a bit of a wrong turn outside of Creede Colorado led to abandoned railroad equipment when I had my F3 full of Velvia 50. Little accidents like that have helped me find my happiness in some very unexpected places. Nailing exposures was part of it, but finding something that spoke to me was the best part. Even if no one else cared for the shots, I had found something about myself pushing a shutter on the side of a highway, looking a the detritus of industry and the foothills of the Sangre de Christos mountains.

Another part of the Holstee Manifesto urges us: “If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; they will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love.” Another thing I have found to be true. In every previous relationship, I have had to try to explain why I take pictures to someone. And without exception, this has failed. But I eventually found someone who wanted to go on photo walks with me, who is perfectly accepting of me developing in the kitchen sink. Who honestly looks at what I do and tells me what is good and what is not without rancor. Someone who understands that every hike, every bicycle ride, every road trip, and every adventure must be preceded by camera and film choice.

So when people ask my why I shoot film, the answer is a little more profound than they expect. Without film, I would not be the photographer I am going to be, nor would I know how it is to truly love another. Film is one of the most profound influences on my life, and I would be an entirely different person without it.

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