Hello Old Friend…
This summer, I made the brave/stupid decision to pick up a 35mm film for the first time in over 12 years. Why? I hear some of you asking. Hipster cool? Some nostalgic romanticism?
The answer needs some explaining, but it is totally worth it.
Not long after buying tickets to see Secret Cinema’s production of “Back to the Future” at the beginning of August, I received my first message from them relating to the production. There were some things that seemed reasonable/normal, no food or drink to be brought on site, no re-admitance, you know the usual, but there was one that cause a bit of a stir amongst some people on social media.
Guest’s were not allowed to bring mobile phones or cameras on site as “they did not exist in 1955” (the idea of the production was you were transported back to Hill Valley in 1955). I saw a few random complaints prior to the event about this, but nothing too serious. I, however could not get my head around the idea that I wasn’t allowed to take a camera on site.
I’ve been taking photos in some form or another for nearly 18 years (6 years film, 12 years digital) and I treat my photos like a diary. The thought of not being able to document, what was surely to be a high light of the summer didn’t sit well in my mind. I had a flash of inspiration, when did cameras start using 35mm film, as it turns out general production of 35mm cameras started around 1950!
TO EBAY BATMAN!
My man wife and I spent a bit of time looking at various cameras, and we agreed he would buy one and I was going to borrow it, as he had tickets to a show before mine. Long story short (the cancelation debacle has been well covered elsewhere) the man wife ended up going on the same day as me and decided to treat me to my own camera as a birthday present! I bought myself 2 rolls of black and white film as well.
Meet my Zeiss Ikon!
It’s from 1952, which means it was a loop hole in the “rules” for the production, which (on the day) the bag checkers at the gate thought was an amazing idea!
The camera is in incredible condition for its 60 years, but it doesn’t have anything like the functions I was used to when I shot on film. My two film cameras where an auto focus point and click and a late 70’s Pentax SLR, both with different benefits that made taking photos a little easier. My new toy…has none of them.
First problem, the view finder is not connected to the lens. Which leads to the second problem, the focus is set via a range finding control, this means you have to dial in the distance you think it is and hope. The third problem is the lack of a light metre, so again, lots of guessing. Fourth problem, you have to remember to turn a dial to monitor your film usage.
I realise this makes me sound like a bit of a modern day moron, but these all things I have learnt to completely take for granted.
So, lets talk about the results…
Well sadly, the first roll of film failed. It was developed and the nice people developing it said, they thought there was something wrong with the shutter, which is strange because the second roll was fine, I expected some teething problems with a 60 year old camera.
The second roll on the other hand came out very well.
This was the first picture I saw…if I didn’t know better, I would believe you if you told me it was taken in 1955, not 2014 in a shipping container made to look like a school on the inside. Little out of focus, but I still love the subject matter.
Biff and friends cursing around the site, a little over exposed, but nothing too bad.
I decided to take photos of my food, on film, because the complaint about instagram is, “Would you take photos of your food, if you had to develop the film, pay for the printings…” The answer is yes! I just wish the food wasn’t so good! Then I might have taken a better photo!
That’s me playing a 1950’s pinball machine, again a little out of focus, but still looks nice.
Goldie Wilson talking to the customers, focus is not on the subject, but I still like the picture.
I really like this because the focus is on that guy in the background…strange, mostly because the camera wasn’t set to focus on the foreground.
I think that worked out well.
I was chasing some dancers through the audience, I pointed clicked and hoped. You can see the 80’s looking dancer on the left.
This is the true gem on the roll. I think the fact that I managed to focus on the sign and not the sack race people makes this awesome! Again, if you saw this in a history book, would you know it was 2014?
George McFly talking to another cast member, a little out of focus, but George was pacing and I struggled to get a photo of him at all.
Another gem. This looks so timeless, the girls on the bench are Loraine’s friends, she is on the right. I love the eye contact between the guy and the girl.
Tried to get a photo of Doc, he was moving to fast and moved out of the focus area before I could get the picture off.
The next few are from the parade and they are all brilliant!
I wasn’t on the main green and was told to stay on this side of the road. At the time, I was a little annoy not to be sharing this with my friends, but on reflection, with these pictures, I am so happy I was stuck.
There was a letter press poster printing shop, this is the man wife printing his poster. Again, the focus isn’t right, but has character.
The next are photos of Marvin Berry and the Starlights.
It was getting late and dark, so I’m glad these pictures came out, even if they aren’t spectacular.
With a few pictures left on the roll, at a total guess, here is one of the others that I took…
That is the main area of the Tate Modern. I love this…I’m not completely sure why, but I do.
What have I learnt?
Film is fucking expensive! Way more than I when I used to shoot film. 2 rolls at £8 a piece and £13 a piece to develop…it was painful paying that much knowing how little control I had over the images. I might have been less worried had I been using my SLR, but I wasn’t, this was an expensive punt.
Luckily, colour film is cheaper to buy and develop, so from here on, film pictures are going to be shot on colour!
Managing the focus, exposure timing and aperture, with a range finder and no light meter is almost pot luck! Some of the best shots I took were taken at a reasonable distance with the focus set to infinity.
Lesson, stand well back, point, click, hope.
Taking photos of people on film is sooooooo much more satisfying. I’m not sure why…perhaps there is something in the spontaneousness of it all, you can’t keep snapping endless pictures and hoping, so you have to invest time in looking for THAT moment.
I’m not going to give up on digital. It is far to easy to carry my point and click and take meaningless photos of my friends in every condition.
If I was going to give a comparison between shooting on film on a camera like this and shooting digital with my DSLR, it would be hard, but I think I’ve got a good idea…It’s like making someone a mixtape on tape and CD/DVD full of MP3’s. One is focussed, full of planning and hope that it is appreciated on completion. The other is a flood that requires time to sift through to find something worthwhile.
Both have their place in the world, and I am happy I have access to both for the first time in 10 years.