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art photography

Photography? (Maybe)

I’ve been following the Facebook page dedicated to former employees of Penn Camera and participating in the nostalgia. People are digging out old pictures and we’re all remembering what it used to be like.

It got me thinking about photography again. I haven’t been shooting much in years. I brought back a smattering of old pictures from mom’s place, mostly stuff I did in school and decided to share some of them on Facebook. Looking at, and holding these things brought back a lot of memories.

Digital photography has never done much for me. I just can’t get excited about it. When I looked at the prints and polaroids I made in school, I remember shooting it, but I also remember making that object. THe process of developing the negatives, cutting them up, making the prints in the darkroom, even matting and framing them are all part of the interest for me. There is a difference between capturing an image and taking a step in making an object. The film I develop was what received the light, and the chemicals I chose determined how that light would look on the film.

I know, it all sounds silly, but it does make a difference. Digital photography to me puts almost all of the emphasis on getting the shot. Yes, there is post processing, but I always feel like I’m doing a spreadsheet or something when I’m manipulating data.

I have been thinking that I should get a “real” digital camera soon. They really are remarkable these days, far far better than when I was selling them. No matter what comes out, I just can’t get excited about the gear, or the process. Certainly not excited enough to spend what it will take to get one of the cameras that interest me.

Then it struck me. All of the most recent pictures that I have a connection to were taken with cameras I still own. My best pictures in Yemen were taken with a Chinese folding camera from the mid sixties and a pinhole camera. Here was my rather radical idea; why not shoot film?

I immediately liked the idea. I figured I’d do a “last hurrah” with the cameras I own. Thought maybe I’d use the B&W slide service I’ve used in the past. The slides you get back from them are just gorgeous. Shooting film in the quantities I have in mind isn’t all that expensive, or at least it wasn’t until I looked at those slides. It would almost $20 a roll in processing, etc. Way too much, no matter how beautiful.

The second thought that struck me was why don’t I develop it myself? Film processing is dead simple, and incredibly cheap. Now we’re talking…

I’ll need to buy a few more things like a light meter, processing equipment, and the chemicals. The big expense will be the scanner. Yes, I could buy a passable digital camera for that kind of money, but I wouldn’t use it. I may have finally grown up, the thought of owning the niftiest camera doesn’t really excite me any more. The few things I have to buy are less expensive enow than they were when I sold them.

Here’s my plan. I am going to primarily shoot with medium format film with small cameras. I’ll develop the film myself and scan it myself. I’m going to try to use a single film type but probably use two different developers. This all sounds really exciting to me now, with any luck I’ll be ready (and still excited) when spring comes around. It’ll be good to flex my creative muscles again.

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