When I bring my camera out to shoot I often get labelled a ‘hipster’, often this term is used in a derogative way. My reasons for using the methods I use are part of a considered methodology and routed in traditional photographic education.
My first experience and memories of photography was with the assembly and ritual of the family album. My parents taking turns with the family point and shoot 35mm camera during various significant events. Along side this, was the customary waiting for the films to come back from the developers, opening the envelope and flicking though the glossy six by nine prints to see the range of successes and remembering the past activities, often months after the actual event.
It was years later that I had my first formal lesson in photography. As with many photographers this was starting out using pinhole cameras. With photographic paper being stuck to the inside of a battered coffee tin and a lump of Blu-Tack covering the irregularly punched hole. This first experimentation into using light and time produced some questionable results, but they were my first ever images that I captured and developed.
I can still remember my photography teacher at college, Graham Piggott, asserting to me to “get it right in the camera”. Whilst being over ten years ago and still remembering this lesson, I have not always remembered to put this lesson into practice. I have many examples of underexposed, out of focus and accidental double exposure when I have forgotten to wind the film on. Although going about this the hard way, these mistakes have allowed me learn.
Throughout my experiences shooting, my photographic practice has had to be refined and refined again; knowing when and where to meter, where to position myself and others and when there is simply not enough light for my film choice. I believe that this has served me in becoming more aware as a photographer; aware of light, the limitations of my equipment and how far I can push my resources.
Further to these practical reason as to why I shoot film, there is also theoretical reasons based on that of the photograph being an object. Through the process of exposing a frame of film to light, a physical process is taking place. The silver halides change, making the film a unique physical manifestation of a past event. I believe that we link photographs to our own personal history, memories and emotions. To look upon a photograph is one step away from looking at the real person, place or event. This in turn makes the photograph an object that is unique and precious. To hold a photograph in one’s hands instantly fills us with a type of etiquette, we know we must act carefully, respectfully and not to damage its surface. Sontag (1983) explains that in our reluctance to tear up or throw away the photograph of a loved one, especially of someone who is dead or far away, could be seen as a ruthless gesture of rejection. To damage or to destroy the photograph is to damage the memory. To mark, rip, delete or to even destroy a photograph has powerful ramifications and can be seen as an insult. Once a photograph has been destroyed it can no longer be looked at again, if it cannot be looked at then we can no longer use this object as a stimulus, so in effect the loss of the photography means the loss of a memory.
I am also influenced by the artist Joachim Schmid, he is of the opinion that out of the vast quantities of photographs that are produced the majority of these remain unseen. In an interview in 2003 Schmid jokes, “No more new photographs until the old ones have been used up!”. For me to photography, there has to be a considered reason, I do not simply point and shoot.
I regard my methodology, and the fundamentals I approach every project with, as; having a mindset of considering a photography a precious object, using the lesson of ‘getting it right in the camera’ and using the shot limitations of a roll of film. These form part of the reasons why my preferred photographic practice is to shoot using range of analogue cameras. My go to cameras being an Olympus OM1 with a 28mm lens, and a medium format TLR Rolleicord.
A recent personal project of mine, titled ‘Memory’, has explored these topics further. In a trip to my parents home, my childhood home, I documented objects, ornaments and decorations, that make my parents ‘them’. To produce a series of portraits though objects and spaces. The two staples in my life are growing older which is something that as I too grow older become more aware of. Within the image I focused on the evidence of what indicates and suggested, to me, the ageing of my parents.