We've always been close Photography and I, but like any relationship there have been ups and downs. Since I turned professional in 2009, photography has been my sole business. I feel incredibly lucky to earn my living from something I enjoy so much, but I realised last year that I'd stopped taking pictures for fun and it was in danger of becoming just "the job". I wanted to rekindle the spark and find the enjoyment that I first felt from making photographs. My old flame - film.
Digital cameras are my tools. They can produce amazing photographs, stunning quality and the convenience is great. What I don't like about digital is the bulk and the necessary evil of processing to get the best final results. Given the amount of filing, sorting, backing up, editing, etc that goes into a typical professional shoot, it's something I don't relish when it comes to personal work. And so to get the spark back, I turned to film.
Film is fun. Film is a nightmare. Film is beautiful. Damn this film that I have just ruined by accidentally opening the camera. Curse myself for not having this film wound on properly and missing out on 40 great holiday photos*. Forgive me film you beautiful tetchy medium.
* this happened on holiday. I was not happy - wife even less so.
Apart from the potential to require less editing, it isn't particularly convenient and certainly not cheap. A good roll of 35mm will cost around £6. Add that again for processing and by the time you've eliminated all the duff shots the costs creep up. My hit rate has been pretty good recently but still, it can get expensive.
Today the postman delivered a few rolls back from the lab and it's the best I've felt about shooting film for a while. All were shot on my Leica M6 which is mechanical, completely manual and a joy to use. Small, unobtrusive, quiet - German engineering at it's finest. It's a real camera. I have some great personal shots from my recent trip to South Africa which I'll save for another day, but the purpose of this post is to share some images from a visit to London in which I managed a couple of hours of street photography in the fading afternoon light.
Meeting up with a couple of photographer friends we took in the sights of the South Bank before darkness got in the way of proceedings. This was over a month ago and I've only just got round to getting the films developed. With no idea what they would be like, I'm pleasantly surprised.
I love the challenges of street photography. You've got to be on your toes technically and artistically; occasionally subtle, occasionally brazen. The M6 is just perfect for this type of photography and whilst not all perfect, they are what I set out to achieve.
This is how they came back scanned from the lab. All I've done is a couple of small crops, a few straightens and a bit of sharpening for the web. I love the black and whites but it's the colours I'm most happy with - which is normally the other way round for me. The colour images have the look which I adore and it's simply not the same with digital.
So Photography and I are having fun again right now. Whether I keep using film, who knows. But the past few months - and this set in particular - has helped me find the spark again. Love you Film (for now).