One of the joys of any hobby is the never ending process of learning and experimenting. As long as you remain curious, there is always something new to learn and master.
Photography has been as exceptionally rich source of such pleasures from the time I seriously began to explore it as beyond a simple means to an end. I can trace that moment back to 2000 when I bought my first digital camera, a Casio point-and-shoot, and found myself beginning to become interested in the hows and whys of taking photographs.
It was a slow learning process. Nonetheless, with each new insight into camera technique, I became more adept at producing an interesting photograph. That process continued up until about 2013. At that point I was not only an effective master of my equipment, at that time a near-top-of-the-line Canon 5D Mark III and a clutch of ‘L’ lenses, but I was pretty much up to date with the latest technology too.
It was at this point that I began a radical reevaluation of my photography. I had reached some sort of apogee, but I was increasingly missing the point of what photography was all about. I had become seduced by technique and equipment and was in the process of losing whatever artistry I already possessed. In other words, I had become a commonplace competent digital photographer. I knew how to take the sort of photographs that get ‘oohs’ and ‘aaahs’. What I did not know was how to take the sort of photographs that spoke to my soul.
Something pretty radical was required. So I deliberately decided to step back, by-pass decades of technological advances, and move into older and by now decidedly unfashionable photographic techniques. Hence film.
Again, the learning process was steep. Although I began as a film photographer in my youth, I never really paid much attention to the doing. Now I was not only applying all the camera expertise I had acquired with my digital experience, but going much further into doing my own film developing and gelatin silver printing. Wet chemical processes far removed from the tidy world of a computer and keyboard.
As radical reinventions go, it was most effective. As film cameras are no longer made in any quantity, certainly not with today’s technological advances and are most often discontinued completely, I was compelled to hunt down used cameras. Beforehand, I rarely bought old or used equipment, caught up as I was in the thrill of the new. Soon I had a clutch of Canon EOS film bodies to match my lens collection. A Rolleiflex and a couple of Contax camera came my way from my father. My digital cameras were put to one side, not abandoned but far less used.
Concurrent with the use of these wonderful film instruments, I began to explore the history of photography. The aesthetics, artists and trends. It became clear that much of what was touted as new was no more than a reinvention of much that had been done in the past.
It was wholly liberating, this process. I began, perhaps for the first time, to feel like a real photographer. Not the best or most popular, but true to myself. That’s where I am today and this is exactly where I want to be.