Sunday, July 5, 2015

Film Series

I've been inspired by the gorgeous slice-of-life photographs by MAV & SCB from 3191 Miles Apart since their first book, A Year of Mornings, was published in 2008.

Their daily life diptychs – composed of two film pictures, one from Maria Alexandra Vetesse in Portland, Michigan and one from Stephanie Congdon Barnes in Portland, Maine – invite introspection.

They are pictures that change my perspective and yet still make me feel welcome.

3191 Notes – No. 26

And so, I've been wanting to give film photography a try. 

Pic Me Up {film series} – No.1

There was something about taking pictures with the old film camera, a Canon AE-1, that seemed so natural. Organic. Walking along the banks of the Rappahannock river, we stopped to talk – with the divorced father fishing with his son (only on weekends, he whispered to us), the soft-spoken young man swimming with his dog, and the reckless men who proclaimed themselves "rednecks" floating down the river and over the rapids with neither boat, life jacket, nor good sense. At every stop, I asked permission to take a picture or two. The answer was always Yes, and with each satisfying click of the shutter, I eased into myself.

At first, I reflexively looked to the back of the camera for feedback after every shot. Like the driver of a new car, I reached for the gear shift where it used to be, in the old car, on the column not on the floor. Without the LCD display, histogram, and exposure information, taking pictures was more about seeing and less about thinking. As if sensing the shift in my disposition, nature responded with a soft summer breeze, sending the sun behind billowing clouds.

Only a few times in our lives do we have the privilege of knowing, in the moment, the meaning and impact of the moment itself. These vulnerable moments when I consciously advance the film, aware of small acts of kinship, I am blessed. For such a long time photography, for me, has been about making something to impress, something good, rather than making a connection. Certainly, there is nothing wrong in creating art that garners praise or applause or awards. But, on some level, I have always believed that I only matter if I can be good enough.

The digital camera, with all its bells and whistles, only serves to perpetuate my ability to hide. And now I find myself wondering who the real me is? With film photography I found the freedom to focus on the experience in an intimate way - slowly, thoughtfully, hopefully.

I have no idea if even one of the photographs will be successful - and that's okay. I learned the few dials and buttons by instinct, setting apertures and shutter speeds for the 400 ASA film based on experience and best guesses. But, for this one summer afternoon, picture-taking was about the process and not the product.

~ Epilogue ~

The pictures, printed by Richard Pro Lab, were more than I  hoped for. I can't really explain my visceral reaction to the pictures. They are not nearly as good as my digital work, and yet I love them just the same. Like lifelong friends, the images remind me of what I like about myself . . . they are willing to let me grow and change from the inside out . . . and they cheer me on every step of the way.

If you're interested in giving film photography a try – here's a great resource – I Still Shoot Film


  1. There was always something so exciting about getting photos back from the developer after shooting a roll of film--unfortunately, most of mine weren't keepers, but I still enjoyed the whole process. Now, I don't think I could go back to it as I've grown spoiled. Love the beautiful summer light in your photos and especially the shot of the little boy fishing.

    1. Roxanne, You are right - I'm spoiled, too. Doubt I could back to film exclusively, but I do want to keep a roll going - just for times like these - when I need to slow down and just enjoy the view!

  2. Ah the good old days of film, these photos capture it beautifully. Portland, MI got hit by a tornado back in June, crazy since they are kind of in the middle of the state. I get comparing how good we are as photographers with how many kind comments we get, eventually though we have to let that go, for our own sakes and for our own growth.

  3. Fabulous post. For that very reason I've held back on knowing my camera inside out. And I think that's what has made my iPhone photography different from my Canon too. I have an old film camera that I've been tempted to pick up but it's very far down the list. I love these shots. Great story tellers.


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