Recently, I was asked, “why is film photography important to you?” Instead of engaging in a heated debate about why film is better than digital, I listed down all the important things in life that I learned, one roll of film at a time.
Slow down. Shooting with film is often regarded as slow photography — which is actually a good way to describe analogue photography, literally and figuratively. Everything about film photography forces you to slow down and pay attention to the whole image-making process — from choosing your camera and film, to fiddling with the settings, to composing your image (especially if you’re the detail-oriented type). In such a fast-paced world such as ours, it pays to slow down.
We develop from the negatives. I know it’s such a cheesy way to put it, but just like in film photography, we all have the innate capability to turn the negative things in life into positive ones. From another perspective in the film negative analogy, we all have positive and negative sides that give others a full picture of what we are as human beings.
Sometimes, you have to step out into the light to have a better picture of things. Starting with photography the traditional way made me understand how light — or the absence of it — can make or break a photograph. Does everything seem too dim, blurry, or obscure? Whether in photography or life in general, a little brightness may be all it takes. Try stepping into the light and see if things look better.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. If you’ve ever rummaged at a garage sale, flea market, thrift shop, second hand stores, quirky camera shops, your relatives’ (or friends’) basements/attics, you know what I’m talking about. Looking at life in general, this idiom simply says we all have different tastes, wants, and needs in life. So, are you ready to throw away that disgusting and moldy film camera that you find no other use for other than a vintage paperweight? You’re more than welcome to toss it in my hands, I could find a way to bring it back to life!
Go out of your comfort zone. It’s been said countless times but it pays to go out of your comfort zone. Try something new, go to places you’ve never been, meet new people and make new friends. Looking at all the film photos I’ve taken, I’ve certainly been getting the hang of trying and experiencing new things, photography-wise and life-wise: different cameras, different films, different places, different cuisines!
Bored? See things from a different perspective. Sometimes, all it takes for you to snap out of your boredom or creative dry spell. Think your photos look plain and mundane? What about life, does it feel like you’re stuck in a rut? Try a change of place, scene, or perspective — maybe you’re not just seeing (or photographing) the better side of things!
If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. All my life I’ve been hearing about this cliche on failing and trying again, but perhaps it has never been more applicable in my life than the time I started working with film. I don’t know how many times I’ve failed with my first Holga snaps, and how many rolls of film (and money) I wasted. But looking back, if I gave up soon after I was neck-deep in frustration, I wouldn’t be reaping the benefits of trying, trying, and trying again — and finally succeeding!