I remember my first time. It was late spring, but summer had already set in. I was downtown, excited if not a bit nervous. I wanted to do it right even though I knew from other people that there was no real right or wrong way, that it’s a personal thing — everyone does it differently.
The details are a bit hazy: there was a metal door, a brick wall, concrete and a turquoise skirt. It was on the corner, on the edge of a rocky alleyway. It was a moment and before I had a chance to think or plan or make everything just perfect, it was gone.
I have proof that it happened, but that wouldn’t come for almost a week, after I’d taken to the lab the first roll of 120 film I’d shot with my new Holga CFN.
I’d been introduced to toy cameras years before, when I was an editor at a glossy city magazine, where one of my duties was producing and styling the monthly fashion spreads. It was an accessories shoot. I’d hired dancers as models and the photos were to be nudes. But rather than shooting it straight, regular, the same as it would be any other time, the photographer suggested he use his vintage Diana camera and purposely light-leak the film. It was a risk, but we took it and the photographs were breathtaking, with bursts of white light crawling up the bodies or hovering around their feet. I loved the images and the funny-looking plastic camera that created them.
It wasn’t until years later that I bought a toy camera of my own. Everyone I knew had gone digital. Friends had been nagging me to finally make the switch to digital and retire my tiny 35mm Canon. But I’d grown sick of seeing super-sharp, over-produced digital images everywhere. It didn’t seem right. I wanted something simple that at the same time would make me really consider my shots, not just dash off a hundred frames until I got it “right.” Then I remembered that weird little toy camera knew that was what I wanted.
Trusting that instinct was my first lesson learned in the analogue world. And I still get that nervous rush when I shoot something new. And that picture? That very first one? It’s framed and in my living room. My daughter stands against that metal door in her sunglasses and bright blue skirt and every time I see that photograph, it makes me smile and want to grab one of my many cameras and shoot something new.
What was your first-time like? Share your first analogue shots and stories with me!
Pamela Klaffke is a former newspaper and magazine journalist who now works as a novelist and photographer. Her column appears weekly in the Analogue Lifestyle section of Lomography Magazine.