Film (A Love Story)
My parents put a camera in my hands when I was really, really small. The first one I remember was a disc camera (See it here: http://kidofthe80s.com/kodak-disc-camera-comes-and-goes-with-the-80s/). It used film that looked like the little picture wheels that go in an old school View Master. I took it with me everywhere we went that year – Epcot, a space shuttle launch and summer camp. My dad would develop his film himself and I would wait a week for my little discs to come back from the local K-Mart with the prints in the envelope. I remember the smell of the chemicals used in his darkroom-closet and also the way the film department counter looked at the K-Mart. I remember the waiting, the anticipation. Always gave me butterflies.
Eventually, my mom and sister and brother and I moved away from the house with the darkroom in the closet and my dad moved somewhere else. I had a new family, a new place to live and a new camera. I went to middle school as awkward as ever with a 35mm point-and-shoot Mom gave me. I took plenty of terrible and embarrassing and funny photos of my friends and, since this one had a timer, of myself. I still dropped my rolls of film at the K-Mart and somehow, my photos never came out how I imagined. But I just kept taking awful pictures.
Then in high school, Mom handed me a different camera. A classic Leicaflex that had belonged to my oldest brother before we lost him. The Leica was was all manual everything. I didn’t know anything about “f” number or whatever it was. I would load some film and adjust the wheels and knobs in a totally random way until the light meter needle was in the middle and then click the shutter. More awful pictures followed. Then one day, there were actually some good ones and something started brewing in the back of my mind. Some idea that I might be able to learn how to take good photographs on purpose. It was exciting. And I felt close to my brother and my dad with that Leica in my hand. It was 1996.
I graduated high school, had a baby and got a job – in that order. I got married and and had a friend photograph the wedding which resulted in 10 rolls of blank film. (That’s a different story for a different day). We had another baby and I kept taking photos here and there, without much direction, though the lovely Leica was an ever reassuring presence. I was a wife and a mom but I was unsure of my photography.
Then my mom. Always Mom. She bought me a Nikon F100 and a 24-120mm zoom lens and I learned it and loved it. I took endless photos of my kids. I photographed other people’s kids. I photographed all my friends’ weddings and with the help of my husband I had an accidental business and a listing in the Yellow Pages. (Yes, you read that right. The actual physical Yellow Pages.) Then life happened and we moved to a new state and town. It was 2002 and the Internet was slow and webpages weren’t something you built for yourself. I had no contacts, no friends. I put my Nikon down down and went to college.
The next decade passed in a blur. A decade since my F100 and that first accidental photography business. I had graduated college with a science degree and had a good job that I disliked but worked hard at. We had also moved back home. Then one day, Mom asked me to look at her old Nikon DSLR and I felt that feeling again. The feeling I used to get holding my brother’s Leica and then the F100 Mom gave me, both now long gone. So I got myself a DSLR and photographed my dogs and kids and eventually weddings and other people’s families and their children and dogs. I was in love with photography and the business had started itself once again.
But very recently, I followed a photographer who was shooting film. The idea of shooting film again appealed to me immediately, even in this digital age. I could close my eyes and imagine smell of the darkroom-closet, the look off the K-Mart counter, the point-and-shoot cameras and the glossy pictures in the little envelopes. Film reminded me of the Leica and of my brother and dad and of Mom. I wanted to try it again.
So I bought myself a Nikon F100 – like the one Mom gave me. The images that follow are from my first 2 rolls of film and feature my lovely daughter, who also took the photos of me.
Are they perfect? Nope. And it absolutely feels like home.