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The hidden (or forgotten) world of analog photography
A year or so ago (2021, in any case) I found two old unused rolls of Kodak film, which had expired in 2006. They were the last two of a box with 20 film rolls that I bought because they were cheap, precisely because they were about to expire . Back then, shooting pictures was expensive: the camera wasn’t cheap, neither was film and it was limited (24 or 36 exposures), and developing it was also expensive, if it was done frequently. That’s why I tried to save money in what was my hobby at the time; buying expired or expired film, looking for cheap places where to develop film, etc.
So, I dusted off my old Zenit SLR camera, which I hadn’t used for at least 15 years, and loaded it with the film. I didn’t know what would come out of it; I didn’t know if the film might not work anymore, or if it would have been exposed. I also didn’t know what state the camera was in. The internal photometer did not work, so I used a photometry app on the phone, and with those values I adjusted the diaphragm and shutter of the camera. Someone recommended me, because it was an expired film, to measure as if it were one point less than the ISO of the film, in this case it was an ISO 100 film, so I measured as if it were an ISO 50.
I had to relearn some stuff and drop some habits acquired with digital. First, not to make three, four, five shots of the same photo, “just to be sure” or have different shots. I had a limited film stock and wanted to take advantage of it. Second, I had to re-learn to compose visually with a relatively “closed” objective, unlike the wide-angle lenses of cell phone cameras. And finally, to be patient and wait for the stock to finish to develop the film and see the picture.
The whole process was uncertain, not knowing very well what was happening. Not knowing if the photo had been framed correctly, because I couldn’t see it after shooting; not knowing if something was actually being exposed, because I didn’t know if the camera was working well, nor if the roll was still good, or if maybe the emulsion had come off. After all, 15 years had passed, and perhaps a few more, since the film was manufactured. And finally, the roll got stuck inside the camera: it didn’t move any further. So one night I turned off the lights, went into a closet and closed the door, as a precaution that it wouldn’t be exposed when I got out the film (I didn’t know if it had rolled up again or was still in the camera). Luckily it turned out well and I got it to develop.
The results is as unexpected as familiar. The pictures feel alive, they are interesting even the trivial ones, unlike cell photos or even DSLRs, which I feel (and of course this is subjective) “too reals”.
I think that the reasons I feel them more alive and interesting are they way I shot them. The camera is heavy and umcomfortable, you have to dedicate a thought to where to place it. Furthermore, as I was assuming a lesser sensitivity of the film, I limited myself to situations with lots of natural light, or I had to be very still to use a slower shutter speed (1/60 or 1/30), narrowing the shots to portraits and landscapes. The lens also plays a role, bieng 50mm, it allows to blur the background in a portrait, but in a very natural way. Finally, the effect of the expired film made the pictures have a particular tone, with accents on greens, reds and yellows, with fairly weak blues. In brief, this are unique photos, which main ingredient is patience and randomness.
All images in this post were shot in 2021 and 2022, and have not been edited.
Copyright © 2023 Alvaro Medina García