I am sharing a whole roll of Ilford HP5. Is that not everyone’s first roll of film?
I really like the idea of sharing a whole roll. In fact on my learning log I regularly analyse a whole roll of 120 film to learn from the successes and the mistakes. When looking through previous contributors posts I was really drawn by Ed Worthington’s post, in which he shared his first roll of film and the stories behind the frames. So I dug out my first roll and it really got me reflecting on my photographic journey so far.
I can often fall into the trap of regretting the past. I wish that I had come to film sooner or that I had discovered photography in general earlier. Lately I’ve been trying to exercise self kindness and it’s helped me to see every step I’ve taken as part of the learning journey.
I would say that my photographic journey began in about 2007 at the age of 14. I was given a Canon digital compact camera and this allowed me to document my teenage shenanigans with ease but it also allowed me to start using photography creatively. I was particularly influenced by my best friend who had her own DSLR. With her by my side I started to experiment and learn more. Unfortunately another friend shot the camera into the sun and I ended up with a black spot permanently burned into the sensor.
I continued to shoot with it and came up with some creative ways to mask the black spot (see below) but eventually decided to ask for a new camera. I was a little bit daunted by the idea of a DSLR so asked for a bridge camera. Frankly a useless waste of money, I would never advise anyone to go for that option. More complicated and bulky than a compact but without the creative control of a DSLR.
I was always disappointed with the quality of the images I got from it. It didn’t take me long to upgrade to a DSLR. I waited until I left school and, still living with my parents, I used my first full time pay check to buy a Canon 600D and 50mm prime lens. I’ll never forget how happy and proud I was about that.
This is the point that photography really took off for me. I experimented, took courses, read books and magazines, went to exhibitions… And after a couple of years I sold the 600D and bought a second hand 6D (I really wanted a full frame sensor) and added a couple of lenses to my arsenal. I also decided to add a micro 4/3s camera to my collection as I felt I would benefit from having something smaller when a full DSLR felt like too much. It was at this point that I became more experimental, using cheap, funky lenses and accessories.
Ultimately though I never really felt that much of a connection with the Micro 4/3s camera and sold it after just a year or two.
When I first bought my 600D my father gave me his old film camera. A Pentax ME Super. Unfortunately he had stored it in the loft with a battery still in it which had leaked and jammed up the battery compartment. I was so happy to have been given the camera but ultimately it went unused for a few years whilst I explored and experimented with digital.
In 2015 something happened. I don’t know what but suddenly I had the desire to try out the film camera. I took it to my father in law to see if we could get the battery compartment sorted and I bought a cheap roll of film from the high street pharmacy, Ilford HP5 Plus.
Of course we managed to get it working. This camera is a perfect starter for someone coming from digital as it has an internal light meter and its auto mode is actually aperture priority which is my go to mode on digital. I do sometimes regret having left it for so long because what happened next was an explosion into the analogue photography world.
I was and am hooked, I absolutely love shooting this way and it gives me something that digital never did. And I don’t just mean image quality/style, I mean something deeper. I’ve included the images from that first roll below, they aren’t all fantastic but they are varied and there was enough there to keep me coming back for more.
These first 14 were all shot on that first day of getting the camera working at my in-laws place. Many are incorrectly exposed or even blurry as I relied on the cameras light meter and learnt to manually focus.
These next images were taken on my commute/ after work one day. It’s certainly showing how good it is for street photography in London!
And so next we have some more random shots and experiments as I got to the point that I wanted to just finish the roll so I could see what the results were (I am happy to confess that I love 120 film partly for the fact that it is 12 shots to a roll).
Shot 34 is missing from my computer but from checking the negative file I can see that this is a completely overexposed image (completely black negative) so the lab must have made the decision not to scan it.
Since the first roll
Over the next couple of years I went a little mad. I wanted to try out different types of film camera and film and bought quite a few cheap cameras, not knowing whether they worked or not. I shot a roll of HP5 through each, some successfully, some were awful. Through the pentax I tried different colour and black and white film. After just 2 years it all got put on hold.
I had all these romantic ideas of documenting my children’s early days in black and white film, I even had the pentax loaded and in my hospital bag. After a traumatic birth, I did not feel like taking pictures. In the haze of new motherhood and coming to terms with the trauma I had gone through, I did not feel like taking photos. Between children I shot only a couple of rolls of film and then I think I shot a couple of frames alone after my second was born.
A couple of months ago I felt compelled to pick up my cameras again. And that flood of joy came back to me. I can’t believe I kept telling myself I didn’t have time for it, frankly I must always make time for photography because it makes me feel like me!
This time around I am focused on improving my technique and my understanding of film. I’m being more considered in my composition and exposure, I’m learning to develop my own film and I’m using just a couple of my favourite cameras rather than testing them all out. If you’re interested in following my learning journey you can see full posts on my learning log here or follow my instagram here.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this look through my first roll of film.