Ever since I picked up my first disposable film camera as a child, I have loved photography. In the following years, as my enthusiasm for taking pictures grew I found myself being led down the well trodden path of G.A.S (gear equisition syndrome) lusting after the latest and greatest equipment, whether I could realistically afford it or not.
After many years of chasing the ‘photographic dragon’ with a well worn credit card in hand, I had a moment of realisation. I no longer cared about photography. If I was honest with myself I couldn’t recall the last time I had gone outside to actually shoot with the ever increasing pile of equipment I had amassed and ironically the ‘bigger and better’ the toys the more hassle it felt like to take them out and actually make use of them.
It was at this stage where I was wrestling with a particularly strong episode of depression (something I have dealt with for around ten years) and as the weeks went by the gear I had worked so hard to purchase began to gather dust. I fell into the oh so familiar cycle of creative self doubt and a general lack of self esteem, preventing me from believing I was worthy of the equipment I had.
‘What’s the point, you’re pictures suck anyway’ my brain told me. ‘You might as well just sell all of this stuff’
…and so I did. I decided to give in to the voices in my head and get rid of all the equipment I had. Goodbye Full frame Canon, Goodbye L series glass, goodbye fancy Manfrotto Tripods and all the other accessories still in their original sealed packaging.
At this stage I had accepted that I was done with photography for good. I continued through life as normal all be it with a lot less credit card debt but a few months later I found a sense of creative emptiness creeping in, faint at first but growing stronger each day.
I had learnt my lesson when it came to G.A.S so was hesitant about buying another camera, as a compromise I decided to use my iPhone as my sole camera and despite its tiny sensor and limited capabilities, I loved it. As naive and slightly pretentious as it might sound, I had never considered a phone to be suitable as a ‘serious photographer’s tool’ but as I was shooting for fun ‘why not give it a go’ I thought. Without regurgitating the whole ‘the best camera is the one that’s with you’ motto propagated by Chase Jarvis way way back in 2011/12, the easy accessibility of having a camera on me at all times allowed me to pick up and play as and when I felt compelled to do so. I was no longer held down by the arduous task of packing a bag full of gear and planning a day dedicated to carting around that weight in the hope of making some ‘professional’ images.
After shooting with my iPhone almost exclusively for a year I came across a little Olympus Trip 35 at a car boot sale lying on the floor looking a little unloved. ‘Give me £3 for it, it’s film by the way nobody uses that stuff anymore’ the seller told me as I handed over what felt like a tiny percentage of what the camera was worth. While I was aware that film wasn’t as popular as before I had experience of shooting, developing and printing from when I attended college so wasn’t put off by shooting the analogue way.
After getting the light seals replaced, I shot my first roll of Ilford XP2 in the Olympus trip and as soon as I got my images back from the developer, I fell in love. It felt just like when I used disposable camera as a child, photography was fun again!
The more film I shot the more I felt as though I had found the right medium, it also become apparent that there was a still a dedicated community of guys and girls keeping film alive. It was awesome to see what others were creating, trying out different films and comparing results. Having a limited number of frames does encourage you more to take your time and the delay of seeing the results builds up a sense of anticipation and excitement even if the conclusion is a blurred over exposed nonsense, which for me it commonly was!
Now I will admit to being lead a little bit astray by the lure of gear again but as my interest lies in shooting compact 35mm film cameras, there are certainly no lenses rolling around in the bottom of my bag feeling neglected. There’s a unique opportunity with older equipment to immerse yourself in the history of the cameras themselves and I find myself wondering what moments have been captured using them and by who? I also find myself trying different cameras and then either selling them or giving them away to the community rather than hoarding like I once did.
I think film is where my heart is. I find a meditative quality in the process. I can’t say for sure if I have developed a stronger style or even if my photos are that great but I know for certain I love making images with this method and I think thats all that matters.
Nowadays I have an Olympus Trip 35 and XA which are my permanent cameras while I experiment with whatever catches my eye or I fall victim to winning a bid war on Ebay over. My most recent purchase was the Canon MC, an interesting fully automatic compact with very slow infrared 80s autofocus – I think that it may well end up back for sale very soon…
I’d like to thank Hamish for letting me share my thoughts on his great blog. If you’d like to see more of my work head on over to www.chrisjroe.com