My name is Greg, I live in France, I’m 37, I run a wineshop, but we’re not here to discuss about all that. We’re here because 15 years ago, more or less, I quit photography, and now I’m back at it, after so many years. What happened? What got me back into it? Life happened, all the way.
15 years ago, I was studying anthropology and sociology, living in the countryside of the south west of France. Nice and cool life you might think. Yet, I was suffering depression. I had to stop a first passion, dance, because of an injury. So I was trying to find something that could help me express what I had to say at the time. And photography it was, for a certain time at least.
I started by buying a couple of analog cameras. If I remember well, it was a Zenit E and a Lubitel 2. But I quickly got myself a Minolta Hi Matic 11. Back then, analog cameras were still cheap. I think I bought the Zenit E for 5€, the Lubitel 2 for 10€ and the Minolta around 25€… I was very poor at the time, and I can remember the sacrifice it was, but when I see how high the prices are right now…
With these 3 beauties, I started experimenting in black and white, with Ilford HP5. I quickly understood that I also needed to develop and scan my films by myself.
So I was basically INTO photography. I was shooting landscapes, people, mainly searching and seeking for a real topic to invest. I was looking to grab a way to practice photography and train myself at it. Yet, photography wasn’t the only thing that was in my mind at the time. I also started to make music, at the same period of my life. I was really looking to find a form of art, a practice, that would best fit myself.
In the end, photography faded away from my daily routine, giving more place to music. My gear slowly but surely found its place on ebay, and during 15 long years, I never shot in analog.
I made 9 years of a musical career. I produced music, I helped bands and labels, festivals as well. I tried my best to be efficient in that business, both production and money wise. I had a couple of great accomplishment on the production side, but money wise, I wasn’t there. So, I quitted as well from music making and switched to a more “regular” professional career, if that means anything.
I became a cheesemonger for a few years, and now I’m a wineshop manager. I moved and now live work in Paris. Crowded, agitated and stressed city that carries heritage of french history, beautiful from the outside, hard for many of us. I don’t like the city that much.
As running a local shop helped me through depression (and misanthropy) and gave me new purposes, a few months ago, I felt like in the mood to give photography another shot.
A friend of my wife bought a point and shoot camera and started sharing his pics online (IG of course). That was it. I needed to get back at it.
As we all do, I went on a few websites, blogs and shops to investigate the market of vintage cameras, knowing that for once, I had a more precise idea of the kind of subjects I wanted to shoot. I was looking for a point and shoot camera to photograph people in the streets of Paris and cities I’m traveling to. I knew quickly that I needed a light, quiet and sharp camera. At this precise moment, I had no idea of what kind of abilities, both ethical and practical,nwould eventually be required for street photography.
But I also learned the crazy prices of these little gems. Contax T2? Nikon 28ti? Yashica T4 or T5? Olympus Mju II? I don’t have the money to afford these beauties. I don’t know if I even would afford one of them if I had the money for it. I mean, are they really worth these prices? Seriously?
So I got myself a Nikon AF600. Very pocket sized camera, with an average sharp lens, a little loud but hey, nobody’s perfect. And I love it. Gave me exactly what I was looking for as a second-time beginner in analog photography : pleasure of looking around me, work my angles, and shoot.
Though this Nikon AF600 is almost perfect for me, I can’t deny it’s quite hard to frame with it. Quite hard to look into the viewfinder and frame correctly because it’s such a tricky little one that it’s usually making me miss the shot for the extra 0.5 seconds needed to get everything framed and angled properly.
The lack of ease to read what you frame with this camera had me in the need to buy another camera. And that’s why I bought a Yashica T3.
I also learned quickly what street photography is, and what comes with the practice of it. I might write another article about that, because that’s not today’s topic, right?
The T3 is more bulky, as you already know if you’re investigating point and shoot cameras as we’re all doing. Yet, it’s also more quiet than the Nikon AF600, the lens is amazing of course (Zeiss), and the viewfinder is large, easy to use, and perfect to frame.
Right now, the Yashica T3 is my favorite daily companion, while I rather take the Nikon in my travels.
As you might have figured with the pictures above, I also switched from HP5, that I used 15 years ago, to color with the use of the Fuji C200 film. Might go back to black and white at some point, but as Brian Eno says regarding music, you sometimes need to get out of your confort zone and take the complete opposite path that you wanted to take at first.
Ready for more
It’s amazing to see that, despite being really into it, I can tell right now that I wasn’t ready for photography 15 years ago. I had all the time, all the space and the gear to be at it, but I needed my life to be settled. Photography is a part of my enthusiasm for life everyday, but it surely couldn’t be my only inner balance, as I thought it could be back then when I was suffering depression.
As I push forward to get better at it, to focus on a precise practice of photography (that might not be only street photography), it gives me a purpose of my own, an habit, a way to ease my relationship with the city of Paris, and of course, to share something.
I don’t know about you, but I wish every 22 years old young adult to find what I finally found, at 37, this past few months in photography.
A peace of my own.
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12 thoughts on “The Healing Process of Getting Back into Photography after 15 Years – By Grégoire MBV”
Nice pictures, glad that you are finding peace, enjoyment with your photography.
Your last name is Congolese it would seem? Just thought I would say hello from Congo Pointe-Noire.
Merci Marius !
Hopefully I’ll come to Congo next year and shoot there. The light is so amazing.
A bientôt !
Merci pour cet article. J’espère que tu peux continuer faire tes projets.
Good morning Greg,
I just finished reading your article while having my morning coffee.
I applaud your candor describing your life’s journey. We’ve all experienced some of the ups & downs you mention, some to a greater degree than others, but have managed to navigate the minefield and come out the other side intact. As we build the foundation for living, everything we do helps form us. Sort of like the old saying: ‘what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.’ But, not as dramatic as a Marvel comic story line.
I’m in my seventh decade, and it was only about 35 years ago I realized that the style or type of photography that most pleased me was taking photographs that I liked. Up to that point, I took photos that I hoped other people would enjoy. You’re lucky that you took 15 years to come to that nugget of truth.
You have found a camera type that fits your way of looking. You’ve found a visual style that works for you, you’ve found a film stock that works for you. This is good. If it brings a sense of wonder to you every time you see the results from a roll you shot, that’s good. If the process brings you a sense of calmness, good for you. If your wife and you are sipping a glass of wine, looking at your latest work, and she smiles at a shot you made, good for you.
Any changes in your photography as you move forward will be evolutionary rather than reactionary, so you’ll stay on your path. It’s a great way to make sense of this turbulent world.
-Dan ( flickr.com/photos/dcastelli9574/ )
Yes, it’s basically what we can wish to anybody including ourselves!
The reactionary approach is really hard to get rid of, because we are also looking for feedbacks on all sorts of platforms. Yet, I try to remember that my photography is a journey of my own and try to let it have its own evolution as life goes on.
It’s always a process.
This is a soulful article. Quite a journey across careers/avocations/countries for which I’m slightly envious. I just wish you had included more of your photos. I’m motivated to bring my Yashica point and shoots out of retirement and run some film through them. Thank you.
Thank you Gary!
Yes, it’s been quite a journey, and it’s not finished yet!
There is more photos to come on my IG & twitter accounts, and probably more content here on 35mmc as well.
You HAVE to put your Yashica out of retirement! I’m looking forward to see some flicks from you!
I should have read this article before, because it’s lovely. I also suffer from depression, and also find that the practice of photography has helped, a lot. You are also right that the prices of really quite mundane film cameras have become absurd, as they’ve become cult objects: I could mot afford the cameras & lenses I bought ten years ago now, any more than I could get even very close to affording the not-first-rate-but-made-in-1972 Marshall I bought 20 years ago today.
I think we are legions, practicing photography in an healing process of our own. Depression is very common and I feel like it matters to speak out about our experiences and how we deal with it.
Well man, these compacts are little by size and options but the prices are so elevated, it’s not even acceptable.
Honestly, buying one feels like you invest in real estate ahah!
But on a more serious note, I feel sad for the people that are into film photography but can’t afford to live their passion as they should just because of hype or speculations…
I have a similar story to you. I’m 33 and I started photography in my late teens/early twenties, then dropped it until last year when I rediscovered a passion for it (bordering on obsession). At first I wondered why I hadn’t taken photos for all those years, but like you I realised I wasn’t ready for photography back then. For me I feel like it’s taken this long for my eye to develop and see things that are worth photographing. Photography is a fantastic thing to discover, and rediscover!
I feel you! Sometimes it’s just not the moment, the good timing, to really appreciate it.
I’m glad you find photography back again after so many years!
Cheers from France!