As someone who grew up in the era of the digital camera, I never thought of film photography as anything other than old and inferior. At twenty one years old, the only experience I had with film photography was from using disposable Fuji cameras on family trips to the Oregon Coast and Portland. It wasn’t until I bought my first DSLR in October, a Nikon D3200, that I was slowly exposed to the reality of film through the internet. I began to notice that the photos I was aesthetically drawn to were not, in fact, shot digitally. They were almost all shot on analog cameras.
So, after learning the basics of photography, the exposure triangle, composition, etc., I began to look for a cheap film camera. After some google research and talking to a few friends that shot film, I had a pretty good sense of what I was looking for. I found a man on Facebook Marketplace selling a Minolta SRT-101 with a Rokkor-X 50mm f/1.7 for twenty five dollars. I’d heard of the SRT-101, and I reached out. A day later, I came home with a mint condition Minolta with good light seals and a working, accurate, light meter. From that moment forward, I knew that film was for me. The vintage look of the camera alone felt like reason enough for me to wear it around town.
As a matter of principle, I do not edit my film photographs. In the age of Photoshop and Lightroom I found it too easy to prioritize the editing process over the process of capturing a moment on a camera in the first place. If a photo doesn’t come out quite right, oh well, I’d just edit it until I found something I liked. In my opinion, this process defeats the purpose of shooting film. Film draws me into the moment and helps me appreciate my photographs as they are, regardless of motion blur or accidental overexposure. The results are a part of the process and a part of what makes film unique.
This is not to say that my opinion is the only valid one on this subject. As Hamish points out in his article, “My Colour Film Photography Workflow, Or: A Rant About How Software Isn’t The Enemy!”, the digital editing of film photographs can provide improved image quality, color, and contrast, to name only a few aspects. There is nothing wrong with his viewpoint or workflow, and there’s nothing wrong with editing film photos for improved results. I actually quite like the argument he makes.
If I was writing an article on my digital photography process and using my Nikon d600, my opinion of editing photographs would be quite different compared to my film process. I suppose, I am simply saying that I value different aspects of photography in film and digital, and for film, I like to leave the photos as they are once I receive them from The Darkroom.
The photos I am drawn to are stylistically oriented towards street photography. The contrast of immersing oneself in a chaotic, quick-paced environment, like a city street, yet being able to capture candid, intimate moments seemed like the ultimate challenge for a photographer. Especially a photographer who doesn’t have the ability to review their photos on the spot and decide if they’re happy with what they’ve captured. Film photography requires confidence and an appreciation for more than just sharp images, it requires you to observe your surroundings and appreciate what is going on around you.
In the interest of sticking with the theme of entry-level film photography, I chose to share 5 frames of Kodak Gold 200 from my first few rolls of film. While I am aware that more expensive, sharper films exist, I did not want to spend money on Portra or Cinestill at a point in my life where, as a college student, I was short on money and trying to get the most bang for my buck.
After consulting the internet once again, I found three rolls of Kodak Gold for the same price as one roll of Cinestill 800T. The decision was easy. Plus, I really do like the warm tones of Gold 200. I like the way the film saturates colors and how images have a rich depth of color. They bring out the ‘happy’ aesthetic in photos, and I now understand where the film’s name originated.
Although I do not live in a big city and the streets where I shoot are far from the hustle and bustle of New York or Hong Kong, I try to bring the aspects of intimacy and composition that I saw in street photography into my own photography. Whether I’m shooting film while walking along the Metolius River, eating al-pastor tacos at my local late night hangout, Taco Salsa, or digging through used clothes and records at my local vintage shop, Iron Horse, there’s something about Kodak Gold 200 which brings out the fun in every photo, regardless of its consumer-grade status.
All of these photos were taken in Central Oregon, processed and scanned by TheDarkroom.com.