Cameras have progressed a long way since I first tried photography. One of my early cameras, an Olympus, travelled with me to many locations. I took care loading each 35mm film, and unloading it again when it was finished. Sealing the plastic film canisters into free-post envelopes, I sent them on their way to be developed.
Then the waiting began. I spent the next week or so listening eagerly for the sound of a heavy envelope falling to the doormat. When the pictures arrived, I pored over the images before adding a selection to a photo album. To this day, the photographs remain sharp and I enjoy looking through the albums. They hold memories of people and places from years gone by. Adventures I had long before I met my husband, and which he enjoys hearing of as we peruse the images together.
More recently, back at college to study photography, I reacquainted myself with film cameras. Having spent several years learning the art of digital, it was a pleasure to return to film. I enjoy the process of manually adjusting the settings on the camera, composing the shot, then moving on to the next picture. The creation of the image establishes a very personal relationship between the photographer, the camera, and the photograph. There is a level of care involved in each picture. This is not present in digital photography where one can review images and revise the camera settings immediately.
I find there is a certain depth to the film images which is not always possible with digital photography. Some of the landscape pictures I took during the autumn at college have a much harder, starker feel to them than the softer images taken with my digital camera.
During the four months I worked in the college darkroom, I developed more prints from film than I had printed from digital files over four preceding years. Trying out different combinations of time and chemicals, I experimented as I brought the images to life under the strangely comforting glow of the red light.
Hard copies of pictures is one aspect of film photography which I like in particular. How often you have trawled through old family photograph albums? They sometimes contain pictures of ancestors who you never knew in person. Or photographs of events which you weren’t alive to participate in.
With the advent of digital photography, hard copy family photograph albums are dying out, taking memories with them. Many people rely instead on digital methods of storing and sharing their photographs. I came across a couple of my old computer towers the other day, and boxes of floppy discs, CDs and USB sticks. Add to this collection my old mobile telephone handsets and I know that the combined total of digital photographs them will stretch into the hundreds. Time is running out to retrieve the pictures, and some of those I have not printed will be lost to defunct technology.
When working for clients, I encourage them to keep hard copies of their images. Prints are an excellent option for preserving pictures over time. They can be displayed and appreciated immediately. They can also be passed on to the next generation without worrying about restricted access because of technological advances.
This post is a lesson to myself, to make sure I print copies of pictures. Whether for a traditional photo album, or a digitally designed hard copy photo book. I encourage readers to do the same if you have digital images which you want to keep but haven’t printed. Don’t lose those precious memories.