Unlike many photographers my age (I’m rapidly approaching the half century mark), I have no fond memories for film. Back then, my experience was strictly point and shoot film cameras other than a few stints with the Yashica Electro 35, which I talked about yesterday. The colors rarely came out right and I had a sense of trepidation picking up my developed film.
It started out okay. My first experience with the Electro 35 was on a class trip to Washington D.C. I have distant memories of taking a photo at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. My father loaded the camera with black and white — he said it was good way to start instead of using color. Back then the Electro 35 was a fancy camera, especially for a kid in middle school. Most of my friends used Kodak Instamatics.
I never did take to photography. My family photos dwindled during high school, probably because like most teens, I no longer wanted my parents to take snaps of me. None of my friends where into photography. We were all the early adopters of primitive home computers, pre-IBM PC. Somewhere at the end of college, I finally started to take pictures for myself. But by then, all I used where compact film point and shoots — a couple of Pentaxes over a 15 year span.
It wasn’t until 2002, with my first digital, that my interest for photography rekindled. I’m grateful that I took those film photos, even with that modest camera. But my use of film was a necessary evil. The only way to record those memories, with that imperfect and inconsistent media. While I yearn for the quality and beauty of those old cameras, I choose to ignore the fuel that powers them.
After a decade of using digital, I have no nostolgia for going back to the “good old days”. I have on display 3 classic cameras that my father gave me — a Leica M3, a similar era Contax Rangefinder and a Rolliflex Twin Lens Reflex. I have no idea if they work. The Electro 35 will take its place next to them. Not because of its equal status for mechanical perfection, but because of its link to my childhood.
Yes, I know that there are better films than the bargain basement consumer types I used. Maybe the modern processing is more consistent. Perhaps I should use slide film instead. But I’m not jumping on the nostalgia train just yet.
Rather than my love for picture-taking, it’s ironically this blog that may pull me in to explore film. As a writer, I’m in search of stories, experiences that I can write about in the context of photography. So maybe, just maybe, you might see a change of heart. At least I do have a twinge of curiosity about Velvia or for the gritty feel of black and white. The latter will certainly bring me full circle, to that time when I snapped that first photo at the Smithsonian over 35 years ago.