Many years ago, in secondary school, I remember standing in a dark room waiting for a photograph to develop. We had been given a camera and told to walk around the school to find something that piqued our interest. I remember thinking the school looked so different after hours; nobody to fill the echoing corridors with noise of conversation and laughter, just still, empty rooms. I stood on the edge of a tiled floor, looking down, and snapped a shot.
Standing in the dark room, I diligently followed the instructions for dipping the photography paper in the various chemicals, and picking them up with big tweezers. I watched as shapes formed on the paper as if by magic. It was the only time I had the opportunity to do this, and with the rise of the digital age, DSLRs and iPhones, I didn’t pursue film photography.
Over the last year or so, however, I have been lusting after it, remembering how tactile and satisfying the physical photographs were. There is beauty in snapping a single moment, unable to keep repeating the image, and to me, the imperfections that come along as part and parcel of the process make the images more appealing.
For my thirtieth birthday, my partner bought me a film camera, specifically the Canon AE1 Program. As with almost all film cameras, this is an original model from the 70’s, and it is absolutely wonderful. What makes it particularly helpful for beginners is that it has an automated setting, although this will usually favour shutter speed over anything else so won’t always give you the best quality photos. It does make it extremely accessible and user-friendly though!
I have recently taken it on a couple of overseas trips, and had some concerns about putting film through the airport security as it can cloud up. However, most airports will do a hand check of the film when requested, and for low ISO film (I was shooting with 200) most of the modern bag x-ray machines are reportedly safe to send film through. That being said, it’s always worth checking with airport staff and requesting a hand check where you can. It’s usually straightforward; take the film out of the camera once it’s wound back, and store it in a canister. Pop this into a clear bag and voilà, this can be handed over to a member of staff who will take it to the other end of the scanner.
Are you new to photography or a seasoned pro? Let me know in the comments 🙂