Back to Film

There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a compostion or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative. Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever
— Henri Cartier-Bresson

I sold it all on ebay and went back to film. Okay, that's half a lie because I still have one digital camera for everyday use but my immediate and personal projects will be shot on film. Nikon was my bridge to digital in 2006 but after twelve years I needed to shake things up and once I made the decision not to do paid event work any longer, it was easier to let the equipment go.

It wasn't just that though. At the beginning of 2017 I felt bored, unchallenged and disillusioned with photography and for the best part for the year I decided to not even pick up the camera. My strategy was to go quiet and reignite the energy through solitude.

And when my father planned a visit mid 2017, I asked him to bring my film camera which had been sat in his humid, dank, basement for six years. It looked fine, smelt a bit musty and I noticed instantly there was a lens jam when the aperture blades would stick after nearly every shot. So then it's a case of removing the lens, manually unwinding it with a screwdriver which is unnerving when you can see the reflection of the flat head shimmering in the reflection of the rear lens element. So before any serious us and after researching online, I found a guy in Perth and got it repaired. And then after more quiet time and thinking without actively deliberating, an idea formed for a project and I started shooting in November 2017.

Looking out towards Roebuck Plains

Looking out towards Roebuck Plains

It felt like old times getting my film hand checked at airport security when I returned to the UK at Christmas. I remember seeing a young security guy in Dubai take an exposed roll out the bag and shake it slowly next to his ear, pacing up and down, looking and listening.

Back home, I gladly found the old photo lab that I used from my uni days and was happily amazed that the same two people still worked there. They even used the same style square carbon receipt pad to take my contact details and my order for processing and basic scans. Standing at the counter it felt like time travelling with all those memories flooding back. Two days later I got an email saying they were ready for collection and when viewing the files on the computer everything seemed good. The quality and was all there and apart from the occasional light leeks and fogging on some negatives, I was happy.

The beginning of a series started to form.

When I returned back to Australia I bought a flatbed scanner from the proceeds of selling a lens and that's when the the problems became visible.

Ten out of twelve shots, from one roll, were out of focus. The camera was front focusing which essentially means if you focus on the eyes of someone then everything on the focal plane in front of them is sharp. In this case it was the person's chin or stomach.

Not ideal.

And I was worried because I had started shooting new rolls as soon as I got back to Broome throughout January/February.  So despite getting into a routine and with all this glorious weather and colour and rain,I had to put the brakes on the project, sent all my new film off for processing to alleviate my concerns and managed to track down a Hasselblad technician in South Australia.  After a brief conversation it was with him within a week and he started work immediately.

It's the beauty and uncertainty of film. The instant feedback has disappeared, the moments long gone. Luckily, the shots that I knew were keepers, came out well, bar one or two. So at this early stage it's a case of ironing out those problematic variables and leaving as little to chance as possible.  Once concerns about equipment are gone it allows room for the conditions where luck can be created.