I remember my first camera: a Mickey-Matic I received for Christmas (above: NOT my Mickey-Matic; that's a Welta I found at my grandpa's farmhouse). It took 110 film and required flashes that attached to the top and were purchased separately. Film was hard to come by for a child who had no money and therefore only obtained film by way of Christmas, Easter, and birthdays. Flashes were even more rare: a flipflash-style set of four flashes that also needed to be purchased (gifted) in order to use a flash. I remember the amount of thought that went into taking a picture. Is this picture worth having one less exposure? And if that answer was yes, is it too dark in here? And if that answer was yes, is this picture worth using a flash?
In the digital age, I never have that conundrum. I can snap away a bazillion pictures and then sort through them later, looking for the “perfect” one. Of course, none of them are ever perfect, so I end up with four similar images, each with its own redeeming quality.
And somewhere along the way, there was this push that came with digital photography to “document life." Did you eat? Document it. Did you play? Document it. Did you smile? Document it. Did you laugh? Document it. Did you cry? Document it. And having a phone attached to our hip all day allows us to snap away at life every time we want to remember a moment.
Now don’t get me wrong - I’m all for documenting. In high school, I ALWAYS had a disposable camera in my backpack just in case something photo-worthy arrived. But with this newfound saturation of picture taking, are our moments being diluted by our sheer number of pictures? How did we used to think about taking pictures? What was our thought process when we couldn’t just snap away all willy nilly. When we couldn’t see the result of our pressing the button until weeks later?
I have dubbed the month of February “Film February.” It’s an exercise in restraint. An experiment with thought. A rewiring of my brain.
My goal for February is to temporarily abandon my digital cameras (phone included) and shoot with film.
We’ll see how this goes - I’m even planning on teaching B about film. I want him to experience the uncertainty and waiting and the excitement when the pictures arrive. And I want to experience that too.