I recently bought myself an analogue camera - a Seagull a4. And then a Kiev 88. And then a Mamiya RZ67 pro II. Why did I do that? Am I really falling back to analogue times? I love the digital workflow in most cases. It’s easy, fast and convenient. Working with clients is so much easier, when you can review the results on scene and make adjustments. The time from shoot to delivery of the pictures is really short and and the processing efficient.
So why go back?
As a child of the analogue area I started with a Rolleiflex in my hands (which broke after two rolls of film and we couldn’t afford to repair it), went to an Agfa Click and landed with my first SLR around my 13th birthday. Some time later I changed from Minolta to Nikon and sticked with it until now. I still have my old Nikon F3 lying around in my office. So with this background even after switching to all digital, I had always the urge to do something analogue again.
A couple of weeks ago I came up with the idea of how this could be merged with a project that doesn’t take too much time (you know, two kids…) and still produces something nice. The idea for twelve moments was born. Quite simply said: one (roll)film, an analogue camera, 12 frames, twelve moments captured. You have 12 shots to tell a story. And each picture taken will be published. All on one page to tell the story.
So I simply went to eBay and bought myself a camera, some film and the analogue development stuff needed to develop the film myself. And of I went. I was taken aback. Really. Working digital for years, used to shoot hundreds, sometimes thousands of picture (because you can) for a job - and there I was with my lighting meter (the Seagull does only take the picture, no AE, nothing to help you) and my 12 frames loaded in the camera. The whole process of looking for a scene, composing the picture, measuring the light, making the settings on the camera to finally make this one picture slowed me down to an extent that was completely forgotten to me. To have the whole output (twelve images on one page) in mind the whole time, to really having only one shot made me totally relax and concentrating on the pictures. I love it.
And then came the development of the film. Working inside the dark sack to extract the film and putting it in the development tank was quite hard after nearly 20 years not doing it. But it worked in the end. Then preparing the chemicals and developing the film. All the time the tension rises, if the pictures are good. Are they exposed right, composed good? Is there anything on the film at all (old cameras…)? And so on. And then you finally open the tank - and see that your work was successful. That feeling was sooo good! And lost for a long time.
So what about the quality (a lot of my friends asked me that)? I wasn’t really sure about that, as I focused first on the process of taking the pictures, not so much on how to process them afterwards. I tried out film scanning and reproduction via DSLR and sticked to the latter one. Film scanning took too long for me and I simply didn’t want to have the scanner standing around in my office (and the pro scanners are anyway quite unaffordable). But I was astonished by the quality you get from reproduction of the negatives with an DSLR. Ok, I have a Nikon D800 with the 105mm macro lens which makes superb repros (I’ll write about that soon). And from there you have the whole universe of image processing.
For me going back into analogue is going back into real photography. It really is focusing on what is the essence of taking photographs in contrast to focusing on producing lots of pictures. Sure you still can slow down and do everything in the analogue way with a digital camera… but it’s not the real deal. The whole feeling is simply different.
Will I sell my digital stuff? Definitely no.
Will I do more analogue? Definitely yes.
Will I do all stuff analogue? Hell no!
There are simply genres of photography where you simply want that DSLR in your hand with the speed efficiency they have. And also a lot of pictures are simply not possible with an analogue camera you can make digital. So I love both ways of working. It’s not about one or the other. It’s about taking the right tool for the right job. And “right” can also means relax and slow down...