140324 Film Archives - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

As often happens when I'm feeling at a creative loss, this past weekend I spent some time digging through my archives. I like to revisit themes and remember where I was, and it can be especially rewarding to go through the ones that didn't make the cut the first time around. As usual I found some that I like more now, but most of them were ignored all those years ago for very good reasons.

What makes this interesting is that I was specifically looking through photos recorded on film.

Despite being an overwhelmingly digital photographer, many of my favourite photos have been shot on film. This makes it seem like something that I should be spending much more time and effort on.

In particular, photos taken with my Zeiss Ikon M-mount rangefinder stand out among my very best from all of my visits to New York, even though I only took it on two of my six visits to date. In fact, I've done two other trips there with a film camera – Hasselblad 500cm on one, and an Olympus XA on another, because I enjoy contrasts – but I also used a digital camera for all but one of them. It's that one trip with only that marvellous Ikon that produced my best results.

So it's with a certain relief, a release from creative guilt, that I can confirm that I take plenty of really bad photos with film. Not just slight misses, or ideas that didn't quite work, but complete what-was-I-thinking moments litter the collections. What's more, since it was film, every single one of those frames had a tangible financial and logistical cost to them. 

Like I said, it's something of a relief.

I still want to use more film. There's B&W loaded in my rangefinder, colour in my F5, and my medium format cameras will also see a few rolls as the weather improves. But my archived reality check takes away the pressure to 'make every shot count' and reminds me that I can still explore, experiment, and play.

That's the true source of many of my favourite photos.

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