I got back into film almost exactly two years ago. Last year I made a similar post, going through what it was like after one year with film. Now that another year has passed, I thought it would be a good time to see how the second year has treated me.
But first, as a recap, I’d like to quickly tell how I got back into film in the first place. It may be hard to squeeze this into few words, because a lot of things kind of fell into place at the same time, so please bear with me.
Returning to film photography
In 2016 I was very frustrated with my photography in many ways. I had become an iPhone shooter and I rarely touched the DSLR. I’ve always felt a great disconnect with DSLR’s anyways, since they’ve always seemed too complicated to use. I was probably drawn into iPhone photography and point-and-shoots for that reason alone. They are just so simple. I’ve always believed that content is more important than the form, thus not giving much emphasis on the technicality. But in the case of mobile shooting, I really started to miss so called real gear and better optical performance.
I especially remember returning from a hiking trip and being extremely disappointed with my photos, that were shot with an iPhone and my kit lens equipped Nikon. The optical quality just didn’t cut it, so I decided to start upgrading my gear. Looking back at it, there was a lot of my own fault of course, but none the less it kickstarted my shopping spree. It was also the last time I lugged a DSLR with me. During that hiking trip, I busted my knee and I really started to dislike such big and heavy systems.
Primarily being interested in a lighter carry, and a more packable size, I ended up trying out mirrorless cameras. While I was at it, I discovered the wonderful world of adapting vintage lenses, which I happened to have plenty of, from my film days. As I was going through all my old gear, I didn’t only find my old lenses, but the old cameras as well. As a teenager I shot with my Canon T-70 and Canon AE-1 and it felt really nice to see those old cameras again. I was especially intrigued to try out the AE-1 again. In fact, I quickly lost interest in my new mirrorless cameras and found myself shooting with the AE-1 instead. It honestly felt like coming home after being lost for a long time. I definitely wasn’t planning to become a film shooter, but that is exactly what happened. I have not put down my film cameras ever since I started shooting analog again. I’ve shot practically every day. It just seems like a gift that keeps on giving.
End of the honeymoon
So as I mentioned, it has been now two years since I returned to film. The first year seemed more or less like a honeymoon. That phase has clearly gone away now and film shooting doesn’t seem anything new or exotic anymore. In the beginning I kept comparing it too much on digital photography, because that’s where we primarily come from. Now film photography has standardised and the so called film part of it doesn’t seem like a big deal anymore. I’m just a photographer just as any other one. Nowadays it is harder and harder to bear in mind that someone might perceive film photography somehow rare or marginal. I’m at a point where film photography feels just like any other form of photography. Every once in a while, someone asks me whether that’s a film camera I’m shooting with. On those occasions, I temporarily remember being an analog shooting weirdo. On any other given time, I feel like a normal person, so to speak.
Now that the honeymoon is over, I’m in a pretty solid and well-functioning relationship with analog photography. I’ve met my dream companion, the Leica M6, who seems to be always hanging from my neck. We go hand in hand everywhere. We’ve had some great experiences together and done awesome things. Film photography has been a very supportive companion in many other ways as well. In times of stress and extreme depression, it has provided me a safe space and much comfort. Film photography can be calming and meditative. The kind of slow and mindful shooting, that is typical of all manual film shooting, can really take your mind away from worries, when everything else is falling to pieces. At that point photography becomes much more than just a hobby.
Kodak Tri-x is still my favourite film. I’ve shot a lot of T-max 400 and 100 too. This year, I’ve shot some colour film as well, but I’ve always came back to black and white. Colour just doesn’t seem to be my thing. I’ve also tried out just about every other film on the market during the past year, but nothing just can’t beat Tri-x.
Gathering the body of work
During my first year, I naturally didn’t have much of a film photography portfolio. I remember being a bit worried about gathering a solid body of work, because I really didn’t even want to showcase any of my so called old (pre-returning to film) work. I was perhaps a bit hasty even, but I really just wanted to shoot a lot and to build up that body of work. Now I’ve shot probably around 200 rolls (estimate) and had my portfolio to a level I’m satisfied with. That has really taken the pressure off from my shoulders and I don’t feel like I have to haste any more. If the first year’s goal was to build up a body of work, the second year seemed to be honing that down. Especially during the past spring and summer, things really started to click in my head and I started to be able to produce work that I was really happy about. I got to a higher gear almost immediately after the first year of shooting and this years results has been extremely satisfying. At the moment I feel mentally really exhausted, because I’ve been shooting so much. I’ve used up all my photography stamina. As I’m writing this, I’m of course still shooting, but mentally taking a break from pushing myself and slowing down considerably.
Street photography and cinematic portraits
Street photography has always been my thing, even before I knew such a term existed. It is still the style of shooting that gives me the most satisfaction, but sometimes it is so damn demanding, that I need a break from it. That’s why I came up with the idea of getting into a specific type of portraiture as well. There are so many things that the photographer can’t be in control of in street photography, that I wanted to get into something else as well, to counter balance it.
In the beginning of 2018 I started my cinematic portrait project that draws inspiration from street photography and from old movies, especially 1960’s italian cinema. The idea is simply to take photos that look candid, where the subject seem to be unaware of the presence of the camera, creating the look and feel of a movie still (no smiles, no eye contact). That way I’m able to be more in control of the image, which is something that is usually impossible in street photography. I can’t help myself, that is just something that I crave for. The results may not be as satisfying as capturing a candid moment of the street, but as a portrait concept, it is something that allows me to create just the kind of classic imagery that I love. It brings the much needed variation to the street photography routine.
The gift that keeps on giving
Film photography has also opened up a ton of other new possibilities during the past couple of years. In that way it feels like a gift that keeps on giving. Ever since I grabbed that AE-1, there has been a lot of movement and a constantly speeding up momentum, which just didn’t happen in my digital photography days. That is one of the reason I’ve not stopped. It seems like there’s a new present waiting me around every corner, much like in street photography.
In last September I attended an event hosted by Camera Rescue (a.k.a Camera Ventures). I got to meet a lot of cool people in the film photography scene, such as Japan Camera Hunter, Bellamy Hunt, which was a total omg omg moment for me. Ever since I’ve been involved in a dozen of cool projects in the analog world. For example late last year I started a huge film testing project called Film Marathon which aims to test 42 rolls of different kinds of films and to provide real life sample images and documentation in my native finnish language. The series can be found at www.kamerakoulu.fi — a finnish photography blog with the emphasis on educational content. Sure there are plenty of film reviews in english, but the same can’t be said about every language. I’ve felt very good about contributing to the film community by providing helpful information for fellow film shooters.
All in all, my second year in film has been very fruitful. I never would have guessed how much this film thing could affect my life in the first place, and it is equally surprising to have another great year following the first one. My only regret is that I didn’t get into this sooner. Maybe the time would have not been right any sooner, but I still can’t help feeling this way. As I’m entering my third year of film photography, my plan is to continue with the street photography, as I’m now just starting to get the hang of it. I’ll continue with the cinematic portrait project as well. On top of that, I honestly can’t wait what’ll happen in the future. Film photography became a big part of my lifestyle immediately after picking up that AE-1 and has provided me a creative journey unlike anything before.