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Returning to Photography
I’ve been a photographer since I was 15 when I got my first Canon film camera. It only took a year to switch to taking color slide film, mostly Kodachrome 64 and Fuji Provia 100F. I still have thousands of slides, among which is some of the best photography I’ve ever done.
As most photographers will tell you, there is something magical about film. The process is so different from digital. What you captured in that moment was what you got. To me, photography was always about the experience of taking a photo and the joy of capturing beauty. What digital photography has become, where you can spend hours editing to make a photo not even resemble what the camera captured to me is a perversion of actual photography (and thankfully most competitions don’t allow that).
My photographic adventures did eventually lead me to digital of course and over the years, my eye got better. The two photos in this article so far were taken with my Nikon D850 in 2018. After that, I owned a Fuji GFX 100 but quickly found it too heavy and unwieldy for most of my use cases, though I did capture some gorgeous photos with it.
Then, during Covid, I took a break. But over the last 12 months, the inexplicable happened. I took a lot of photos with my phone. And oddly, I found the experience freeing. There’s a saying that the best camera is the one you have on you and over some time, I learned how to best use my phone to capture some really great shots and it actually really improved my eye.
Which has finally led me to getting a new camera. But not what I would normally get. Normally, I’d go for a Fuji X-H2 with a few prime lenses for ultra-sharp, high-megapixel pictures. Except there’s a camera that’s all the rage right now that is changing photography and exemplifies to me what it is all about.
See, the deeper you get into shooting with a camera and then spending hours editing with it so the photo matches what you saw with your eye, the more it feels like a job and the less it feels like joy, which is what shooting film is. Film is making a huge resurgence because of this. And I wasn’t even interested in buying a new camera till dozens of videos of the Fuji X100F started showing up in my YouTube feed.
As someone who has owned a huge, medium-format 100MP camera before, one would never think I’d switch to a pocketable, relatively-cheap, fixed wide-angle lens camera. When I first saw it, I thought the idea was insane. But I watched the reviews and everyone kept saying the same thing: this brings back the joy. It’s not meant to be a camera that you edit the photos after. You take the shot and then you use what you get right out of the camera, like film. Even more, it takes away a lot of the bells and whistles and actually makes getting great shots harder, which is actually in the pro column for someone like me.
So I picked up my X100F yesterday and I’m pretty happy with the results so far. All of the following photos are unedited, straight out of the camera, exactly like film.
It has immediately reignited my passion for photography and has barely left my side since I got it. I was sitting with a friend at dinner last night asking to take their portrait. They were shy and asked me why it was so important. Fortunately, I had a good answer.
See, I’m something of a nihilist. I’ve spent a lot of my life being unhappy. My favorite scene in TV history is truly depressing. Yet, I go out into the world, turn on my photographer’s eye, and all I see is endless beauty. To be able to see all that beauty in a world that to me has been so full of pain is the ultimate release.
And like Rene Russo asks Pierce Brosnan in The Thomas Crown Affair, “Is getting it more fun than keeping it?” 100%. The fun part is not about showing the pictures to anyone. It’s the joy in capturing beauty, like a firefly in a bottle. Film always meant so much to me because the light at that moment in time literally chemically chances that physical piece of film forever. It’s unique and stunningly beautiful beyond words when you think about it. And that's what photography is for me…seeing the beauty in an all too ugly world.
Enjoy your weekend.