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There is only one sun. We can’t all claim to only have one way to use the light, but we can REDEFINE how we choose to express it. “
Why are you passionate about this topic?
I have had a love-affair with photography forever. Film brings me back to the beginning of my journey. I think about an image I took with my Olympus OM-1 standing on the roof-top of the world, the Himalayas. It was a life-changing moment as I stood freezing in my plastic lined boots, (in India, there was no such thing as snow shoes) staring at the white out in front of me with the guides beckoning us to keep moving. All I could think of was getting that one photo of the beauty I saw in front of me and how important this image is to me. How would I see the world if all I had was one image I could make at that given time? How would I compose it? What would I want it to be? In today’s world of digital photography, where clicks can come easy, it is something that stays at the back of my mind always.
When did you first learn this technique? Or, when did you first realize you liked this topic?
When I started my journey in photography, shooting film was the only option so it came about naturally. In art school, my major was photography and I remember falling in love with Henri Cartier Bresson’s work. I became quite obsessed with experimenting in all kinds of light with my Olympus OM-1. Growing up in India, we had frequent electrical outages that caused frustration among my siblings. Not due to the loss of power, but because I’d immediately whip out my camera and hold them hostage by a lantern to shoot some pictures in a different light.
In the recent years, I started acquiring film cameras in various formats for mostly personal work. There is a certain freedom to play and do what you want without the worry of failure. For client work, there is an obligation to create deliverable work and often less of an opportunity to experiment. And so much of my favorite film work is personal.
So there are a multitude of reasons for loving film including the above. The association of old family photographs from the yesteryears that might never have seen the light of the day if it weren’t for film. These old photos connect me to my roots and bring back so many memories.
Lastly, I’ve always loved the process of creating art with film. From the intentional slowing down to connect with the subject, the anticipation of the outcome, and having the tangible to hold and preserve for posterity.
What are the tips you would share with anyone trying to achieve this technique?
These are a few suggestions for someone that wants to start shooting film and without a huge investment. Film is less intimidating than you think! As a medium it is quite forgiving and more so than most realize. The easiest way to get started is with an inexpensive 35 mm camera and cheap drugstore film. You can purchase a body to outfit your existing lenses. I bought my Nikon F100 for $250 off Craigslist to work with my prime lenses. My first roll of film was a drug store Kodak 400 ISO film that I also developed cheaply out there. It was my baseline to see if the camera worked at all. Here are a few images from shooting film for the first time again after a long break.
One of my favorite film cameras is a Holga! It is a fun plastic camera that can create some surprising results. It is probably one of the easiest cameras to experiment with for multiple exposures. To create a double exposure is to create a successful superimposition of two images to create a single image in camera. I generally use 400 ISO film in color or black and white. The Holga has two “shutter speed” options and I generally use the “N” or normal option however I have accidentally used “B” or Bulb which has created some cool results. The aperture options are also very limited so I try to shoot with available light as much as possible. However, some photographers create amazing work using their Holga on a tripod with a cable release if you are you might be inclined to try.
Buy a Polaroid Land Camera! With this vintage Polaroid camera, it is the closest you will come to instant gratification with film. When I first started looking for a Land Camera, I found it pretty intimidating as there are so many of them as you can see on this list. I lucked out and found a Land 100 Automatic camera for $30. I mostly bought it as I bought some now extinct 3000b film. You can still purchase it quite expensively, however a much cheaper option is the Fuji Film FP-100C for $12 for a pack. A more readily available option is the fun little Fuji Instax Camera that comes in a Mini and Wide Format.
Nikon F100 + ProH400 // RPL
Nikon F100 + Superia 400 // Walgreens
Holga + Portra 400 // State Film Lab
About the photographer:
Born in Mumbai, Alpana grew up in the era of black and white television, Rolling Stone Magazine and Bollywood Cinema. Her love affair with people and spaces formed as she walked the streets of Mumbai. Currently, Alpana lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and creates authentic family portraits as well as personal works. Her work has been published online and in print with several leading publications. She is also available for one on one mentoring for photographers.