What shooting film has taught me
By Zhao TianYu
About two weeks ago I made the decision to go back to film. Well ‘go back’ may not be entirely accurate – as someone who was born in the digital age, I have never shot film before (if you discount the times when I was still a child and used my parents’ film camera). I made the change because I found myself stuck in a creativity dead-end when it comes to street photography: after my recent trips to Bangkok and Nepal, I found the city I live in (Singapore) pretty boring, though some may disagree. I found myself keep going to the same places, use the same technique, and shoot more or less the same subjects. I read books, studied other people’s work, and I’ve decided maybe it’s time for a change in the medium as well as the approach. I bought a rangefinder and a couple rolls of film and my digital camera has been sitting in the dry cab since.
So now two weeks have passed, and I’ve shot about 10 rolls of film. Sure that’s not a lot, and I’m by no means a pro when it comes to film photography (I still lab scan my negatives). But I’ve learnt a lot from these two weeks, more than years of shooting digital. I’ve heard people say there’s no reason to shoot film from a technical point of view cause digital is much more versatile and convenient, but it is precisely the reason I switched back to film cause it is HARD. It helped me to slow down, and as a result I think a lot more when I shoot. I leant to guess the light, I learnt to look for interesting compositions or juxtapositions cause every frame must count since it costs me money, and learnt to appreciate the city I live in. It took a lot more time for me to finish 36 frames, but I have much more keepers.
Another reason why I prefer film is because the feeling when you get back your negatives and found out you have nailed the shot is extremely satisfying. Sure I’ve had screw-ups and disappointments along the way, but in general I found film photography to be much more rewarding than digital. With film I won’t chimp and look at my LCD screen all the time, and I often forgot what I took until I see the scan results. But it was precisely the reason that made me a better photographer, because I learnt to distance myself from my work. I became much more critical when editing my works, and when I’m not impressed by the results I’ve seen, I go out and shoot more. I stopped uploading my work everyday, and in fact this is the first time I’ve shown my street works to the public in two weeks. After all, you are only as good as your weakest shot.
Here are some of the images I took over the last two weeks. Hope you’ll like them. All images were taken with Leica M6 TTL (I was lucky to find a wonderful new old stock of the Millennium Black Paint edition) and 35mm Summilux FLE on Tri-x.
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