I am a collector. I have a variety of hobbies, but when it comes down to it, collecting is the prevailing theme. As this blog testifies, one of my prominent collecting habits centres on photography. We are at a unique time and place in the world of photography. Professionals who need accuracy and expediency, and who’s livelihood depends on their ability to deliver the product have switched to digital. It makes sense. It’s not a matter of “analogue vs. digital, which is better?” That discussion is best left to those who spend more time browsing flickr discussion threads than actually touching cameras. It’s also a time when film is being discontinued and developing processes are disappearing. And conversely, it’s a time when it’s trendy to shoot with film, in a “hey-look-at-me-I-have-a-fashionable-hobby” kind of way. I am not primarily a photographer, so the perspective is completely different for me. I collect, and I enjoy the challenge of collecting. My finite budget dictates that I seek and discover economic ways of collecting, so that I can collect more. My collection is primarily about functioning cameras. I like to take pictures, but that doesn’t really make me a photographer. (I have a piano, but no one has ever called me a pianist.) I digress.
In order to test the cameras that I collect, I need film. Film costs money. Not only that, it costs money to buy it, and then it costs money to process it. I have managed to cut my costs by only paying to process it and then scanning it myself, and I have a secret for getting film for free. Remember the professionals I mentioned above? They used to shoot with film. They still have some. They probably have some weird stuff you’ve never seen before. Here’s my secret: make friends. Play nice. Be interested and interesting. Many professionals have a nostalgic soft spot for film, even if they haven’t used it for years. They may think it’s cool that you are using it. They might want to share their cool stash.
A fellow who’s daughter goes to school with my son just gave me a bag of film from his fridge. Unlike me, he actually makes a living taking pictures (and deserves to). Here’s the inventory he added to my stash: AGFA SCALA 200x – 120mm – 5 rolls, Fujifilm X-Tra 400 – 35mm – 5 rolls, Fujifilm 64T II – 35mm – 2 rolls, Kodak Ektachrome E100G – 35mm – 4 rolls, Fujichrome Provia 400F – 120mm – 2 rolls, Fujichrome Velvia 100F – 120mm – 1 roll, Fujichrome Velvia 100F – 35mm – 3 rolls, Kodak Ektachrome 64T – 35mm – 1 roll, Kodak Ektachrome 100Plus – 35mm – 1 roll, Fujifilm Neopam Professional 1600 – 35mm – 2 rolls, Fujichrome Provia 400F – 35mm – 1 roll, IR film ?? – 35mm – 1 roll. Pretty impressive? I thought so. I’ll shoot with it, and show him what I did. He might give me some pointers, he might laugh and tell me I’m crazy, he might decide that he wants to pull out a vintage camera himself, or he might just say “whatever” and invite me in for a beer. The things that I won’t do are: expect him to think I am awesome, or imply that we are equals (the addict doesn’t necessarily chum around with the pharmacist, unless of course they live in the same neighbourhood, and the addict hides it well, but that’s another story altogether).
What’s my point? I don’t know. Maybe I’m trying to say that I have an unnatural infatuation with cameras for someone who doesn’t really know that much about photography per se. Or maybe I’m just trying to say “Thanks Curtis, I can’t wait to try out this cool film”.
(He’s not the first one to give me free film – the rest of you are awesome too!)