Culture Snap - Award-Winning Photography by Henry VanderSpek | Back to Film

Back to Film

February 22, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

We used to wait

We used to waste hours just walking around...

Now our lives are changing fast

Hope that something pure can last

- We Used to Wait, The Arcade Fire, 2010

My father shot and developed film photos for many years before the digital revolution came about. My brothers and I would gripe about sitting for family photos, but our father would make sure it happened. One tool he used was an air shutter release cord (like this one) - a small ball on a cord attached to the camera that he would squeeze in order to trigger the shutter mechanism. He would do what it takes to get the job done.

My Dad and I.My Dad and I sitting with some of his old film camera gear.

- My father and I with his film camera gear.

In early 2017, my father gave me his old Canon AE-1 film camera. It was his steady film camera from all those family portraits and it served him well. I had shot film myself from the late 1980s until about 2003, at first using plastic point-and-shoots and later a Minolta SLR, so was excited to get back into film once again. I could think of no better way to do so than with my father's tried and trusted classic camera.

- My father's Canon AE-1 with some old rolls of film

Since getting my father's Canon AE-1 I have shot about 8-9 rolls of 35mm film of varying types. It has been a rewarding experience, for nostalgia's sake alone. There's nothing like inserting a new roll into the camera and advancing the film until it is ready, manually finding focus. hearing the click of the mechanical shutter, and then advancing the roll to the next frame. The whole experience brings back memories of a time since past.

Beyond the nostalgia factor, there is also the experience of shooting. Unless one's film camera has an auto-winder - fairly rare until the late 1970s and early 1980s - you can only take one exposure of a scene. With digital one can hold down the shutter button and take six-ten shots of an action scene, depending on the speed of your camera. With older film cameras you need to wait and try your best at capturing what Henri Cartier-Bresson famously called "the decisive moment" (this article from 2014 provides helfpul insight into Henri Cartier-Bresson's famous quote). You also don't have 500-1000 exposures available to you, as you might on an SD or CF memory card, but rather 24 or 36 exposures per roll of film. One must be more selective with how they shoot those limited number of exposures.

After exposing all the available frames on a roll, one must then wait for the roll to be developed. Some old-school photographers still do this at home, but I am not yet up for that challenge so I bring them to Downtown Camera, one of a few Toronto photo stores where film is still being developed. I then wait for 5-7 days to receive the negatives and digital scans of my images (prints are also available, but I prefer to review my images before printing them).

The anticipation that builds as one waits for their film to develop is a significant element missing in today's era of digital photography. Waiting for TV shows, for the newspaper, at home for a phonecall, for film to develop - this is how life used to be not so long ago. As Arcade Fire sang so well in 2010, "We Used to Wait". I've been enjoying the waiting, the anticipation and the wondering about what I captured that comes with shooting film.

There's no need for you to wait however. Here are samples of my first roll of film in some 14 years - a roll of Kentmere 400, a discount brand from the UK that my photographer friend Peter Lewicki suggested I try. In fact all of the images shared here I took while on a photo walk with Peter along Dundas Street, west of Ossington Avenue.

 

- Soo Ling Beads and Beading Co. Ltd.

- The Red Light

- Dundas Variety

- KIÊN GIANG     VARIETY -   OKE - FOOD

- In A Mirror Dimly

- Storefront Bible

- Victory Tattoo Parlour

- Toronto Bikes

- Power Lines

Thank you for looking. I plan to share more film photos via my blog, so please stay tuned.

Feel free to share this post. Please tag me when doing so - on Twitter @culture_snap and on Facebook @CultureSnapPhotography. To send me a comment, please do so here.

 

Now our lives are changing fast

Hope that something pure can last

- We Used to Wait, The Arcade Fire, 2010.

 


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Culture Snap Photography features the work of Toronto-based photographer Henry VanderSpek. Henry specializes in documenting the work of local and international non-profit organizations, special events, live music, street and art photography. To hire Henry for an assignment, please click here to get in touch.
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