2020 has seen a huge shift in what I do in photography and how I see things. At the beginning of the year I decided to start fresh, stop myself from using the words “landscape photographer” and concentrate on becoming a “documentary photographer”. There was a number of reasons for this, and I noticed it one day while looking through numerous Facebook photography groups and also my own back catalogue from the last half a decade or so (the time I’d been getting very serious with photography). Landscape photography, and my photography in general was becoming too sterile. Yes, it meant I was selling, but looking for the perfect image just looked to a lot of very bland photos.
I’ve been doing photography since my early teens in the early 1980s, but fascinated with photography long before that. Owning numerous film cameras until the digital age, then jumping on the digital train as an early adopter. My photography had always been people and places based, but around seven or eight years ago or more, when I moved to Aberavon and had the beach literally on my doorstep, my photography turned more and more to landscape based photographs. This, compounded by the start of Great Photography Walks four years ago seen my ploughing more and more effort into taking the perfect photo.
During this time, I’d always mixed up digital and analogue photography, but my 35mm photography (which I would dip into once or twice a year) I would always keep for family occasions. I always find film much more candid for family photographs, and that makes them all that more special. In recent years I rarely attempted landscape photography with 35mm film, the main reasons are that I had done it many times over the years, and I just much prefer shooting digital for landscapes as you have much more control over the final image.
Film, but not film in 2021
Currently I’m planning a huge project for 2021. I’m a photographer, and because of that I get all my film developed and I print out all my favourite digital images. Nothing, but nothing is better than having an image in your hand in print. It will be there for you, your family and your children, and even your children’s children (see my popular article on this subject).
On top of being a photographer, I’m a documentary photographer. I want to have life and soul in my images, they are real, they are almost always straight from camera, they are of a time and a place. So, my idea for 2021 is to purchase a Fujifilm Instax LiPlay mini instant camera or a Fujifilm Sq6 Square format camera. Having researched many types of instant camera, these ones have everything I want for my project.
My original choice was the new Fujifilm Instax LiPlay which uses mini film. It’s great because the images take up less room and is quite cheap at around £1 per shot. The LiPlay can also be used as a printer and you can selectivity print only the images you want.
However, the more I thought about it, the more I like the Instax SQ6 which is a square format film. You take the photo and it prints out, no second chances. This sounds more fun and in line with the nostalgia that instant printing is associated with. It’s a bit more expensive at around £1.40 a shot, but it’s direct from button shot to film without any digital middle ground, plus the images are square, just like old Polaroid images.
It’s a difficult choice between two very different cameras, but one I will make sooner rather than later.
I’ve always loved instant film, and like many families in the 70s and 80s, we had numerous instant film cameras. It’s film, but it’s in an instant! You get to see your results straight away, wherever you are! The thrill of this is as important as the process of taking the photo in the first place!
My intention is to catalogue 2021 in a photo album, as a project, using Instax film. I’ll be looking at just 10 or 20 photos a month from family, my GPW group outings and other special days. I intend to print the images I like wherever I may be, for others to be a part of the project.
It’s going to be about people, places, moments and maybe the odd landscape. I’ll be using the standard colour film, plus the odd set of monochrome film. I’m really looking forward to the experience, it’s going to be exciting times!
I’ve already been asked why use instant film. I’ve already had people say the quality I print on my printer is better than instant film. I’ve already had people mention the cost and that is not a “real” camera.
I’m doing it because it’s a challenge, I’m doing it because it’s different, and I’m doing it because imperfection is perfection. But mostly in doing it for me.