I recently was given a Zeiss Ikon Contaflex Super B 35mm camera. The camera belonged to my great-grandparents and was given to me after the passing of my great-grandmother Ruth, who lived to 103. I was very excited to be given to camera, and even more excited to see what nice images it produces.
I’ve only shot one roll so far, but already it’s been a joy using a film camera again. At the risk of sounding cliché, shooting film really does make you slow down and think. For one, manual focus really forces you to slow things down. Advancing the film after each shot is a simple reminder that you’re working with a physical piece of photosensitive material in a mechanical device. Metal, springs, leather, glass. No batteries, no beeps, no screen.
In the last couple weeks I slowly shot my first roll of film in the Contaflex. I found that I became much more selective of my subjects, taking far fewer photos than I composed. The limited quantity of film in my camera coupled with the knowledge that I would pay money to have this film developed continually reminded me to ask: “Is this actually interesting?” I found the lack of a digital LCD to review images was also refreshing. You can’t review an image immediately after snapping it. It forces you to spend more time looking around, peering through the lens, and thinking about what you want to capture before hitting the shutter. Very refreshing.
All of this may or may not have resulted in “better” images, but it was definitely a great practice. I felt more in the moment; it was almost therapeutic. Hopefully through the continued use of film I can maintain some of this slow, methodical mentality in my digital practice and in place the frantic shoot! shoot! shoot! review! approach to photography. Maybe I’ll try my hand in the darkroom once again…
Film is Ilford Delta 400 B&W film, processed and scanned at SF Photoworks in San Francisco.