Nostalgia

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A few days ago I was cleaning out my basement when I came across an unmarked mystery box. It was your standard, run-of-the-mill brown cardboard box with no special markings. What was strange about it is that it was taped shut with packing tape. When my wife and I moved into our house almost 3 years ago I was sure that I unpacked and sorted pretty much everything that we brought from the old apartment. It seemed like this mystery box somehow got lost in the shuffle and spent the last 3 years obscurely hidden behind old camping and rock climbing gear. To make a long story short, the box contained about 40 rolls of medium format Kodak Tri-X, a bunch of assorted rolls of 35mm film and enough black-and-white film chemicals to either process all the film in the box or to kill every living plant in my backyard. As I started sorting through this newly found treasure I felt a wave of nostalgia for the time in my life, many years ago, when I first got into photography. I realized how much I missed the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of mechanical film cameras and the skill required to take and print a decent photograph. I missed the times when you bought a camera and 10 years later you could still use it. When you could literally drive a nail with your camera body and take amazing photos with it the next day. I remembered when back in 1998 I lost my car keys while hiking in the Shenandoah mountains. I had a spare set of keys in my glove box, but to get to them I had to break my car window. After a few unsuccessful attempts of breaking a window with my fist and with a large branch (there were no rocks nearby), I took the motor drive off of my Nikon F3 and broke the window on the first try. The motor drive went back on the camera with hardly a scratch. I miss the days when you could use your camera as a blunt instrument and still take photos with it. But most of all, I miss film… I miss opening a fresh roll of film; it’s almost like opening a brand-new book – it smell wonderful and feels like unwrapping a tiny present. I miss the wonderful whirring noise that my Nikon F3’s motor drive made while advancing to the next frame. I miss picking up rolls of film from the lab. I even miss the hassle of requesting my film to be hand-checked at the airport. Looking at all that film and at all the film cameras that are lying around my house but have not been picked up in years made me realize a few things. First of all, I miss doing personal work. The last few years I’ve been so wrapped up in getting my business up and running that I haven’t really done any personal work. I did not make any New Year’s resolutions this year, but I think I’d like to make one now – this year I’ll compile all my notes on personal projects that I have wanted to do for years and actually do those projects. Secondly, I’d like to scan and organize my collection of negatives. I have a bookshelf full of large negative binders, probably a few thousands of rolls of film. My next photography-related purchase will be a film scanner – I am actually curious to see my own work from 10 years ago. And who knows – maybe I’ll start shooting film again on daily basis.

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