Photography is about far more than just the final image.
Whilst I’ve never completely forgotten to load a roll of film in a camera before heading out to shoot, there have been a handful of occasions where for whatever reason, the film hasn’t wound on with each shot.
I remember a particular time when I ventured out to a new part of the local woods on a beautiful frosty, sunlit early morning.
I came across a handful of abandon dodgem cars and other fairground remnants.
It was as if an old carnival had been passing through the woods, had become tired and stopped for a rest, then never got up again.
The light was glorious, and the juxtaposition of the decaying old cars and fresh undergrowth gradually reclaiming them to the earth, was wonderful.
Perfect for photography!
I carefully composed and captured (I assumed) 36 shots. Then another. And another, and another.
Then I realised, the film hadn’t moved a millimetre, and none of those images had been made at all.
But this wasn’t the complete disaster you might think.
The experience I had of making the pictures, of exploring and composing each frame as I went, was not diminished.
I’d still enjoyed it, I’d still been immersed in it, even if I didn’t have the photographic evidence I had expected.
Plus I could still recall many of the images in my head, just as beautiful as they’d looked the moment I’d released the shutter.
After all, how many times in life do we do something for the experience, and then also expect to have a beautiful collection of photographs to prove it too?
Not many, because usually if you’re focusing on taking a picture, you’re not fully engaged in the event itself.
Few people are their own wedding photographer, for example!
As an aside, how many times as a parent of two children in primary school have I seen other parents at a sports day or concert or play, watching the whole thing unfold through a tiny phone or camera screen? Far too many!
I understand people want to capture some of these moments to revisit in the future, and share with others, but if you’re the one actually there, don’t you want to fully enjoy it through your own eyes? Otherwise, you’re only half there. I digress.
Back to photography without film.
This occasion in the woods, along with a handful of others (yeh, you’d think I’d have learned, but that’s what happens when you keep shooting with different cameras and not getting to know exactly how they load!), reminded me of the main reason I wander the rural backwoods, camera in hand.
It’s for the experience, the immersion, and the emotions I feel.
Any resultant photographs I’m proud of are of course a bonus.
But really the camera is just an excuse to get me in those places in the first place.
How about you? Have you ever shot a roll of film only to realise it hadn’t loaded and wound on properly? How did you feel?
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