The Slowest Film

Unless you’re a modern day nomad, constantly travelling from place to place, the chances are you visit the same locations time and time again.

And, being a photographer, inevitably you make pictures of the same objects in those places over and over again too.

One thing I really enjoy about having an archive on Flickr that’s easier to navigate and browse through than any other photo storage method I’ve found, is seeing images of the same things pop up repeatedly over time.

The overall effect is like watching some super slow film, where each frame is captured not fractions of a second apart, but days, weeks, months, even years apart. 

Here’s an example from one of the nearest ancient churches to me, a notice in the church’s entrance porch I can’t help but try to photograph in a different way (and usually with a different camera!) each time.

Which subjects and places in your photography archives do you find you keep returning to? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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16 thoughts on “The Slowest Film”

      1. Interesting. I guess I missed that post. I’ve never shot film that slow. Maybe someday I’ll give it a try. I’ve got some microfilm in my refrigerator I picked up for cheap that I plan on eventually attempting to use for pictorial use. Unfortunately, it’s not perforated and I don’t have a camera at the moment that’ll feed it. Someday…

      2. It’s funny how some digital reviews bang on about high ISO performance being the be-all and end-all. When I shot film, most of the time it was ISO100 or 200, and I didn’t have significant issues. This translates to my digital cameras now, I nearly always use the native ISO which is 80, 100 or 200, depending on camera. Unless you want to see in the dark, for usual daylight shooting ISO 100 or 200 is fine. ISO1.6 was definitely more of a challenge though! I chose a bright sunny day, used a 50/1.4 lens wide open, and tried to keep very steady!

        At my day job we use old microfilm fairly regularly to view old files. I’ve never seen it in an “undeveloped” form.

      3. Yes, I can imagine shooting at EI 1.6 handheld would be quite challenging, even in full sun. I’ll definitely use a tripod if I ever try it.

        I almost always shoot film at EI 50-250. I’ll be honest, I don’t really understand why pushing TRI-X or HP5 two stops has become the norm for what seems like just about everyone these days. I’d rather pull TRI-X to 200, or shoot HP5 or FP4 at box speed. I guess it all depends on what lighting conditions people tend to shoot in. I like shooting outside during the day, and I feel ASA 400 films are way too fast for sunny days, even shot at box speed.

        The microfilm I have is a bulk roll of old Agfa stock. I don’t remember the exact type off the top of my head, but it’s akin to Adox CMS 20. I think it’s about fifteen years expired, but that’s likely irrelevant given how slow it is. For pictorial use I’ll probably have to shoot it somewhere around EI 8 or 16 and then develop it in a very careful manner using a speed-increasing developer and minimal agitation. Now if I can just find a camera for cheap that’ll feed unperforated film…

  1. Which is your favourite Dan? If I had to pick, it would be the first one. The natural metal framing brings this kind of mystery to it.
    There are a lot of places that I tend to come back to but rarely I’d photograph in the same spot, I try to find something different about it, something I haven’t seen before, otherwise I feel like i’m repeating myself…

    1. Thanks Yuri. Probably my first two are my favourites. I love the inky deep blacks in the first shot, and the textures and graininess of the second, which I think I made with a tiny 4MP Sony digital that I regret getting rid of.

  2. I too see these patterns in my photographs. I have way too many photographs of the same arches and buildings on the Princeton University campus — Nassau Hall, Pyne Hall, The Firestone Library, Madison Hall, Hamilton Hall, the Princeton University Chapel, the Woodrow Wilson School. This year, I have made an effort to avoid photographing the campus but I completed failed.

    I love the outdoors and my town and neighbouring towns have many open-space preserves, forests and woodland and streams. However, there is one section of woods on the Rock Brook in Skillman that I have photographed in every season from about every angle for the last 19 years. I think I can say, it’s been fully documented. 🤣

    1. I think it’s inevitable we’re drawn to the same places, subjects, shapes, textures. Some just resonate with us and appeal to us more than others, for whatever reasons.

      I can’t recall who it was, but I always remember reading about a famous American photographer who for the last few years of his life photographed nothing but the tree at the end of his garden, through the different seasons and weather. It was a beautiful study in just one simple subject. He must have got to know it better than the back of his own hand.

  3. As a street photographer, and having worked in the same city for about twenty years now, it happens sometimes that recognize people in the street, whose photo I have taken in the past. It isn’t quite “returning to the same subjects,” because i cannot control when it happens, but when it does it feels a little bit like magic.

    When it happens I always thing of Borges’ story “The Aleph.” Years ago I wrote about this in a blog for a photo collective I was part of. Here is a translation:

    1. Very interesting Juan. This is what I experience with subjects like the sign in the pictures above, but you’ve seen it with people in the streets.

  4. The garden of my parents, which is curious because I am interested but not much in it, is just that there is not much chance to take their portraits so I pass the time in the garden, as a consolation prize maybe : D

  5. There’s two categories of pictures I take…
    One is my family, especially my kids. That is a repeating subject, for sure 🙂
    The other is things in nature, from flowers to the sun reflection behind leaves, and scenery in general… with this it might look a bit repetitive but each flower and leaf are unique, as is the light when the picture was taken…
    But I do get bored with certain subjects and places that I’ve visited too many times, especially scenes are concerned. I know some people keep buying lenses and shooting the same things over and over again with a new lens this time, but that doesn’t appeal to me. I’d like each of my pictures to have its own meaning…
    But with the first type of pictures – my family – it does seem like a slow film, and I enjoy going back and looking at how they looked like 2,5 or more years ago…

    1. Chris I’m very much the same, with the two categories – family shots, then my more intentional photography.

      I have definitely been through phases of shooting the same things with different lenses, just to test the lens. After a while you feel more like a camera/lens tester than a photographer.

      I like having a little variety, but not testing a different lens or camera every time I head out.

      I think this can also be a kind of crutch for not trying to expand or develop your photography. It feels like you’re evolving, but all that’s changing each time is the lens or camera and you’re taking essentially the same pictures.

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