Digital photography is at best soulless.
It is a series of attempts to capture emotion and movement that more often than not fails. The ability to repeatedly click a button in the search for a golden moment or expression takes away the natural instinct of a human mind.
In using film, an image is produced that is both wrapped in silk and entwined by razor wire simultaneously; as soft and beautiful as it is cutting to the emotion. The process requires patience and an understanding, or at least a willingness to understand, your own way of seeing.
It is a hunt. A hunt where your ammunition is limited and where it is necessary to train your eye to make the greatest use possible of 24 shots. The subject is the prize, the landscape the great open plain in which the subject hides and the lens the vehicle that evokes the adrenalin flooding through you. In film there is consequence. Get it wrong and the emotion is gone forever. But wait, observe and learn the timing of a subjects actions and you will find a truth. Your own truth.
It is such a revealing process to the individual behind the lens. In a very short amount of time it is possible to discover the way your eyes and mind work together. This is impossible with digital photography. The influx of possibilities confuse the photographer into mimicry, appropriation and a lack of original thought. In film the only thought that can live is original.
I recently discovered an Olympus film camera in the draw of a house that was being cleared by my partners parents. It is one that boarders the age of film and digital, and allows playful experimentation. In the four months since it was found it has not left my side, and in that time life has changed dramatically. My partner is now now my ex-partner. I have travelled to four countries, each of which has brought with it a new discovery, and my own constraints to my creativity have suddenly been lifted. I accredit this in part to the camera.
Having to relearn patience has been key. Watching a man walk along the rocky sea front in Mallorca, as the waves broke violently in front of him, I tried to predict his decision. I felt he would jump. He seemed to be looking for a safe point. For five minutes I waited, my finger poised. Then in one rapid movement he removed his shirt, threw it behind him and dove into the gap between the rocks he had located. As he did so, my finger applied pressure. I only had one shot. I could not reel off six or seven in quick succession, as I could have with digital, and I missed the moment very slightly. I caught him in the air, pointing his body towards the water, but I could not quite catch the angle I had hoped. I was left frustrated when the print came back, but more determined than ever.
As my relationship fell apart in Spain, I took an image of three close friends stood framed by a beautiful sunset. They held their phones in front of them and smiled to a backdrop of mirror like sea and succulent orange skies. The idea fascinated me that the image they capture is then likely to be circulated on social media, becoming a non precious object due to it’s physical nature. Yes, it will continue to exist. It will live via computer screens and smartphones. However it will never be held. The surface will never feel skin. It will never be found in an album that a grandmother keeps under her favourite chair ready to illustrate a glorious history full of life to her family. I may of course be wrong. It could indeed already be printed and hung on a wall. However in it’s digital make up I still struggle to find a soul.
Two months later in Amsterdam, I bathed in melancholia. For a day, on a borrowed bike, I cycled every inch of the canal system camera in hand. From red lights, to abandoned buildings and through relaxing boat rides to the random rooms I found myself in. Everything became framed. It wasn’t about pointing and clicking a button to celebrate a visit or something that looked great. It was about finding my emotion. Outside a bookshop on the banks of the canal, a small table sat with two empty chairs. An umbrella pierced the table. Nothing moved. No one spoke. I waited. Not for any kind of action, not to find the perfect frame. I waited to find out how I felt. As that tinge of loneliness set in, as the truth emerged to me, I pressed the button. The result is perfect to me. Whether the focus works, or the image is of interest to anyone else means nothing. I see that moment in the glaze on the water and the emptiness of the chairs. It is a wonderful moment of realisation.