Teaching How to Make Magic in the Film Camera, To Print Photographs They’ll Hold Dear

It’s a generous medium, photography.”

Lee Friedlander

I’ve been teaching film photography to several different people the past few weeks and it’s so rewarding to see how they light up when they finally understand their camera and realize that they can do it, they see how it works, and that they can make actual film photographs.

I encourage them to print their work, and they all seem enthusiastic to do just that. Because photographs are the product of photography, the goal, the end result if you’re working in film. Since 1839, the print’s been the thing and for today’s film photographers, it still is.

Film cameras are works of art of their own. A delight to behold. And to hold. Plus to use!

Thankfully, in an age where digital technology is moving at lightning speed, when most people are happy making fleeting images for screens, there is still an interest by photographers to make photographs and also a plethora of good quality, working used film cameras available for new film photographers. Add to that a large number of film manufacturers (Ilford, Kodak, Fuji, Bergger, Ferrania, Rollei, to name a few) strongly supporting analog photography with a good variety of film stocks in both color and black and white emulsions, and you have a thriving film photography community.

Through my teaching, I am helping a new generation of people–young people but also people of various ages–learn to make photographs in a way that’s new to them. They have no history with film, so this is a new medium and they fully embrace it. A new challenge. A new art approach.

Where there is still a little mystery inside that camera that only the photographer knows about–seeing the light, making the exposure and letting the alchemy of film work its magic.

At the end of the roll, they have framed printed photographs to look at, to gift to friends, to hang on walls or place on shelves at home and work, and to enjoy their own creation. They made these with the light that was with them falling on their subject, be that family, friends, pets, special places or things. The exposed film was at the Grand Canyon with them as they descended the canyons walls. The negative of their grandpa shares the soft light they were standing in together at the botanic garden when the shutter was fired.

It’s magic, is what it is. Photographic prints, with no need for a screen to view. Faces that live on the shelf or wall.

“Do you see him? There, in the small gold frame. That’s the portrait of my Daddy I made just before I left for college. He’s always right here with me.”

It’s art that’s always on, even in a power outage. That lasts forever. A part of their home, a part of their world.

What a tremendous gift it is for them, that they have to be able to make photographs, for themselves and for their family and friends.

What a tremendous gift it is for me, that I get to help them make them, to learn how to use their film cameras (I’ve had students with 35mm up to 4×5 cameras!) become photographers and go out into their world to document that which is most important to them, and make photographs.

Note: If you have a working 35mm camera, 120 medium format camera, 4×5 or larger view camera that you don’t want and will never use, I can get it to a new film photographer. Email me or text me with photos with what you have and if I can use it, we can set up a time to either pick it up if you’re local or have it shipped at my expense. The same with expired film, if you have any you don’t want and will never use, we can always use it for testing cameras. Just contact me. Thanks!

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