Archive for the ‘film’ Category

michaelaDigital is nothing magical.  It’s perfectly good at recording, but the magic is gone compared to the days of film.

There’s something about the waiting that made film photography more special.  The time created anticipation which allowed us to forget the details of the moment, and relive it when we finally saw the film and prints.

I was just talking to someone recently about this, as I was carrying a Leica IIIf around my neck, that in the analog days, film was magical, the photographer the magician, and getting a photo meant hiring a photographer to make that image.

Untitled-26_1Nowadays, shoot it any way with any camera, even a phone, drop a few filters on the shot, and it’s good enough.  There is no magic.  The art director can fine tune the shot in camera and see the finished image before the photographer even leaves the shoot.

Even when I shoot digital, if I shoot your portrait, I will never show you the photo right there.  Because, it’s not about seeing it yet, but waiting until it’s finished.  And digital photographs need finishing.

Right now, there is film with latent images in my Leica that I don’t remember, and I will be transported back to where they were taken once the roll is finished and developed.  And I’ll have that experience all over again.

I love film for that reason.  It’s not spray and pray.  It’s not ones and zeroes buried on a card, a phone, a hard-drive.  It’s a photograph.  Time captured in silver.  Light burnt from that unique moment onto that actual piece of film.

You realize that film was present at the event.  That frame saw your Grandpa in that long-lost roll of film, with the latent image still intact, awaiting processing all these years.

The magic is gone with digital.  The photographers lost out.  And we all did when “good enough” with a few filters replaced the masterful technique of recording light.

She was sitting alone on the park bench.  I saw her immediately, sitting alone, looking very content.  Two people came up to me to ask me about the Hasselblad 500c/m I was carrying.  I enjoyed talking to them, but was keeping an eye out on her.  When they finally said goodbye, I turned to see her still sitting there, in a column of shade on an otherwise unseasonably warm, sunny autumn afternoon.

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I sat down and asked her if I could take her photo.  She said yes, or course.  I love that answer.

A few years ago, I was visiting a good friend and his Father was over visiting.  I asked him if I could take his photo.  He said, “Yes, I think it’s an honor to have someone want to take my picture.”

It was the same for her.  She asked me where I would put the photo, and I told her about this new photo project I was working on, called TheWisePhotoProject.com.  I told her I’d put her on there.  She seemed flattered.  I set up the shot and took two frames with the old Hassy.

Her daughter came over and saw me.  I offered to take a photo of them together.  And I did.  Here it is.

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I came home that day and thought that was about as good a day as I can think of, one where I got to document this sweet older face, and then get her connecting to her daughter.  This is about the most important work I do.  Documenting real people in real places.  Capturing them without knowing how I would be touching their lives.  The spontaneity of it all.

It was truly a good day.  When I see these photos, they make me smile.

She asked me a few times where I would put the photo, and each time I answered that I’d put it on my site for The Wise Photo Project.  I don’t know if she had a bit of dementia, but in any case, I got the opportunity to make her smile, make her connect with her daughter and create photographs that will last for generations.

I want to print them large, like 20×20 and frame and mat them for them.  The magic is in the print.  That is where the photograph lives, and lasts, forever.

When I need inspiration, I start my own photo project, which gives me focus for a duration of time. And photography is all about good focus.

So, I’ve started The Wise Photo Project, where I photograph wise older people with interesting faces in a magazine-style environmental portrait, and frame them large, like 16×20. It’s going to be a gallery show and a book of the same name.

Their faces tell so much about them. And the printing is important. I believe that a print is much more valuable than a file folder of images buried in a hard drive or phone.

You can see some of the photos here at The Wise Photo Project

What do you do for your inspiration? Do you have a photo project?

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Street plookerhotography.  Those two words have a lot of connotations, and often, it seems to be photos of people standing on the street, maybe checking their phones.  Those photographs don’t do a lot for me.  They are more like record shots, than documentaries of anything going on.  While taking place on the street, they tell a boring story.

And for me, for a street photo to have merit, it has to have a good story.  Even if it’s one that may not be easily deciphered, it has to have one.  Because content is king.  That is what makes a photograph move from the discard pile into the keep pile, for me.

Besides photography, I am a writer and filmmaker, and my film sense is very much small, art-house fare, not Hollywood explosive action flicks.  I like a good story about people, a story that I can relate to.  The simpler the better.  Just don’t be predictable or boring–two of the cardinal sins of storytelling.

Here’s my idea of a storytelling street photo.    Shot with a Rolleiflex.  A little girl sizing up the offerings around the next corner.

I shoot a lot of street photography on a digital Fuji X100, as well as film.  You can see more here: http://kennethwajda.com/kennethwajdastreetphotography.htm

Would love to know your thoughts on street photography.

bolex2This is what I saw one day walking on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, and I had to get a photo of her.  And the camera operator, too!

Carrying my Rolleiflex, I asked if I could take her portrait.  She immediately recognized the coolness of my picture machine, and said yes.

That’s a vintage Bolex 16mm film camera, probably a Rex4, she’s shooting.

It looks to me like it could be a still from 1968.

I have another love for motion picture film, too.  I shoot Super 8 and 16mm.  A similar unique look to those images!

Cameras reunited, and it feels so good!

couple1Carrying a Rolleiflex around, people come up to you to talk about it.  And you can approach people with the line, “Can I take your photo, I have this old camera I’m shooting,” which is the 100% complete truth, and people will let you.  It’s a great ice breaker.  That’s how the image at right was made.

I had just left a screening at the Boulder Theater of Finding Vivian Maier, a wonderful documentary of a woman/nanny/photographer who shot thousands of rolls of film, and whose work was only discovered after she had passed on.  Vivian shot with a Rolleiflex, so naturally, after the show, I brought out mine to show folks, and shot these two sitting on the Pearl Street Mall.

8-31-2014 12-52-17 PMI think because it’s a piece of art that you’re working with–the Rolleiflex is such a unique design, and a beautiful piece of gear–it draws attention.  And conversation.

It has another quality, it can make you business.  I shoot Senior Portraits in Colorado, and the woman I bought the camera from called me a year later and asked me to shoot her son’s senior portraits, including some with the Rolleiflex.  And we did just that.

This last photo was shot with the Rolleiflex just last week at the senior portrait shoot.  It’s a joy to be able to use these cameras both for personal and professional work.

Senior PortraitThere’s something about a square image that really works for me.  Maybe because it’s a little different than what most people are creating.  Maybe it’s because I grew up in the era of record covers.

In any case, the Rolleiflex, if you haven’t tried one, find one and give it a shoot.  You’ll find it’s very comfortable to work with, fits well in the hands and isn’t too heavy like many of the 6×6 SLRs, like Bronicas and RB67s are.

Yet it feels solid, like it’s quality engineering you’re shooting with.  Just like a Leica feels, if you’re familiar with them.

And one conversation leads to a portrait, and then another conversation, and another portrait, and on.

The one thing that I really love about shooting film, that is really missing with digital photography for me, is the waiting.  The time between shooting and processing is a welcome delay.  Because I have a mind that easily forgets what I shot, and when the roll is finally processed, I have a surprise waiting for me.  Or 12 or 36 of them.

jump2 (2)I was just talking to a neighbor and he saw me with an old Olympus Pen half-frame camera I found in my car when I was cleaning it out.  It didn’t work, and I was trying to get it to–no luck.  He saw the camera and said he had an old Nikon F2 with some great lenses.  He said he hadn’t used it for years.  I said load a roll of film, and even if it takes a year to shoot, when it’s done and back from the lab (or hand-processed), there will be memories to see that he had completely forgotten about.  With digital, if I shoot your photograph, then show you on the screen, all the wonder and enjoyment is done.  Now I just have that tedious task of exporting it to a file and getting it to you.  But there’s no more wonder.  That’s why with digital I never show anyone what I just shot–it kills the ability to share it with them when it’s finished, and they’ve forgotten a little about it.

kids2 (2)The photos from a long-ago shot roll of film look familiar, but there’s the puzzle in your head, where you try to remember what they were, who they were with, etc.  There’s the delight in finding a really special image that you didn’t even realize was on there, and it’s one of your favorites.  Maybe of all time.  Just waiting there for you to discover.

These three photos I shot while walking to the post office a year ago.  I was carrying a Nikon F100 with a 50mm f2 lens.  Completely forgot about them, and probably thought they wouldn’t look like anything when I shot them.  Then the film was finished and I feel like I captured a little piece of a Norman Rockwell childhood.  Three of my favorite shots.  Kids playing a jumping game with a branch.  Who would’ve thought?  A delightful surprise, as delightful as their smiles.

It’s Christmas morning!

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Here’s an interesting perspective about film vs digital imaging. Film looks like past tense, and digital looks like present tense. Here’s an example that everyone will instantly understand. If I switch on the TV and the movie The Natural or Angels In the Outfield, or Bull Durham or any other baseball movie is on, in a scene of game action, no one will see the players and think they are watching the sports highlights. They can tell it looks like a movie, and not video from today’s MLB broadcast of your team, whatever city you’re in. It looks like a movie, like it was recorded and saved some time ago. Past tense.

George and Co.Digital imaging looks like present tense, like surveillance footage, really. Just what you shot is exactly what you got.

Film has a dreamy, slightly soft quality, that looks like a moment stored, saved from the past. That’s what draws me to it, its slightly less real quality. Digital photography is sharper than film, I think, so if you’re out to shoot sharpness tests, go digital. But sharpness is not only what makes a great photograph.

Take this image. It’s of a friend and a dear childhood friend of his, goofing around at night with terrible light, hats creating shadows over faces, slightly blurry. Doesn’t matter a bit, this is a moment they’ll always remember. They were poking each other, after I prompted them from their standing, normal (and boring) pose. It’s two grown men being the boys they once were. It’s alive and captured beautifully on Tri-x with an Olympus OM2n with a 100mm f2.8.

I know there’s a need for digital in my work flow, for commercial work. But for personal work, I can’t help but want to pull out the film cameras and save my memories with this special silver-based medium.

singerSo, while this blog is titled 6×6 Portraits, I have a variety of interests in different film formats, not just 6×6.  I have a love for Leica 35mm, too, and shoot regularly with an M3, M6 and IIIf.  The photo at left was the first shot made with my first Leica in 2010, an M6 with a 50mm f2 lens.

I think when you love film, you can’t not love many different formats.  Because they are all useful for different subjects.  I have a 4×5 Speed Graphic, and a 126 Kodak Instamatic 500 with a Schneider lens that I’ve loaded with 35mm to shoot sometime.

I started with film.  I was a staff photographer at a daily newspaper for 15 years starting in the late 80s.  Film is all I knew and it became very dependable.  People on assignment would ask, “Do you think they’ll turn out?”  And I’d say, “Yes, they always turn out.”  They better, it was my job to bring back a photograph for a story.  Failure was not an option.

Anyway, nowadays, I love my Rolleiflex.  I love the large negative.  I carry it everywhere I go, but I also carry 35mm cameras, so this blog will also feature photos shot 24mm x 36mm, despite being called 6×6 Portraits.  It will have a special emphasis on portraits on 6×6, but you never know when I’ll have a great 35mm or large format image I just have to share.

Thanks for following my blog, you film fans, all of you!  🙂

bridge-print-photoA simple walk on a sunny morning.  Shot this with my Rolleiflex after I just got it, to test it out. It’s the bridge over the South St. Vrain River in Lyons, Colorado, from a neighborhood (that got destroyed) into Bohn Park.  Now it’s gone, as is the park, too, because our town suffered a flood a year ago, and this bridge no longer spans the river.

The power of photography is not just to capture a memory, but to preserve things, people, places that we assume will always be around, but in fact, may soon no longer exist.  This bridge and this tranquil scene we would’ve expected would last forever.  But alas, that wasn’t to be.

When I first moved to this town, I took photos of the buildings and neighborhoods.  That was in 2006.  This year I posted them and many of the images brought back so many memories for so many people.  They weren’t great photographs–the impact was from seeing what no longer was.  In eight years, businesses had closed, things had changed, changes we might not have realized except we could look into the past, via the photographs, and there it was, to see what we were missing.

So, capture the ordinary, the everyday.  Because it slowly changes.  Sometimes almost imperceptibly, but with the element of time, looking back, those photographs become a time capsule to travel back and revisit those days once more.