Tangible Memories: In Praise of Film Photography

Fast-forward to 2016 and picture-taking devices of all kinds and makes are everywhere, including tablets and cellphones. What a strange and miraculous time, yet I can’t help but be saddened by the truth of it all.

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Looking over film photography
Photo: Jennifer Franzin

I Miss Film Photography

As a girl growing up, there were no cell phones or tablets, and computers were few and far between. Most of these devices were just starting to make an appearance by the time I’d reached my late teens. Back then I had a point-and-shoot film camera. It is hard to believe that was less than 30 years ago.

Right from the beginning, I loved taking pictures. At first it was nature and landscapes that captured my heart, but as I grew older it evolved into capturing images of the people I loved, their faces and emotions. I wanted to memorize everything about them. I vividly remember the excitement of waiting for my roll of film to be finished, the anticipation building as I sent it off to be developed. I’d count down the days waiting until I could relive the moments I’d captured. The arrival of prints was always an exciting time. I loved the wrapped bundle and the smell of the photos.

Dad and I always sorted the images together; we talked, laughed and remembered the shared adventures. My dad was and is meticulous, always taking the time to place every image into an album and labelling the adventures so that one day, years in the future, we’ll look back and remember.

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Black-and-white photo album
Photo: Jennifer Franzin

A New Age

Fast-forward to 2016 and picture-taking devices of all kinds and makes are everywhere, including tablets and cellphones. What happened to film? Well, it is pretty much dead, no more than a novelty now for some people. It’s as though in the blink of an eye the world changed. How did I get so old so soon? It seems that everyone now owns a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera) and all consider themselves to be photographers. One minute I was a teenager enjoying my camera, printing my images and putting them into albums and then, boom—the next thing I know, I have a DSLR in my hand and am snapping pictures like crazy! I have memory cards that store thousands of images. I can shoot and shoot, capturing anything that tickles my fancy. I am not alone in this constant picture-taking phenomenon. Even my mom is taking pictures with her phone.

What a strange and miraculous time, yet I cannot help but be saddened by the hard truth of it all. Now, rather than having to be selective about what you capture, you have a near infinite amount of data at your fingertips available for photos. Waiting is a thing of the past. So here I sit with mounds and mounds of beautiful, glorious images and yet I feel so much of the joy has been sucked out of something that was magical and so profoundly special to me.

I went from waiting with bated breath for my images to be produced at the store to now seeing them instantaneously. I have a real love–hate relationship with time. There is part of me that loves all of this development and technological growth and another part of me that yearns for a simpler time. I miss the excitement, the anticipation and the time spent placing images lovingly into an album. I know I could and should change my ways, go back and print out pictures, like I used to—but I am a victim of technology. I live in a day and age where I can download images right onto my computer and share them with everyone in an instant. Albums and prints are more like ghosts in my world. I remember the days when I used to print photos every few weeks. Now years pass and there are no photo albums—just memories trapped in a hard drive, simply waiting. Waiting for me? Will they be printed, or stored on a computer on a shelf in a basement, hidden away from the people who need them and want them most?

I used to feel my images were unique and even special but now my love for my treasured passion is wavering. The world is starting to move too fast for me. Could it be my age—I turn 40 this year—or perhaps it’s just me? But, no; surely I cannot be alone in feeling this.

These magical photos of frozen bubbles will take your breath away.

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Coffee on dinner table
Photo: Jennifer Franzin

Missing the Old Days

My images are at once everywhere and nowhere. I have taken hundreds of thousands in my near 40 years. These images are on hard drives, social media platforms, blogs and photography pages but yet I feel they are completely and utterly elusive to me. I can no longer touch and feel them nor hold them close to my heart; pull them out of a closet and see them labelled with love, or go back to a moment in time. Sure, I still print some, but not like I used to—just random images here and there. I am so far behind that now I wonder if I could ever get caught up. I want to—I love photography, but I miss actual photographs. I want them back in my life, my children’s lives, and eventually their children’s lives.

So for now, here I sit with gigs and gigs of photographs and yet I have nothing tangible to show for it. The young me had many albums of photographs and now years later here I am at the halfway point in my life with so very few prints and even fewer albums. How did this happen? Where did the years go? As I sit here I long for the days gone by of sitting with my family, passing the photo albums around the table, talking about and sharing the unforgettable moments and memories.

We are constantly moving forward at a speed that has gotten much too fast for me. The world is at my fingertips and yet I feel so far away from something that fed my soul. I am connected to everything and everyone and yet still feel disconnected. In short, I miss photographs.

Next, check out this gallery of incredible candid photography from across Canada.

Originally Published in Our Canada

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