The past few weeks I have spent a bit more time experimenting with film. What originally amounted to a quick and haphazard test on a friends camera has somewhat manifested into a bit of a philosophy change on the general approach of photographing people.
Originally, and not to mention unfortunately, my approach to photographing people was rooted in interesting locales and lighting. Although certainly not entirely misguided it left a gaping hole when it came to emotion and personality beyond just mere luck. It was definitely there some days but it was something that lacked any sort of influence. It came naturally, which is all well and good in a lot of scenarios but more often than not it was because I lacked the comfort to push people to be themselves. The natural shots I did get were very typically of close friends and not much beyond that.
When it came to working with individuals outside of my personal social circle that quickly changed. My images would have interesting lighting or scenery but I often got the impression they felt rang hollow in regards to accurately capturing a piece of the individual within the frame.
This was a problem I really began to notice shortly after doing work at a modeling agency. It is also one I had a great difficulty trying to work past there. Again, my images had great lighting but lacked any real sort of natural personality, at least to me. It became quite difficult to work abound it because of the limited time constraints and working situations. I knew it was something I had to work on from the ground up.
I got started on the personal projects I had discussed a while back to take steps in becoming comfortable in building a sort of repertoire with people I was working with. I wanted to explore the photo walk idea which just revolved around grabbing a person and going for a walk and in the process try and capture their (or a ) personality. Originally it was with friends but It pushed me to be more courages and work with individuals who I knew and the onto individuals who I found an interest in and may have just met.
Mind you, a year ago this was very much not my personality. The thought of telling someone I just met and found interesting that I'd like to take their picture scared the hell out of me. I knew it was something that needed to change.
And so, I did a few shoots while keeping the different elements in mind. They were all steeped in simplicity. No strobes, no reflectors, no assistants, no makeup artists, no stylists. To myself, those were too many barriers between me and actually shooting.
After a few sessions playing (and I use that word specifically, it was just that) with film and then bouncing back to digital for my actual work I began to notice that film may be a better fit for these sorts of personal projects. It wasn't so much the look or feel of it, although I certainly enjoyed that, it was the fact that it slowed me down. That's my one single biggest take away from dabbling in the medium. Walking into a shoot knowing you're limited to a handful of shots, on very specific settings and conditions makes you pay attention to the details. Instead of hiding behind the camera fiddling with settings and angles I'd stop to interpret a scene. I'd look at the lighting, I'd make sure my settings are what they need to be and then I'd spend the time with my subject in bringing out their personality, all well before pressing the shutter button.
The movement ad momentum of the whole process is distinctly different than that of shooting a DSLR loaded with 32 gigs of memory. The freedom of digital is that you can experiment and make mistakes all the while seeing your results right on the spot. It's a beautiful thing but to me at times it is a little too much freedom as silly as it may sound. Film brings back some of the discipline.
Simply put however, it is what it is. It's a medium that is fitting for some situations and not others. I highly doubt I'll be shooting these photo walk personal projects in anything outside of film for the time being. I also plan to extend my usage of it to engagement sessions and weddings, some of which I have already done. For now however it is a tool to help guide me in a particular regard, one that I have a difficult time doing the same with in digital.
I'm not 'there' yet but I am a lot closer than I was yesterday.