Emma Chamberlain made a video about it, so now we know it’s really a thing — film photography, baby! It’s been all the rage this past year, but it has, of course, been relevant for far longer. I’m simply interested in its unique trendiness as of late. When I told my parents I was thinking about buying a film camera in order to document all my very cool 17-about-to-be-18-year-old adventures I was planning to have this past summer, they were pretty surprised and even laughed at me (in a nice way). It is apparently very hard for grown-ups to understand why younger people want to revert back to anything non-digital. Why would we want to take a process that has been simplified and make it hard again? This is effectively what my step-mom asked me, and I couldn’t give her a great answer. I just knew that I wanted a different way to capture my memories.
I am now the proud owner of a Canon Telemax Sure Shot Point and Shoot. I loved having this camera over the summer. Besides stressing me out when going through security at the airport (some of the newer x-ray machines will ruin film), it wasn’t all that inconvenient to ditch my phone (if just for pictures) and take my pictures on a device that physically moved when capturing an image—I include this description because at one point, when my mom was so graciously taking a picture of me, she was surprised when the camera moved, both surprised at the motion itself and that she’d forgotten about this particular quirk from when she herself owned a film camera.
Morro Bay, in central California. June 2021
Why are so many people using film cameras? Why now, when technology has made it so that almost everyone has an incredibly high-quality camera in their back pockets, a camera that shows you the picture instantly, a camera that weighs maybe seven ounces? I don’t really have much of an idea, beyond knowing that shooting on film is incredibly, incredibly cool. Taking pictures feels more purposeful, maybe because you have to wait for it. I experienced such joy on the days when my developed film was sent back to me as scans, excitement that I really haven’t had rivaled by any other hobby or habit.
One significant advantage I’ve discovered to using my camera is that it allows myself and everyone I’m with to capture a moment while still living in it. No one is asking to look at the picture after it’s taken; no one can judge their image or worry about whether or not the picture is good enough for Instagram. With film, you just hit a button and get excited to see it later, freeing yourself from expectations and self-inflicted put-downs. And that’s the way happy memories should be created and documented: free of unnecessary negativity, and certainly any that has been constructed by greater society. We all deserve beautiful pictures that make us smile.
Washington state across the Columbia River. June 2021
I can’t wait to get my most recent roll of film developed. The pictures will contain my last trip to Seattle this summer, my 18th birthday party (which was also the last time I saw many of my friends from home), and my week in West Virginia during pre-orientation, where I met some of the kindest people I’ve ever known. My next roll will capture my first month of college, which is rapidly coming to a close. I’m holding onto these pictures and these memories for what feels like dear life, trying to catch up to all my feelings and all these changes. Maybe my camera has become a surrogate, grounding me in this new place during a time that has made me feel remarkably unstable. Who’s to say, and honestly, who’s to care? My camera is granting me at least the illusion of permanence, and, right now, living through all that we’re living through, that’s all I’m asking for.