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Gifted Cameras, a Reddit Post, and a Small World

Today, I would like to chronicle a small story of an event that happened to me just a few days ago.  It’s an interesting story that truly shows how small the world is, how awesome the film community is and how our cameras are more than what they appear to be.  I will try to regurgitate this story with clarity to the best of my ability, so please bear with me.  I would like to tell the story from my own perspective and order of events, even if they aren’t purely chronological.

As most know, I am a middle school teacher with an after-school film photography club.  My school is tiny and our school community with students, staff, and parents is extremely tight knit.  I am pretty much known as “that guy” when it comes to photography and technology since I teach both subjects at the school.  Due to this dynamic, this next event was made possible.

About two or three months ago, a parent of one of my photography students asked to speak to me after hours.  At the time, his wife/the student’s mother was still battling cancer, but sadly, she has since passed away.  I thought maybe it regarded this sensitive topic.

He brought me to his car and told me he had some photography equipment for me.  At the time, I thought it was his personal gear [when i received this package, I later developed an exposed roll of film left in one of the cameras, thinking they were photos that he took.  I also made a few digital prints from some scans I did of the roll as a gift to say ‘thank you’].  About a week later, I learned from his daughter that he picked up the gear at a garage sale over that previous weekend.  He paid a negligible amount of money for the gear and said, “I saw this stuff and thought of you.  If you want it, you can have it.  Use it with the kids, use it for personal stuff, it doesn’t matter.”

He lifted the trunk of his car with a camera bag and two cardboard boxes worth of film things.  The cardboard boxes contained some generic darkroom and studio equipment: developing trays, paper, old packets of developer, tripod, light stand, studio strobe, and so on.  Some really useful things that we use quite often in our club now.

He then opened the camera bag.  According to my coworker, I was really bad at hiding my emotions and excitement.  I thought I was going to see your run of the mill film SLR; perhaps a Canon AE-1 or something of the like.  But instead, I was gifted a Rolleiflex 3.5f with a 75mm Zeiss Planar and a Yashica Mat 124.  I use the Yashica to introduce the kids to TLRs, but I’ve kept the Rollei by my side.  In regards to the Rolleiflex, I truly couldn’t believe how lucky I felt. Needless to say, I was elated.  I was and still very much am sincerely grateful.

Since receiving the camera, I have debated putting it up for sale, perhaps to find some other gear or maybe doing something for my photo students.  I felt I couldn’t justify having a camera that had such value when I could do more practical things like buying many more cameras, buy film, or darkroom supplies for the after school club, or maybe trading it for something different for myself.  I guess it was technically was mine after all.  Over the course of a month or so, I struggled with the idea of keeping the camera or letting it go.

I felt that receiving a camera as a gift because someone specifically thought of you as the recipient is a bit different than someone saying they have a bunch of old cameras laying around in my attic and they don’t know what to do with — so they dump them on you.  I realized that something about letting the camera go just didn’t seem right to me.  So it stayed with me for the time being.

Fast forward to just a few days ago.

A couple of days ago, a coworker of mine (the same one who was present when I received the Rolleiflex  and who also has an interest in film) sent me a link that directed me to an Imgur post that included a story that originated on Reddit regarding a Rolleiflex.

Long story short (you can click through to read it verbatim), a man had a Rolleiflex camera that belonged to the Roosevelt family.  Yeah, that Roosevelt family.  He posted the story of these cameras to /r/history just to share the amazing story  and uniqueness about these cameras.  Another user gave a fairly verbose response to the cameras, assisting in identifying and informing OP more about the cameras, even offering his expertise and assistance.

A third person chimed in with a (drunken) comment to the helpful commenter, stating that his father had two Rollei’s he wanted this helpful commenter to have due to his apparent knowledge and passion for film photography.  These cameras did in fact end up being sent from one Reddit user to another.

At the bottom of the Imgur post that summed this all up, I checked out the Flickr link that was provided which included photos that he took with the gifted Rolleis.  Upon scrolling through the photos on his Flickr page, I couldn’t help but notice a gleaming familiarity with these images.  Once I saw a certain photo, it had hit me.  The owner of this Flickr account, who was the recipient of two Rolleiflexes from another Reddit user, was someone who was  previously featured here on Now Developing.  That person being Derek Boswell.

Once I realized this, I messaged Derek via Facebook and explained this longwinded revelation to him.  I told him how crazy I thought it was that this Imgur post about the Reddit cameras was forwarded to me by a coworker, simply by chance.  I also explained how I was also gifted a Rolleiflex and was previously playing tug-of-war with the idea of letting it go.  However, once I read the story and realized who it was attached to, it was obvious that I could never, ever sell my Rolleiflex or let it go.  It was really touching to see that Derek and I shared very unique stories of being gifted such iconic and beautiful cameras.  We’re both very lucky, to say the least.

Derek and I have since agreed to make a pact that we won’t let these cameras escape our ownership.  Hopefully, Derek and I will also be able to meet up and take some photos together in the coming months and hopefully you’ll see more of his work posted here in the future.

With all this being said, the world is a really small place.  This story has made me reflect a bit more about how great the film community is and can be.  It’s nice to feel close with people whom of which are seemingly so far away, physically speaking anyway.  It also makes me think about the stories that our cameras carry with them; some cameras have been cradled through the hands of historical families, while others have meaningful stories simply because of human kindness and chance.  Hearing these stories always give me the goosebumps, but being a part of one is all the more better.  Plus, I am pretty sure that karma exists for situations just like this.

Of all the cameras that have past through my hands and onto others, I hope that those cameras live a long journey with more interesting stories to tell.  And as for the ones I own with stories already engrained in them, I’ll be sure to cherish both the cameras and the stories within them.

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Reader Excerpts: April the 2nd

Reader Excerpts allow those who read Now Developing to become part of the collective by sharing a written piece alongside their images on a topic of their choice.  If you have any ideas for a piece and would like to have it featured here, feel free to contact me!

Today’s piece comes from my good friend Phil Schiller. Phil writes about the first day he got his hands on a camera and how he made the quick and swift progression into shooting film.  Although his experience in photography in general may be limited, he tells us how shooting film has quickly made him realize why and what he loves about the craft and process of photography.

April the 2nd, Written by Phil Schiller (Instagram)

April 2, 2016

That was the day when I finally got my hands on what I would consider to be a real camera. Before that day, the iPhone was as far as I had got into photography.

Fast forward to April 2nd 2016.

My boss let me borrow a Nikon D200 for a while. I expressed to him that I’ve been looking to get myself an actual camera, so he graciously lent me his.  I remember when he gave it to me, I had literally zero idea of what I had just gotten myself into. I’ve never been a patient person by any means, and this definitely tested that. I would look on various Flickr pages, Instagram accounts, etc. and see people’s results and it would simply frustrate me. I finally decided that I wanted to actually sit down, do the research and force myself to learn the basics of photography. Finally, understanding aperture, ISO, and exposing my subject properly; I began seeing actual progress.   I’ll never forget when I took a photo of my roommate working on a project.  I snapped the photo and looked down at the camera to see the final result and it make me geek.

From then on out, I’ve been so lucky to have friends that have already been in the field of image creation, most notably, Katy Konsulis. She was the number one person to teach me not only do you need to know how to operate a camera, but to feel what you’re actually shooting. I can’t express enough how grateful I am for her guidance and knowledge. She’d always ask me “Do you love this?”

At the time, I sort of overanalyzed that. It made me in a way, reconsider what I’m actually striving for in photography. Which in turn, made me realize that all I want is to love the images and the experiences that bring me there. You can be using the best equipment in the world and think that this is it. You’ve found that true happiness that you feel produces the best quality. However, in my opinion, it doesn’t matter what you use to create an image; just make sure it gets you stoked.

After the D200, and gaining as much knowledge and experience from that camera, I knew what I wanted. I saved up and bought myself a Fuji x100T.  Before I plunged and got the T, I gained a lot of interest in street photography. Mainly from watching YouTube channels like Pablo Strong and Negative Feedback. I knew I wanted to give it a shot, so I took the D200, went out of my comfort zone and drove to Downtown Tampa. Being out in that environment was breath of fresh air and super enlightening. I immediately fell in love and I knew what I needed. That’s when and why I bought the x100T. I wanted something fast, quiet, and could produce images without having to think about setting up your camera for an image. This camera, will forever be one of my favorite cameras. I never thought a piece of equipment could train you like the x100T did. It opened my eyes in a completely different way. The Fuji gave me that and so much more.

I started gaining more confidence with photo making and being my own individual when it came to shooting. I even got the opportunity to put up physical work in the coffee shop I work at. This was insane to me at the time. Actually seeing my photos in physical form for others to see. That’s a feeling I don’t think I’ll ever forget. I have to give the Fuji so much credit, because it taught me what I actually wanted. It made me realize that it’s okay to only be a hobbyist. It made me happy, and that’s all that mattered. It also made me realize that the T was not my end all. I was getting to the point where I was just shooting to shoot. In hopes that I’d snag at least one good photo from that session. At the time, it bummed me out and curbed my drive to go out and shoot. I knew I needed a change. That’s when the latest stage of my photography journey came together.

In February earlier this year, I had the opportunity to go to Portland and Seattle for a week with the company I work for. I haven’t traveled much in my life, so this was actually a huge deal in my book.  For one, I actually get to check out the west coast coffee scene and most importantly, I was so stoked to take my camera with me to freeze those moments in time.

I thought to myself, I’m truly excited to record my experiences over there but I wanted to do it in a different way. I wanted to take photos that actually capture the environment and the feel of what I was feeling. I wanted to shoot film. The dude that has graciously allowed to me tell my story on this blog, Dylan, let me have a Canon SureShot 35 and a roll of Arista 400.  It may seem like a simple point & shoot, but right when I loaded the film up, I knew that this was different. I knew I had to revert back to how I originally took photos and to shoot what I feel. I did that exact thing and it was the best experience of my life to date. When Dylan gave my the link to my scans I was so unbelievably stoked. I don’t think I’ve felt that feeling.. perhaps ever? Seeing what you captured weeks later and remembering that exact moment and how it made you feel. That was an amazing experience.

I knew I was hooked. The film bug was in full effect and I sold my x100T.

About a month ago, I finally picked up a new film camera. I bought a Contax G1. When I was researching what I wanted in a camera, I knew I wanted sharpness and reliability. Everywhere I read, the G series is hailed as some of the best cameras do date, for good reason too. Zeiss glass. The competitor to Leica’s glass. I was lucky enough to find a killer deal on a G1 with the Planar 45mm T. Once it arrived in the mail, I knew this was it. I immediately loaded a roll in, and went out shooting. While I was shooting the G, it made me realize how of a wildly different experience it was than shooting with any camera I had shot before it. I shot what I felt and that’s all I did. I just recently got back my first three rolls from Dylan and I’m so excited to keep diving deeper into film. Seeing and feeling the environment of what this camera produces is enlightening and produces such a different feel that I honestly cannot put into words. All I know is I was looking for more realism, more challenge, more emotion.

I found it and I’m not letting go.

Processed Packages: Coffee and Prints from Christopher Sturm

There’s something about receiving mail that has never lost its luster.  When I was a kid, getting mail, whether a letter or package always filled me with an excitement that was similar to Christmas morning.   Of course, as a child, getting mail was always a good thing.  I didn’t have to worry about bills, notices, election materials, or junk mail.  As an adult, I think it is even more exciting to receive personalized mail and packages.

I like to think that I appreciate the small things.  These things don’t necessarily need to be physical objects, but sometimes small things like handwritten letters or small gifts prove that something about you crossed someone’s mind with a strong enough resonance to make some sort of impression or connection causing them to take action.  I don’t know, but to me that’s pretty amazing.

This past year, I got to take part in a print exchange that was coordinated by Mike Padua of Shoot Film Co.  I got to send and receive a few prints from a complete stranger.  That was quite enjoyable.  So much so, that I am thinking of coordinating a zine/book swap.  Most recently though, I got to exchange some pleasantries with Christopher Sturm of The Photo Dept.

Chris lives in the Oakland area of California.  After messaging back and forth, I decided that since Chris and I have a love for both coffee and cameras, it would be a great idea to trade local specialty coffee beans.  In my package, I decided to send him a bag of Mountaineer Coffee’s seasonal Hill and Holler beans and I also send him a copy of my book twenty seven, twenty eight, which he ended up reviewing on his YouTube channel.  You can watch that, along with his perspective of our trade and friendship below:

Just a few days after I sent out my package to Chris, he also sent me a few things: a bag of coffee, some really nice prints, and a short hand written note. Now my three favorite things might actually be hand-written letters, coffee, and photography-related paraphernalia, so it might explain my excitement for such things even though they are so small.  I think appreciate these tangible items more because in a digital society, they have become so sparingly utilized for human connection.

Like the process of analog photography, something like human communications can be compared in the same sort of light.  Snail mail contains a lengthier process than sending a direct message to someone.  It takes time, thought, and effort.  There is a human element to it that is absent in its digital counterpart.

I guess I could get on the soap box and start making the whole “technology is ruining us” argument, but I don’t think that does much good.  In turn, I would much rather promote the positive affect tangible items have on the heart and the human condition.  Of course, being conscious of the fact that technology takes out a lot of the work and time it takes to create and send things to others is something we should force ourselves to be aware of, but I don’t think it’s enough.  I think we should act more on our thoughts and connections we make in our minds and hearts of the people we meet and care about.  It makes our days easier and our lives more pleasant.

So, whether you are taking photos or thinking about sending a message to someone you haven’t talked to in a while I think we should take a step back, think about what we are doing, and choose the route that best shows our intentions, regardless of the amount of time and effort it takes.  No matter how small the tangible item is, it’s impact will be far greater.  It’s just worth it.

Thank you, Chris.  Your package and friendship is more than appreciated.

Ongoing Process: One Year Later

One year ago today, I started Now Developing.  I can’t say for sure that everything I accomplished over the past year revolved around this blog, but I can definitely say that a good chunk of my experiences regarding photography over the past year in some shape or form definitely was either directly or indirectly due to the work or motivation that stemmed from this project.

In my very first post, I stated that this was something that was going to reinvigorate my creative spirit; and that my mind was starting to overflow with ideas of what the blog could be, become, and contain.  What I don’t think I anticipated was how putting my reflective journey through written discourse and capturing images up to the public of the internet could open up various windows of opportunity, amplify my desire to continue to create, and connect me with so many rad people across the globe.

Before I jump into the things I am most happy about from the past year, I would like to take a moment to just list out some of the objective data the website has amassed in just 365 days:

  • 42 Published Posts
  • 6,866 Views
  • 4,559 Visitors

I remember when the blog reach 1,000 hits.  I was ecstatic.  Needless to say, I am extremely honored that at the end of one year the numbers are what they are.  It’s just so…neat.  I know that in the grand scheme of internet traffic, I’m not pulling in millions of hits, nor am I making any monetary gain with this venture.  However, that was never the point.  As the blurb on my About & Contact page says:

I made this blog in order to record my thoughts, learning, experiences, and reflections as I continue to shoot film and develop images by hand.  In a sense, the images I create and share are a literal and figurative reflection of who I am and who I continue to become.

But this has been anything but a solo venture.  As I stated earlier, I have come in contact with some pretty amazing people.  People that I believe have now become a part of the Now Developing narrative that I respect, admire, and call friends.  Their support and the inspiration that they impart on me cannot be appreciated enough.  From simple chats, to camera talk, to mailed packages, to making my blog’s logo, it is all appreciated the same at a heartfelt level.  To avoid the risk of forgetting some integral people, I would simply like to say you know who you are and I thank you endlessly.  My gratitude cannot be truly verbalized.

I have accomplished quite a bit over the past year, and I can truly say that I am proud of the work I have done.  Again, I don’t think I can say I did any of this without the help of others.  I think creating goals is important, however, I think it is just as important to recognize when you achieve them.  So, without sounding too overzealous, I would simply like to list out the things I found noteworthy from the past year:

  • Self published my first book under the Now Developing imprint, twenty seven, twenty eight
  • Started printing work digitally
  • Built a darkroom for me and my students to start enlarging our negatives
  • Working with the Film Photography Project continuously to provide a better photographic education for my students
  • Partnering with Shoot Film Co. to put some really cool things into the hands of my students to assist them in securing their identities as film photographers
  • Able to be a part of the greater artist community in the Tampa Area, participating in displaying works at three different local locations
  • Held two exhibitions outside of the US, both taking place in South Korea
  • Traveled to Japan, and subsequently got to meet, hang out, and share a cup of tea with Bellamy, Japan Camera Hunter
  • Featured on Japan Camera Hunter, highlighting how shooting photos helped me cope with the loss of my father
  • Was interviewed on Analog Talk Podcast about photography as a hobby and passion
  • Provided a platform for other self-developing photographers to share their stories, featuring ten photographers thus far

While this list fills me with a large sense accomplishment, it is not without a secondary list; a list of goals for the upcoming year to strive for:

  • Host a solo photographic exhibition
  • Host a collective art exhibition
  • Publish two more publications of my own highlighting my time Korea and Japan
  • Publish a collective zine for the Part of the Process featurettes
  • Attempt a Now Developing Youtube channel
  • Travel to meet, shoot, and collaborate with people I have met over the past year
  • Recruit others to share their experiences through contributions on Now Developing

Overall, I couldn’t be happier just 365 days from my decision to start this blog.  In this past year alone, I truly think I have made my best photographic work to date.

I’m elated, to put it simple.  I am filled with ambition and motivation to not only shoot more, but to share more.  To share both my images and my experiences as someone who records individual moments of time.  As always though, the process continues.  To me, nothing is ever quite perfect,  both in my work and through the course of self-actualization.  As cliche as it sounds, it’s not about the result, it’s always about the process.  If you’re willing to take a risk, there’s always a chance for an equal reward.  I feel lucky enough to have obtained that reward.

Whether you’ve read something here, given feedback, provided content, given me motivation, inspired me, or interacted with me in anyway because of this page, I just want to say thank you.

 

Creating Something New

For the past five to six years or so, I have been shooting film and it truly has been a transformative experience for me.  Without getting into all of the clichés of the kinesthetic beauty that shooting film is accompanied by (all of which I appreciate), I feel that the shooting film had had both immediate and lasting impacts on how I view photography and how I live my life in general.

I remember the day I got my first dSLR.  I received a Nikon D40 kit when I was seventeen as a high school graduation present from my parents.  Months prior to that, I would stay up late; researching what camera I wanted, whether I would buy a used D80 or a new D40, what look I wanted from my photos when I finally got it, and how cool it would be to be the photographer for all of my friends’ bands at the time.  Through photography I have been able to meet a lot of people.  Most of which I probably would not have met without the camera in my hands.

The connections I’ve made and the experiences we’ve shared are irreplaceable and unquantifiable; and they were made because I was creating something either for them or with them.

After those years, I lost interest and found it hard to take images that I thought were interesting or engaging.

Funnily enough, my first film memories are nowhere near as memorable as my first dSLR nor were the excitement and engagement immediate.  I only vaguely remember getting my hands on a Minolta Maxxum 7000 at Goodwill and an expired roll of film.  I took the shots with no real direction, just taking them quickly without really composing the images.  My impatience demanded results as soon as possible.  I took the roll to Walgreen’s (which still had 1-Hour Photo at the time), and was pretty impressed with how they came out.

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Minolta Maxxum 7000 //  Film Unknown

As I shot more film, I began to find that its aesthetic held the charm I couldn’t seem to find in my digital images at the time.  Maybe it wasn’t so much that i needed something different as it was that I needed something new.  Not something “new” in the sense of a new camera like when I was seventeen, but a new learning experience.  I’m 28 years old and I don’t know what it’s like to not be a student.  I’m currently in the process of getting my doctorate.  I’m also a middle school teacher.  I love teaching, but I love learning even more.

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Nikon EM // Kodak 400

While I feel that shooting film has allowed me to make stronger connections with the people I shoot and shoot with, it has also prompted  a lot of self-reflection; and not just when a camera is in my hand either.  When I first thought to create this blog a few days ago, I had a very specific idea of what I wanted it to be.  Over the past few days, I have thought of a million other things of what this could be and what I could post here.

All of these thoughts and possibilities come from an eagerness that has originated just because I think I have found something that makes me excited to create something again.

However, this will primarily be a place to post images that I have developed and scanned on my own along with the thoughts that go along with them.

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Nikon L35 AF // Kodak 200 (Converted in Post)

To create something completely new means that it will not be perfect, perhaps ever.  I’m sure this blog will be ridden with imperfections, just like the film I develop by hand.  But there is beauty in those imperfections; it shows a journey, it shows of learning, and it tells of an experience.