Hey, Local Milk readers! My name is Emilia Paré, and I’m a Los Angeles based photographer. Born and raised in northeast Vermont, I have been living in LA since 2017, where I’m currently writing to you from my teeny tiny apartment while self-quarantined with my husband Cole and our cat Otto. I’m here to tell you why I love shooting film and how it has changed my approach to photography. I’ll let you know now that I am not a poetic person, I find it excruciating to write long Instagram captions or wax on about gear and camera settings, so I won’t do any of that here. I love film because it’s simple, honest and it forces me to slow down, and if ever there were a time to write about slow-living, this is it. Here is my take on the practice of slow living photography.
Slowing Down the Process
Four years ago, my husband gifted me with my first 35mm camera for Christmas, a Rollei 35 TE. I’m not kidding when I tell you it’s one of the smallest film cameras ever made. It was simple, tiny, and the perfect place to start. By this time, I’d been an admirer of film for a while, always as an outsider looking in, but getting that little camera finally drew me away from digital, and in doing so, forced me to slow down and to rethink my entire process of taking photographs.
Up to this point, I was shooting entirely on digital and only in the soft light of the early morning and evening. I hated strong midday light and was always racing against the sunset. While shooting, I would get so excited about what I was seeing that I would leave with four or five hundred images every time, just because I could. And while I would always get something that I loved, it would take hours in front of my computer culling images to find the one.
When I started shooting on film, I quickly realized the need to slow myself down and take the time to really be present with my subject. I had to make each frame count. I learned to love strong, direct sunlight and the way film could capture the brightest whites and the blackest blacks all in the same image. My compositions grew more interesting, and I learned to see light in a new way. Most importantly, I learned to figure out what I really wanted from a photograph and push myself to find it.
I used to pride myself on how fast I could turn a shoot around, rushing home to edit for hours on end. Now, I love the waiting between dropping my film off at the lab and picking up the finished negatives. It allows me to forget about the shoot for a little while. No more running straight to my laptop after a shoot, delirious with creative adrenaline. This way, when I sit down to scan, I’m looking at each image with fresh eyes, and I can let those photographs be exactly what they are.
Finding the Truth in a Negative
There is a certain truth to looking at film photographs, and a rawness you won’t find in a digital file. The tones and details that film can capture are unlike any filter you can download. You won’t find any skin smoothing, airbrushing, or digital manipulation on a film negative. I no longer spend hours perfecting every last detail, altering light and color a million different ways. Working with film has taught me to give up some of that control and celebrate the unexpected. In this age of Instagram, I find myself searching more and more for that truth — un-retouched, imperfect, and beautiful.
How to Get Started with Film
First, find a camera that interests you, something that feels good in your hands. Start experimenting with different film stocks until you find one you really love, then shoot the hell out of it. If you don’t know where to begin, Flickr is a great resource. You can search galleries by film type and see endless examples of how different films photograph in different light and settings. My personal favorites are Ilford Delta 400 for black and white and Kodak Portra 400 when I’m feeling color.
When it’s time to have your film developed, you can bring it to your local camera shop or mail it out to a dedicated lab like Indie Film Lab. If you have the time to learn and the space to set up your own darkroom, you can also develop your film at home. I bring all my shoots to my local Samy’s Camera for processing and scan the negatives myself at home. Like every aspect of photography, it’s all about what feels right to you. You can be as hands-on as you like.
At the end of the day, everyone sees the world through different eyes, and we all create within that unique vision. Slow down and enjoy the process. Give your work time to grow alongside you. I feel my photographs in my gut, and I strive to lead with that feeling while I work. I’m still learning with every shoot, and each photograph brings me just a little bit closer.
Born and raised in northeast Vermont, Emilia Paré is a Los Angeles based photographer. She has been living in LA since 2017 where she is currently self-quarantined with her husband Cole and cat Otto.
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