While I was in Salt Lake City, I was happily able to spend a few minutes chatting with my sweet friend, Justin Hackworth (who, incidentally, took my bio photograph for the inside flap of my book). At one point I interrupted him:
"Justin, you know what?" I said. "I just need to tell you something I've been meaning to tell you for a while. I really love your work. Your images are so simple, so pure and so beautiful -- they're really just breathtaking."
He smiled his usual quiet smile. "Thank you," he said simply.
"Seriously," I insisted. "I've tried to photograph just like you, and I can't."
"Well, actually," he said, "there is a theory that says a photographer imbues something into his photograph when he shoots. That there's a reason that you can't identically copy another photographer's work. You could never shoot like me, and I could never shoot like you, even if we tried."
"In fact," he continued, becoming more animated, "I read an article once, where someone was visiting Ansel Adams, and Ansel took a shot -- and then the person used Ansel's camera and took the identical shot, and processed it identically. And even though, at a glance, the photograph looked the same, if you stared at it long enough, it immediately became clear to anyone which of the photos was taken by Ansel, and which wasn't." *
"You know, I totally believe that," I said. "I've tried it with other photographers -- taken photographs of the same subject side-by-side with them. I'm not sure what it is, but you definitely can tell the difference, even when our camera settings were exactly the same."
* * * * * * *
In the interest of continuing to share with you my learning curve in using this camera, these are the thoughts that ran through my head when I pulled the images above up on my computer, in the order in which I thought them:
1. Oh good, they came out fine.
3. The things I wanted in focus are in focus (more or less), and vertical lines are vertical and horizontal lines are horizontal. Score.
4. I think I'm finally getting the hang of this camera!
5. I'm still a bit dissatisfied.
It might seem silly, I suppose, that I wouldn't be fully happy yet, especially since I consider the images technically fine. But the truth, I think, is related to the discussion I had with Justin: I don't quite feel that a part of myself -- the part which expresses how I felt during that moment in time when I took the shots -- is accurately expressed in these photos. This might sound like metaphysical hooey, but regardless, something still doesn't feel quite right. My "imbued spirit" isn't translating, or something. It could be, of course, that I'm not used to shooting film, having shot digitally for the past decade; but honestly, I don't think that's it. I do think however, it has something to do with the type of film I'm using.
I mentioned when sharing roll #2 that I wasn't sure I was a fan of the film I've been using (Kodak Portra), and I think I still feel this way: the colours (despite what their website shows) feel muted, flat. As is probably apparent by scrolling through the archives of my site, I'm more of a vibrant-pop-of-colour kind of girl, and try as I might on Photoshop, I can't get the images to show the sort of vibrancy I'd like, without seriously skewing the feel of the image. The best way I can describe it is like this: it's like taking a shot with your Instagram app on your iPhone, and you want to process it using the Lomo-Fi filter, but for some reason it's broken, and the only one that's working is Toaster.
(Okay, maybe that wasn't the best description. But those of you who use Instagram on iPhones probably get my point.)
Anyway, the upshot is this: for roll #5 (currently being processed), I tried a new film: Fujicolor Pro 400H film, which people tell me is known for colour vibrancy. Hopefully I'll have some good images to share with you next week, and I can tell you if the images feel more "me." Fingers crossed. And ultimately, please know that, regardless of my muted, flattened imbued spirit, I'm having a WHALE of a time using this camera. Seriously, it's like having a brand new toy to play with, and it's so much fun.
(In other completely unrelated news, as always, I'm sharing the things I'm grateful for this week over at Bliss Your Heart. Oh! And I'm trying to figure out how to drink more water -- any tips?)
And after all that crazy talk, have a great weekend, everyone.
* If you're interested, the article to which Justin was referring can be downloaded in PDF form by clicking here. It's a really great read.