In Development: Adventures in Film, Volume 38

Whew, this roll of film is special to me. Normally when I sit down to start writing the post that accompanies an installment of the In Development series, I run through the photos once or twice to see if there’s a theme or a specific angle I want to take. With this roll, I went through the images at least five times and am still lost about how to cohesively discuss this roll.

The problem with talking about this roll of film is that it’s so broad. Somehow on this single set of 36 negatives, I captured some of my final images from my time living in Omaha (which was, surprisingly, the best photographic period of my life thus far), images leading up to one of my best friend’s weddings, a random shot on a random mountain road that led to the meadow where my sister got married, and some of my first images exploring the city of Milwaukee – a place I grew to love and a place where the most important romantic relationship of my life faded away.

The summer of 2017 was a powerful time in my life. It might just be subjective, but I think some of that power and energy of that time comes through in the photos. Some of the shots in Milwaukee capture that especially well – they have that enthusiasm that was so prevalent at that point in my life. It’s not necessarily that they are stronger images than others I’ve taken during more gloomy, introspective times in my life. In fact, there might be an argument for the opposite. It’s just that they have this sort of vibrancy to them that can only be a product of seeing something for the first time with unbridled joy.

[Interlude] Speaking of unbridled joy, I’m typing these words at the best brewery in the world and a baby at an adjacent table just locked eyes with me and smiled the most massive smile. He’s playing with some kind of plastic dinosaur and is so satisfied by life. [/Interlude]

That sort of emotion has been fleeting in my life the last few years. I’ve become more prone to spells of…flatness (it’s not really sadness, though at times I’ve mistaken it for sadness…it’s more of a lack of passion). I think this might be a natural progression for some people over time as they become disillusioned by aspects of life that once inspired them. I also think my meditative practices have been somewhat to blame. Meditating can be a powerful force for good, but one externality I’ve noticed is that I apply the same practices used to counter negative emotions to positive emotions as well. This augments my natural tendency for disassociation, and I find myself robotically executing the logical next step more often than I find myself passionately pursuing an object of my desire.

I’m still trying to figure out to what extent this is just “growing up” and to what extent it’s me failing to be…human? Most people I interact with are driven by emotions over logic, and for whatever reason I seem to be the inverse. I know a lot of people that have ended up on one end of the spectrum of happiness or the other (though, sadly, more seem to fall on the “other” end) and I sometimes look around in the flat middle wondering if anybody else is here with me.

All of this relates to these photos in a very tangential way: these images stir up emotions in me that go beyond the flatness.

Since this series is supposed to be about film and photography, I’ll reel my ramblings back to that realm: With the resurgence of film in the past couple years, I’ve noticed tribal sides begin to form. The digital people envy the film people for their popularity on social media that’s driven by simply scanning their film edges and refusing to remove the dust spots from their negatives. The film people imagine the digital people are corrupt for having hopped aboard the hedonic treadmill that is Sony’s digital photography campaign and imagine they can’t create “true art”.

I don’t have a dog in this fight, as I shoot both film and digital. I will add one small comment to the discussion, though, (since this is, after all, supposed to be about photography and not about me) and that is: I never would have looked back on digital photos that were 2+ years old and been hit with these feels. Say what you will about film photography, but there’s a nostalgia element that’s embedded into the medium and can’t be ignored.

I’m very grateful that I shoot film, and I hope it continues to pull me out of the flatness for many years to come.

All photos were taken with on Kodak Portra 160 with my Leica MP and Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 shot at ISO 80–160 and pushed one stop in development (generally overexposed 1–2 stops). They were developed and scanned by The FIND Lab, and I adjusted white balance, contrast, the tonal curve, and clarity to most of the images in Lightroom.

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