“Shooting film is like Luke Skywalker using the Force”
My start as a photographer coincided with the birth of Star Wars. I was 13 when I saw Luke Skywalker turn off his targeting computer and rely on his gut instincts. This is exactly how you feel when you shoot with film. You’re blind, yet you see so much more.
It’s a beautiful moment… The camera becomes nothing more than an appendage. In a nano-second, information travels from the subject through my eyes and ears and down to my hands. My thought process splits into left and right brain activity. Highlights and shadows become nothing more than numbers. I see the light as F-stops. 1.4, 2.8, 5.6, my left brain crunches the numbers and determines light values while my right brain creates a palette of textures, lines and depth. What makes shooting film so perfect is that you can’t look at the back of your camera. It’s just you and the person in front of you. The camera is irrelevant, and you’re out there all alone.
I scold my photographers for looking at their images while they shoot. I say, “Don’t be a HOO HA!” Meaning, stop acting like a chimpanzee reviewing the shots saying “HOO, look at that! HAA!”
The action is not in your camera, it’s right in front of you. It sits deep in the eyes of your subjects. It’s the wondrous baby, the goofy 6 year old, the anxious teen, the conflicted executive, and the wise old man. Look down at your camera, and you’ll miss the soul of your subject.
Don’t get me wrong, digital photography is a nothing short of miraculous! I remember when Tom Delonge (Blink 182) got married in 2001. People magazine wanted to run images. They needed the film processed, printed, and shipped to NYC in 24 hours. The same process, with better results is now sent in less than 2 minutes.
I know I’m a dinosaur in this field. A film-only diet for many years, taught me to use my instincts rather than stare at the screen on the back of my camera.” But here’s the cool part: Shooting with film taught me how to develop report, create a scene and execute with perfect timing, a portrait that evokes the most telling nuances of another’s soul.