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Nostalgia | Shooting in Digital & Film

Danish photographer Thorsten von Overgaard once said in his video “A Life with Leica”, that “When I have something, where it’s timeless. It could be 1950, 1930, it could be 2004, and nobody can really tell, and it doesn’t really matter. That’s a good photograph.”

I believe there is always something that all of us can have a soft-spot for, in our nostalgic human nature. Whether it is a retro artifact or a treasured memory, something that is considered ‘old’ in today’s technological advancements can still be timeless to our hearts. And I believe this is exactly why many of us photo enthusiasts still dedicate ourselves to shooting film every now and then in this digital age.

I’m not a film-only shooter by any means, nor am I a film-centric shooter. I own a Nikon F3 and a Contax T2, and that’s about it for me. Every once a while I grab one of these cameras and load a roll of Ilford or Portra into them, but I do it for mostly the sake of enjoyment of slowing down my photography and not worrying about reviewing every shot after pressing the shutter button.

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After a year into my Nikon F3 especially, I’ve found that not only have I learned to capture scenes with the atmosphere-exposure balance I have imagined, but I’ve also fell for the lure of the ‘fimilc look’: the natural grain, the controlled contrast, and the subtle fade. Now in my digital works I try to mimic the colors and tones of my film photographs. Not that I want to trick people to believe I don’t use digital, but I have a lust for that (not to sound too cliché here) timeless look.

I think for many people, VSCO Cam and VSCO Film can be a good jumping-off point for film-like digital conversions. Personally, I don’t use these presets that much nowadays, but these were the learning tools that I began with initially.

Finally, I have to end this essay by paraphrasing what my film-shooting friend who I met in Tokyo, Mr. Yamamoto, taught me: “It’s the matter of ‘what you are taking a photograph of’, not ‘what you are taking a photograph with’ that makes the difference”

Digital or film. Same old, same old.

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