As my close friends and family might know, I was gifted a lovely old film camera a couple years ago. It was a late-60s Canon FT QL, fully-manual, fully-MECHANICAL (barring its light meter, which isn’t a necessity or required for the camera to operate and take pictures) 35mm film SLR.
And for quite a while, I played with it, but for a variety of reasons, the film was left dormant and undeveloped in my storage chest.
Over the last few months, however, after developing all that old film, I was smitten again with the challenge and the feel of shooting with a mechanical film SLR.
That was, until I broke it.
I was doing a casual, couple-mile hike at a location on the way home from the office, and I was carrying the camera on a leather wrist strap. Which, had worked well for me for months and years previously…
But then I tripped, and let go of the camera, and watched it smash into the ground, lens-first, and hard enough that…GASP…the rear film door popped open, partially exposing and partially ruining that roll of film. Unfortunately, though mechanical cameras are durable, the mirror locked up and wouldn’t return, the front plate(s) surrounding the lens mount were bashed and bent, and several screws were sheared off. I knew that repairing it was beyond my skill set, and the cost of sending it off would be more than the camera was worth.
But I figured that I would tear it down anyways, just to see what the guts looked like — which you too can appreciate in the images above.
But now I was left without an operable film camera, which, as one of my only sources of artistic inspiration at the moment, was a bummer. But Madion had a fully-automatic, electronic, fantastic plastic Minolta that she had been given as a child in 2002, and that had followed her through all her moves and travels since then. She offered to let me use it — and like the annoying retro-elitist hipster I am or want to be, I turned it down. I wanted something mechanical. Something that FeLt DifFeReNt.
But after a couple days, I figured that shooting the one roll of blank film I had left with it would be both interesting and stimulating, and that if the images turned out well, I’d keep playing with it.
(These aren’t that first roll.)
So after semi-successful first roll of film through what was essentially a point and shoot film camera, I through a roll of color film in it and headed up to Berry College outside of Rome, Georgia.
Berry had been on my list of places to visit for quite some time. With a contiguous campus of over 27,000 acres, it is the largest contiguous college campus in the world; but unfortunately it had been closed to visitors for months. Imagine how delighted I was to realize that over the winter break it was open to visitors!
(The following images are a combination of Minolta Maxxum Date 3 film camera shots, along with captures from my iPhone 11.)
Beyond its expansive and beautiful campus, Berry is known for the many deer that inhabit the surrounding woods, and even when there aren’t many people are out, venture out into the quads.
Beyond the size of its campus and the deer…well, Berry is also well known for its gothic architecture; and it’s certainly quite worthy of the recognition and adoration it receives for said architecture.
But one can venture several miles up campus, to the “Mountain Campus,” where more of Berry’s beauty lies.
Enter, an aside about my journey through film.
The astute reader will noticed that all of the film images are date stamped. My previous film camera was not advanced enough to offer this feature, which, in an era where digital images are all seamlessly encoded with hidden EXIF metadata detailing the day, date, time, and lens+camera information an image was taken, gave me more than pause while cataloging my pictures. I like to be able to peruse my archive by “date taken,” and since I may not shoot a whole roll of film at once, and since I may not take the roll to be developed the day after I shoot it, remembering the date, and even the location of my images became much more tedious and chore-like.
So when I discovered the date stamp feature in Madison’s camera, I was intrigued, and turned it on for the first, and subsequently [this] second roll. And I’m torn on the results. While a younger and less mature me derided date stamps as amateurish, modern me realizes their usefulness for the reasons spelled out above. But they can be a distraction. In the image of the Old Mill above, where it’s reflecting in the pond, I so wish that the date wasn’t there. Could a more dedicated me keep a journal or field notes book of the dates I go and shoot places? Maybe. Will I keep the date stamp turned on while borrowing Madison’s camera? I don’t know…it barely appears in some images, and it’s extremely negligible in black and white film stock…yet, I feel like some of these pictures could just SING without it…
Alas, that is the perplexing ephemeral permanence of film photography; each image is a fleeting moment in time, until the roll has been safely completed and developed…then the negatives are forever. Even at its significant cost, I’ve greatly been enjoying film, and I hope to buy another mechanical body sometime soon.
Thanks hanging out through this ramble, and I hope the pictures of Berry’s STUNNING campus made it worth it.