I am Eileen, I am from east coast Canada, and I refuse to replace the broken LCD screen on my digital Nikon.
I’ve owned this camera since I was 16, moving on from the first spark that made me love documenting through photography- a smartphone camera. A few years ago, it fell on the floor and the LCD screen was no longer- but what does this have to do with film photography?
It prepared me for it, through letting go of knowing what shot I had in the camera. I am no stranger to film photography- I first held a Pentax K1000 and hand developed and printed work in a high school class.
When I asked for a used Mamiya RZ67 setup from my father for Christmas 2017, after a few years of working with that busted Nikon D3100, he instead gave me a little camera bag, and inside was my great grandfather’s Canon AE-1 and a few rolls of Ilford HP5. It’s been a fight and a love affair and a burning hole in my pocket for film ever since.
I consider myself more a documentary photographer (I did go to journalism school) - I take photos of things as they are. It’s one part visual diary, one part being unable to let go of fleeting moments. My subjects really include anything and everything - it’s about the beauty of the everyday. It can be auroras in Canada’s far north or it can be the winding interstate through New England.
It’s about capturing the light where they hit moments we cannot recreate. It’s about understanding there is a photo everywhere, if only you look for it.
I embrace working through limitation and difficulty - phone cameras might not be high quality, but I can still use angles, crop and lighting to capture a subject. That Nikon DSLR might have all those aperture and shutter speeds behind firmware I cannot reach because the screen is unusable, but I can still rely on an interesting subject and run home to pop an SD card into my computer to see what 5 or 10 shots of 200 turned out. That 40 year old Canon AE-1 might have light leaks and require light sealant replacement that I have to order online- but I can tape up the cracks and still shoot!
That’s a big reason I love photography. It’s a lot of learning, encountering a hurdle, finding a workaround, and so long as you can find a means of capturing light, you can find a way of making an image. It doesn’t matter if it’s a pinhole on a shoebox or a CMOS sensor or a Nokia phone from 2004- an image is an image. The fact we can capture life in a box at all is enthralling to me.
Is an image any lesser because it was taken on a phone and had some curves adjustments done to it? To those “film only, no editing” Instagram accounts, maybe, but that's a totally different philosophy of photography I just find limiting. I'm more of a “do what you can, not what you can't” sort of person. If the image happens on my phone because it's a better decision to use my phone than a camera, then it's what I had to do.
Some upcoming projects for this year is my first zine - a work about my home town. It’s a halfway point between thoughts and photos with writing and a mix of digital and film photography. It’s a story that needs to be told both visually and through words. Being an ex journalism student and a photographer, I like the more full story being told through both disciplines.
Longer term goals as a photographer are simply to vacuum up as much knowledge as I can. I want to support my friends online and purchase as many zines and prints as I can. I want to eventually move to glass plates and large format. The one thing you can count on from me is I will always be thinking about and making photography. That’s why I am not picky about what cameras I am using. The creation of the image is more important than the hubris and ego I get from the gear in my hands.
I just never want to forget - photography makes that possible.