Something that I’ve been thinking about lately is the difference between “taking” and “making” a photograph. It sounds sort of insignificant but I feel it's important. It is a different mindset about creating and can alter the importance of a photograph. “Taking” has become so commonplace in our language in referring to photography that if someone said “let me make a photograph” you might be caught off guard. But nobody says “let me take a painting”. Obviously that’s different but nevertheless helps to see the difference. Photos are usually taken from the world and people/ places around us, but something feels wrong with taking. When you make a photograph it’s a process. It’s a form of art. You sculpt the photograph. You make it there on location. You sometimes shoot a whole roll to make the shoot. Playing with composition and trying different angles out. Sometimes it could be done in one shot, but that would be the process to make it.
Using the word “taking” to me feels disregarding and sort of disrespectful to the subject. You do always take from the subject and scene, but you turn it into a photograph and make something from it. I don’t know hahah, it’s all words and doesn’t matter as much as actually just going out and shooting. But try it out in your thought process while shooting if you don't already, go make some photos.
With all things great about the process of shooting with film, the dreadful occasional human mistakes, are the inevitable downside. Halfway into shooting an assumed roll, I happened to glance down at the back of my camera and see empty black in the little plastic window. I was dumbfounded. “Is there seriously no film in my camera!?” I open it up and immediately load in film I even had on me the last few days. A life lesson that increasingly seems more and more important: “never assume anything”. Gaining experience in photography teaches me to always be more and more prepared. Always double, triple check. Bring a little more than you think you need. Be prepared.
I felt embarrassed, but more importantly saddened to not have the pictures I made on that imagined roll of film. I still remember the frames in my mind. It’s easy to fixate on those lost photos. Thinking of how great they could have been. And the opposite to try to make me feel better haha (maybe they were bad, and could discard the situation). But being positive and having an open mind is how to persevere and come out stronger. What I learned from this event may be more important than the photos I would have made. Photography is not just about the photos. It is more than the camera, film, or the subjects. It’s about the process and about doing. Creating doesn’t always have to include a final product. Just the act of photographing, produces valuable experience. I love the process of shooting on film because of this reason: it splits the act of making the photograph and producing an image. This was by no means the first time I lost a photograph, especially due to film (although it's happened digitally too) but it never gets much easier. Those photos are gone forever.
I do think about that fashion photographer I heard of who would shoot a blank roll or two before even putting film in his camera. It makes me think of the importance of not being too precious about any one picture. There are always more photos to take.
But these harsh events speed up and force learning and growth. I can think of two other times I completely botched rolls of films and the reasons are etched in my mind. And now something as simple as making sure there is film in my camera, will be in my mind. Photography always humbles me. No matter how long someone has been shooting, no matter how much experience, a great photographer always must be aware.