About three months ago I walked into a stationery store and bought a disposable camera for AUD $17. I’ve been slowly filling up its roll of film over the past three months and, finally, last week, brought it into one of the only film camera stores left in my city for developing. I got the developed photos back yesterday.
It’s a bit difficult to pinpoint what, exactly, led me to want to do this. Apart from the cost ($17 for the camera and another $12 — at the cheapest tariff — for developing), the long delay between pressing the shutter button and seeing the photo I took when I have a much better camera on my smartphone that processes my images instantly, makes it difficult to justify using a disposable film camera in 2018, like it’s still 1996 or something.
I’m not a photographer — I don’t even own a proper camera — but this year I’ve been growing more and more interested in photography. In July I came back from my exchange in London, during which I travelled extensively and took hundreds upon hundreds of photos (with my smartphone). Along the way, I started to become interested not just in capturing beautiful places, but in composing great, shareable images for their own sake, too.
My eye got better. And as my eye got better, my photos got better. And as my eye and my photos got better, I came to appreciate other people’s photography even more. I increasingly filled up my Instagram feed with the photos of talented Insta-photographers — especially talented 35mm film photographers.
Why film, then? It was a particular aesthetic and style of photography that I was drawn to. I like candidness and authenticity in photography. I like looking at images that look like they’ve simply captured a singular moment in time — images that put seemingly mundane, everyday moments in the spotlight and make them extraordinary. I’m less interested in images that look confected and artificial and visibly processed.
I’m speaking as a complete photography noob, but 35mm film just seems to be exquisitely suited to the aesthetic I’m drawn to. To my eyes, at least, it makes images look that much more raw and candid. It might have more to do with the old-timey, nostalgic connotations of the appearance of 35mm film photos than anything inherent in that appearance itself, but there’s no doubt it’s a different aesthetic and creates a different impression. It’s a bit difficult to explain if you’ve never visually compared images taken on film to images taken with a digital camera, but it’s comparable to the difference between an oil painting and a watercolour painting — you can make beautiful art with both, but each will give you a visibly different result.
So, having caught the photography bug from my travel photo-snapping, and having increasingly filled up my Instagram feed with the totally like-worthy shots of amateur film photographers, I decided I wanted to try it out for myself. I wasn’t about to go out and buy an expensive film camera straight away, so I decided I’d dip my toes in with a cheap disposable camera.
Overall, I quite like the results. For the most part the film did its magic and captured the photo I was visualising when I was looking through the tiny plastic viewfinder, although I underestimated how terrible a disposable camera was at taking photos at night — about half my photos were unusable because they’re so dark.
So here, then, are the best of them: