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I started this project in 2016. My goal was to slow down with my camera. I felt like I was missing the moment that made a photograph special: I wasn’t listening to my heart, and the details became more important than the substance. Film would be the answer to my multi-tasking ways.
I bought some Tri-X, loaded my camera, and the learning began…
Shooting without autofocus, a powerful in-camera light meter, and the ability to immediately look at a photograph, I was instantly humbled by film. I thought back to my early days in photography, when I felt as quick as an old west gunslinger. Now, I fumbled with focus and questioned my exposure. My photographs felt like I missed the moment by days, really, even weeks, and I’d scour through my freshly developed roll of film, looking for one photo that I wasn’t embarrassed to share.
So I did what I've done my entire life - I kept pushing, and after a few months of shooting with film I began to notice a difference when I shot assignments with my digital camera. I didn’t feel the need to blast off with the hope that I would get something good. There were fewer distractions in my backgrounds, and my exposures were looking better than ever! Most important of all, I was waiting for the moment when my heart said “now.”
With this seed of confidence in my pocket I started picking up speed with film, but my camera was still getting the better of me. Time for another eye-opening thought. I began the project shooting with a 1950’s Leica M3. The M3 is a beautifully designed camera, the shutter sounds like a safe whisper in the night, and it is also a great conversation starter. No matter where I was, someone asked about that camera. My favorite question, as it weighed my neck down, was whether or not it worked…
Back to the lesson. The M3 is a rangefinder, which means that you look through the viewfinder to compose, not the lens. With an SLR camera, which I have used since I started making photographs, what you see is actually what the lens is seeing. There are pros and cons to both cameras, but I never felt at home with the rangefinder. I felt disconnected from my photographs, and I began thinking about switching to my SLR. I knew I’d feel more comfortable and that my photographs would be better, but I badly wanted to master a rangefinder. The idea of a rangefinder and the history of photographers who have made beautiful photographs with an M3, coupled with my stubbornness, was turning into a roadblock.
And then it hit me. A very simple solution was right in front of me: Follow my heart, and forget all the things that gets in the way of being myself.
So I switched to my Nikon FM3, and it felt great. I noticed an immediate difference, not only in the photographs I was making, but also in my confidence with a camera. Fewer people asked about the Nikon on my shoulder, but the end results were worth it.
As I was developing my 52nd and final roll of the year I thought back to my first roll and all of the lessons learned over the year, not just in photography but in life too. The idea of slowing down with my camera spilled over into slowing down my life. Looking for moments of appreciation to photograph each week evolved into taking moments to appreciate my life. I decided that I didn’t want to stop this project. So, in 2017 I am going to continue to share a photograph a week, using whatever camera is in my hand at the moment.