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  • Writer's pictureEmma Dickenson

The Garden in Film

Photography has been a hobby of mine for a couple years now.

I remember walking around the garden when I was in high school and snapping shots of flowers I thought were cool with my phone. Later in high school, my senior year I think, I took a photography class. I remember making my own pin hole camera and going outside and taking pictures in the parking lot. We got bonus points if we managed to capture clouds (thanks Ms. Cedeño). I feel like we could only take one picture on a little scrap of photo paper and then head into the dark room to develop it.

Being in the dark room is such a unique experience. The kind of eerie red light on, the sound of water running, and disorientation you feel when you first walk in and can't see a thing. I remember being in there by myself was kind of creepy, but calming at the same time. Just me and the red light and my photos appearing before my eyes in the chemical baths. I didn't fully appreciate then and now I miss it.

Once we graduated from pinhole cameras to actual film cameras, we had assignments to shoot over the course of a week. I remember taking my film camera home and out into the garden. I didn't really understand what I was doing, I don't think. But, somehow, after developing the film by hand and seeing the negatives for the first time, my pictures of cats and flowers would miraculously show up.

I remember trying to learn all the parts of the camera and how they all worked together. Aperture, depth of field, ISO, light, shutter, shutter speed, double exposures, the history of photography, how the pinhole camera worked.... It was so much.

Later that year, I got my first DSLR for my birthday. Once again, I took it and trekked up to the garden. I became so so frustrated. It had too many buttons and functions. I didn't know how to work it. I think I decided to put it up on a shelf for a while because I thought it was way too difficult. Long story short, I eventually started researching how to learn how to handle a "real" camera, taught myself manual mode, and have been slowly improving my photography ever since!

Over the past couple weeks, I've been researching film cameras online every chance I get.

I've done a graduation shoot for one of my friends at UT this week (congrats Lucy!) and have been constantly capturing the beauty of the ranunculus season with my DSLR. And I love it.

However, my computer is overwhelmed by the amount of images I'm loading on it. It's so easy to go snap over 100 photos without even thinking about it! And that's awesome. It's so cool to have that option.


I wanted to try something different. Well, technically, as I just told you, I've used film before. But this time, I wanted to fully understand every aspect of what I'm doing. So last weekend, right after our ranunculus pop-up actually, I headed out from wild love and decided to stop by an antique shop on Central I had always wanted to check out before. I had my eye on a couple of film cameras online, but also was thinking maybe, just maybe, I'll get lucky and find a camera here.

I saw the case full of vintage cameras about a minute after I walked in. I admired them for a minute but didn't really see anything I was familiar with...just those super old accordion-looking cameras. I kept walking around the main floor, upstairs, and downstairs (aka the creepy basement that had a room dedicated to Christmas complete with a life-size Santa) and headed back upstairs. Right before leaving I decided to ask the man behind the counter if he knew anything about the cameras in his case.

It was as if that was his cue.

He got up from his chair, opened the case, and plopped one of those accordion cameras in my hand and started telling me all about it. I was in heaven. So I thought why not mention that I'm in the market for a vintage 35mm camera...? He picked up a brown leather case I had previously glanced over and 5 minutes later I'm walking out the door with my first film camera: a Kodak 35b automatic.

You can bet I beelined it to buy film, sped home, tracked down the manual online and started shooting.

I was 100% experimenting. The man at the antique store had told me that it worked, but I had no way to be certain. I bought it on sale for $27. I thought why not have some fun and try it out. The only way I could find out if the camera actually worked was to shoot a roll of film. I had to tell myself I had no expectations. But I was dying to see if my efforts were working. So after 2 trips to the camera store, I now have my first ever roll of color film developed, scanned, and ready to share!

When I brought home my camera to show my mom, she reminded me that film is all they had when she was in college. I think film is special. I think there are more opportunities to be creative with it. Sure, there are pretty much limitless ways to create and alter images with software and computers and everything. But film is not instant gratification.

I'm so glad I stopped and asked about the cameras. I'm so glad I decided to take a chance. A lot of my pictures were super blurry, but this was a learning experience. It could have been a complete bust, but I could not be happier that it actually worked.

After I finished class at 5 today I wanted to be outside and enjoy the weather. I may have shot another half a roll of film. Stay tuned....



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