Instant film is a luxury that I don't indulge in as often as I eat cookies or binge watch tv shows, but when I do... holy crap, I love it.
Let me give you a brief history of my relationship with Instant Film.
It was Christmas of 2014, and I had gotten a Fujifilm Instax Mini with a film pack of 20 exposure, from my parents. I was so excited, I couldn't wait to start taking photos. I had watched tons of youtube videos on this camera, so I knew how to put the film, what setting I should be on, and how to aim the camera. The next day we left for Arkansas to visit our aunt.
I had spent the next couple years using my Instax and I loved every second of it. I learned about the camera and took my share of under or over exposed photos. I took photos of people and places that I wanted to remember. I took it on trips to Florida, Arkansas, and Missouri. I took it with me to the park or to a fireworks stand, each picture holding the cool breeze, and the hot sun.
During this time, I was collecting Polaroid cameras. The first one I purchased was the Polaroid Spectra, which my dad spotted at a thrift store. The bulky camera was carried home and put on my shelf, along with the rest of my vintage cameras that had been collecting dust. I eventually found more Polaroids, and had a few given to me. I admired them, but never found the chance to buy film and use them. I have 7 Polaroid cameras currently.
My parents swooped in once again with another Christmas gift that had easily been my favorite: A pack of Polaroid 600 film with 8 exposures. In 2016, standing in the darkness of my friend's bathroom, I carefully loaded the camera with the film cartridge, and sapped the flap shut. The camera was silent, with a little green light on the back of the camera staring at me. I excitedly pulled my friend aside to model for me. We picked a background, and I snapped the picture. I felt the gears and parts inside the camera come to life (quite noisily, if I may ad), and a square blue picture with a white border was spit out of the camera. I rushed it into the box, knowing that if it was exposed to too much light, the photo would be ruined. In agonizing curiosity, I waited 30 minutes for the photo to fully expose. We stared at our result, not having seen anything quite like it in our own fingertips.
The more and more I shot Instant Film, the more I planned out my composition, and the story behind the photo; the feelings, time of day, seasons, the people I was with, the reason for taking the photo. I had complete control, without being completely in control. I gathered moments in time and collected them, along with the cameras themselves.
I'm not usually one for cliches, but Instant Film is the definition of "capturing a moment in time". Once that exposure gets spit out of the camera, you can't alter it in Lightroom or Photoshop. You can't take it into a darkroom and dodge and burn it. If your uncle was wearing ugly hat, or your little sister blinked, you either stick with it or take the photo again, leaving you with one less exposure that you'll get. And I think that forces people to stop and think about their photos. It makes them double and triple check that the photo they're going to take is going to count. But in a wonderfully odd way, it forces us to stay in the moment.
I think that translated over to my digital photography, and improved the way I shoot. I'm not just a journalist, I'm a story teller. I had never thought of myself as one, and thought that storytelling could only be executed through movies. But I was wrong. I am a storyteller in the most beautiful way; I'm not just documenting, I'm living.