Recently I scanned 2700 35mm slides from an archive of more than 5000. In the process, I became reacquainted with the lovely tactile qualities of that medium: the feel of the mounts in my hand, the rapid way I could go from a wide view of many images to a close inspection of one, the direct access provided by physical stacks of slides compared to the Lightroom equivalent. On the other hand, it wasn’t very long before my back developed that familiar ache from bending over a light table for hours on end. The experience got me thinking about photographic experiences I no longer have, and which ones I miss and which ones I don’t.
I miss: the delicious tinkley fizzing sound that a number 25 flashbulb makes when it goes off. I don’t miss: a) burning my fingers trying to change a flashbulb quickly, or b) paying for flashbulbs.
I miss: the smell of freshly-opened 35mm film – I wonder how many of you do or did the same thing as I routinely used to do when loading the camera: pop the top of the canister, bring the open end up to my nose, and take a deep breath. I don’t miss: having a batch of film go bad after too long a time in the back of the freezer.
I miss: going in to my local camera store at least once a week for film, paper, or chemicals, and getting to know the sales people really well. I don’t miss: worrying about working around, and the environmental impact of, things like selenium toner and just about all the Cibachrome chemicals.
I miss: the secret-society like language of asking for “four bricks of 120 CPS” at the camera store. I don’t miss: paying for film.
I miss: the feeling of satisfaction after spotting a print just right. I don’t miss: a) throwing away a print after making a spotting error, b) trying to spot out a cigarette butt in a light foreground, or c) dealing with the black spots that come from dust on negative film before the exposure.
I miss: the precise feeling of the controls of all-mechanical cameras, especially 35mm rangefinder cameras. I don’t miss: the viewfinder (im)precision of those cameras.
I miss: the satisfaction of being able to focus quickly and accurately using a single-lens reflex camera, and, with the right focusing screen, having focusing and framing be completely independent from each other. I don’t miss: out-of-focus images in fast-moving situations. As an aside, I can’t manually focus like I once could; automatic focusing is a real boon to aged eyes.
I miss: the isolated, peaceful, Zen feeling of working in the darkroom. I don’t miss: the isolated, lonely, cut-off-from-my family feeling of working in a darkroom.
I miss: the ballet of graceful dodging and burning to the beat of a metronome. I don’t miss: working for forty-five minutes just to get back to where I was when I left the darkroom the day before.
I miss: Super-XX, Perutz 17, Tri-X, Agfa 25 in Rodinol, and Ektar 25. I don’t miss: Plus-X, Techical Pan, Panatomic-X, Ektachrome 160, or Ansco 100.
I miss: Velox, Azo, Portriga Rapid, and Seagull VC. I don’t miss: Kodabromide, Polycontrast, Medalist, or any of the RC papers.
I miss: buying a camera and knowing it won’t be obsolete for a long time.