• Shaffer


I'm experiencing the beginnings of a quarter-life crisis. At least I hope I am. That would mean I still have 63 years to stroll around on this quirky blue ball. It all began on December 20th, 2017. I sat cross legged in my childhood bedroom floor and listened to A Blaze of Feather's self-titled album from beginning to end. I got messed up by this masterpiece of an record the same way 13 year old girls are destroyed by The Fault in Our Stars. Every song on the album is stuck to my soul as tightly as a political bumper sticker on a 2001 Honda Civic. I began to conduct some fanboy research into the lead singer. I had to know what sort of life would produce such profound music. I quickly learned the powerful story behind the head of the band. Mickey Smith is an absurdly underrated artist from West Cornwall. While many details of his story stuck with me, it was his photography that changed my life. The simplicity and authenticity of his work is so alive you can practically feel it breathing on you.

I'm not sure if Mickey shoots on film or digital, but it looks like film. This is where my crisis officially began. I needed a piece of this authenticity as badly as a night-shift cop needs donuts. I began to research everything there is to know about film photography. My parents fueled my pursuit by gifting me a 52 year old fully manual 35mm film camera. (Thanks mom and dad I love you so much.) In a week I had filled three rolls of Kodak Tri-X 400 black and white film... and it was awesome. There are few things on this planet quite as satisfying as advancing film on an old film camera - the only thing I can think that comes close is releasing the clunky metal shutter.

The first month of shooting on my beloved Canon FTql has come to an end, and I can confidently report that I am far closer to tasting the authenticity that I set out to experience - BUT it isn't because of the camera, and it isn't because of the film. Developing and scanning rolls of film is a long, expensive process. As a result, I'm forced to take pictures only when it's something I really want to remember. Instead of shooting action sports (my favorite subject to shoot on digital), I find myself shooting pictures of... well I guess my life. I predominantly find myself clicking that magnificent shutter button when the lens is pointed at people I'm close to, places I like going, or miscellaneous moments I'm thankful for.

Authenticity isn't a physical thing. It's not an old camera, and it's not a roll of film. It isn't artisan coffee and it isn't craft beer. Authenticity is born when we take a step back, and live for a second. As it turns out, we're all exposed to it far more than we realize. I began to compare my film photography style to the pictures on my iPhone, and they're remarkably similar. Don't get me wrong, I love my fancy digital camera. I use it every day and I'm always blown away by it's capabilities and features; but the reality is, I shoot differently with it. I think it's because my main concern is always getting the best looking, most cinematic shot. When I shoot on my FTql or my phone, my only concern is preserving a memory.

I wholeheartedly believe that when I'm old (still hoping I'm only a quarter of the way through my life), I'll look back far more fondly on the shots from my phone and FTql than I will the super cinematic images from my main camera. So - use your cell phone camera every day. Hold on to the authentic moments you've been given. It means nothing and everything all at the same time.




We recently finished this film that was heavily inspired by Mickey Smith and 35mm film:

And here are some recent phone shots: