Even when you try and stay away, you just can’t.
The last time I shot film in any serious way was in the middle of 2008. At the time, I was in the middle of a number of simultaneous changes in my life, professional, academic, and personal. The end result of that was that I had somehow lost my way when it came to photography. The passion was simply gone, the meaning lost. The idea that I would never make a photograph again struck me, even in the darkest hours, as unlikely. I knew better than that. I knew it wasn’t a matter of if I kept making photographs, but when, and what of. In the meanwhile, though, I packed away the Nikons and swore to myself that I was taking a sabbatical. My only tool in the meanwhile would be the G9, a camera I considered to be magnificent but still only a toy, and even that I used only sparingly.
Yet events conspired without my approval. First, a friend picked up a Nikon FG at a garage sale. I, the camera “expert” (heh, got him fooled!) got the honor of testing it to be certain it was fully functional. So sometime in January, I took out the FG and its good old student-standard 50mm lens and ran a roll of TMY through it. Holding a film camera again — especially a manual like the FG — felt good. The images produced weren’t too bad either, just a random collection of downtown Portland street photos, but still, not a disappointment.
The greatest irony, however, struck the following month.
My first real camera — read SLR — was a Pentax K-1000. Most anyone shooting film knows these cameras. They were small, solid, fairly light, and pretty durable. They had lenses that were rather small when compared to what we use today. (Their narrow size made them fit inside of chain link, a very handy attribute for urban shooters.) This one cost me $150, used. I didn’t have enough, so my mother went halves with me on it. I was 17, and the camera went everywhere with me after that, serving as my “mechanical sketchbook”.
Later, I went Nikon, financing the “upgrade” by helping my brother with a mural project for Salvador Molly’s on Belmont. (The mural, sadly, has since been painted over with beige paint. Bastards.) The theory behind the switch was that when I finally made the leap to Nikon, I’d have a stock of Nikon lenses to use. It was a logical choice, but it left me with my Pentax gear unused. I lent and then subsequently sold off the K-1000 to a friend, with the promise that if he ever wanted to sell it, I’d have first dibs.
And now, with the Nikon gear sitting idle in a cardboard box, my phone rang.
The rest is self evident. Today, the K-1000 — complete with the lens strap my father made me still attached — sits on my workbench, alongside the G9 and my Canonet. I have yet to run film through it, but I have no doubt that I will.
In the meanwhile, you can view the rest of the Nikon FG test roll shots over at flickr.