Photography: Paris On Film

It's been a while, but that's life. When life gets crazy there's always one thing that keeps me centered - the challenge of creativity. That's because for me, my favorite and most reliable way of re-energizing the spirit is with the camera. And when life seems to be moving too fast and I want it all to slow down, I turn to film. This editorial is an ode to film. A secret hope and wish to inspire more people to keep shooting or even start enjoying film for the first time.

With film, it's more than just the fact that it's simply too expensive to just jam on the shutter. You can't head to the local electronics store and pick up a camera then "spray and pray" that you get a good shot. Everything with film is an investment of time. You have to go to get the film. You have to store and care for the film. Every shot requires more care, more concentration, and even more consideration. There is no immediate feedback. You won't realize your mistakes until the moments are long gone so you have to get it right. Then once you're done your roll, you still have more waiting to do. You have to get your film back to the lab so you can then wait again for the scans to come back. That is unless you are developing and scanning yourself. So as you can see, the one constant of shooting with film is time.

Investing in film is an investment in yourself. And like all good investments, it pays back in spades. Film photography is a love affair with a certain sentimental value. Over the course of two decades I've myself taken a lot of digital photographs. According to my archive there are hundreds of thousands of them. Some I'm infinitely proud of. Some have real stories and memories attached to them. But something they all have in common is that they are missing a tangible reality. I can't go to the file cabinet and pull out the negatives and physically see the moment again. The moments and memories of film photography live a duality of both a physical and digital world. Sure yes you can print a digital photograph, but it's not the same thing. A negative (or slide positive) is like stealing a real piece of time and saving it forever. As it was, as it will always be. There in your hands. In some ways, film is like a little time machine.  

While it's easy to grab a digital camera and go, when I really want to make and create memories, I shoot film. I take pause and consider the time, people, places, and spaces. Choosing the film stock and speed carefully. Will I want to capture scenes in senses of contrast? Is the palette of color so unique that it must be recorded as such? Will the scene be fine and delicate or will it be raw and grimy? These are the kinds of questions running through my mind when I'm thinking whether to choose color or black and white? Will I choose low speed or high speed film? Will I pull the film to smooth it out or push it to make it rough? With film these choices represent your 'filters' and you do this before you leave the house.

So while recently packing for a work trip to, Paris, there was no question which camera I would take. I packed my Leica and a sleeve of film cans. Having never been to Paris before, I was excited to see if I could slow down and capture the vibe of city. Full transparency, my mind was ringing with influence from a fellow Toronto photographer, Dale Sood of Arts and Rec, who had recently been in France and was posting his street photography.  It got me excited to walk and wander this city.

Once my work in the city was done, I had 24 hours to myself to explore. Thankfully I was blessed with a warm spring day, enough film, and not an obligation in the world. I left my hotel in the Montmarte neighborhood after an early breakfast then walked, and walked, and walked. According to my phone GPS, I walked a little over 28kms before I had run all my film and exhausted my body. Admittedly I threw in the towel and rented a Lime scooter and zipped back to the hotel for a late dinner. The idea of walking another 5km back to the hotel was more than I could bare.

Paris is a city like no other. Every street, corner, alleyway, parkette, and promenade is more beautiful than the last. It is a city that invites you to keep exploring, and it all seems to go on forever. Obviously there was too much to see in one day but I tried. The one place I made time to see in detail was the Centre George Pompidou. The exterior architecture is begging to be photographed. But the real treasures are on the inside. Floors 4 and 5 house one of the greatest collections of modern and contemporary art in the world. My own love affair with art started when my parents gifted me a signed lithograph from, Alexander Calder. Paris and the Pompidou are home to a Calder installation that I had to see. But they also have works from Piet Mondrian, Andy Warhol, Basquiat, and on and on. If you're ever in Paris and have a few hours to spare, the Pompidou is where you need to spend it.

Back at the hotel I ate dinner before packing my bag to fly back to, Toronto. With special care I stowed my 5 small cans of Kodak (I really only shoot Kodak).  Even though I wasn't sure I got all the shots right, each roll was now a treasure of immeasurable value. They had become prize possessions which I couldn't wait to get home and to the lab. A week later I got the email my scans were in and I rushed to view them. Now I'll always have the memories of Paris in my mind, on my screen, and in my hand.  All thanks to the beauty of film.