I think I've written this blog post at least a thousand times. In my head I have anyway. I haven't quite been able to put the words to paper that would adequately describe my experience at the Film is Not Dead workshop with Jonathan Canlas. It's a confession, review, and love letter all rolled into one. Telling a story with words, rather than images, is hard for me, but this is important so here goes. FILM. Of course I've shot film before, but never deliberately. Never with any purpose or intention and certainly not since becoming a professional photographer. Here's the confession part. It's always made me feel like less. Less of a photographer. Less of an artist. And as odd as this sounds, like a coward. I was scared, no terrified. I didn't want to fail. The fear of failure paralyzed me from trying for so long. But I had this longing to shoot with a Hasselblad 500cm. That 6x6 format has always fascinated me. So there I was too scared to buy this camera that I've wanted for so long. I'd obsessively stalk photographers that shot with it, longing to be one of them, but too scared of failure to do anything about it, yet at the same time feeling like less of a photographer because I didn't know how to shoot film. It sounds pretty dumb writing it all out, but there you have it.
So when I saw Jon announce on Twitter that he was hosting a one day FIND workshop (Film is Not Dead) in Memphis, I sucked it up, got over myself and signed up and promptly went on KEH and bought the camera I've been lusting after. And then the camera showed up and all that fear came rushing back. I didn't know how to put it together, much less load any film into it. No way was I going to Memphis without at least being able to do that. So I called in a friend to help, watched some videos on YouTube and figured out enough to at least shoot a couple of rolls.
So now that I've embarrassed myself enough, let me know tell you about the workshop. After getting picked up at the airport by the fabulous Brittany Esther Staddon, we met up the night before the workshop huddling inside a sketchy motel room (the best kind) listening to the sweet sound of a never ending tornado warning. You should know that the very first that happens at FIND is getting a giant hug from Jon :) We did eventually brave the weather to chow down on some famous Memphis BBQ (yum). It was so fun to sit at Rendezvous hanging out with such a rad group of people. That's definitely one thing you should know about FIND. It really does attract the coolest people. I miss you guys :)
In the morning we started the workshop at a cozy little Memphis spot, Cafe Eclectic (great coffee!). Being so new to film, I was so grateful to Jon for being so open and willing to discuss any subject, no matter how mundane, and answer any question, no matter how basic. Some specific things I learned: 1. how to shoot specific film stocks and what their best uses are in weddings and portraiture; 2. how to use an external light meter; 3. all about different types of cameras and how they can be used at weddings; 4. posing, especially family formals; and 5. the importance of shooting personal work. We're all so busy with client work that I think it's easy to forget to shoot for no other reason than the discovery of self. But it is so incredibly important to your growth as an artist. Jon really drove that home.
After the morning presentation we headed into downtown Memphis to shoot two difference couples. Two things quickly became clear. Jon is a walking light meter, a Yoda of light, if you will. And he's a genius at posing. The way he worked with each of the couples was such an inspiration. He was so easy and charming and natural. It was impossible for them to not respond to it. I've always said that excellent portraiture is a like a dance between photographer and subject. If that's true, than Jon is a world class dancer. I learned so much watching him interact with not only the two couple, but also all of the students at the workshop. He is truly an excellent teacher and my only regret is that I chose to attend only the one day version of the workshop, instead of his normal three day. I can't regret it too much though, because the people I met and the friends I made are so awesome. I also would be remiss if I didn't mention Jon's FIND Guide. It is a really excellent resource if you're getting into shooting film and will save you countless of hours of research online.
Thank you Jon for being you and thank you to all of my fellow FINDers. Memphis was an experience I'll always carry with me and I hope to see you all in Vegas next year!