Into the Archives // France on Film (The 'Oops' Edition)

Back in 2010, I packed my bags for a month-long trip to France, to practice my bakery French (Je voudrais une de chaque, s'il vous plaîtand take in the sights.

By this point, my interest in photography was growing, and so, with my brother-in-law Rob's encouragement, I left for France not just with my point-and-shoot, but also a rudimentary film camera, a few rolls of film, and a lesson in film basics. Easy. 

Or it should have been. I took the art of it all very seriously, but disregarded the technical side almost immediately. I got it in my head that I should hold the shutter open for 3-4 seconds (by comparison, your camera phone opts for tiny fractions of a second). If your goal is to overexpose – burn, really – and blur every frame, then yep, 3-4 seconds is perfect. 

Being film, I didn't realize the implications of my inventive approach until after I'd returned home, got the negatives back from the lab, and put them in front of Rob to diagnose. 

In the end, I think I ruined nearly four rolls of film. Out of four. 

I'm sure I had snapshots of similar scenes on my digital camera, but having the snapshot wasn't the point. The film is where I put in the work and, to my surprise, that work mattered to me. And so the work continued and snowballed: I started learning how to edit photos in hopes that I could save my shots, I invested in a better camera, a better lens, refined my editing skills further, took on focused projects, and on and on. 

To this day, those few salvageable frames remain the first images I see when I open my editing program. For a while, they used to stir up feelings of disappointment – a recognition of what could have been, if I had bothered to commit a few technical tips to memory. 

But with time, I've come to like those images just as they are. Sure, it would be nice to see the details that got lost in the grain, but if the photos had turned out precisely as I wanted them to, I know I wouldn't have worked nearly as hard to build my technical and editing skills in the months that followed. My disappointment drove me in ways that easy success couldn't have.

And so, with time, that disappointment morphed into appreciation. Now, I see in those images an enthusiasm that led me to where I am today, and a quirky aesthetic that I can't accident my way into anymore. Childhood life lessons reinforced: Take chances, make mistakes (and get messy?), friends!

To close it out, here are a few more of my blurry, grainy favourites: 

Want more from the Into the Archives series? Head this way for the first instalment:

Into the Archives // A New Series of Old Photos