I shot exclusively on film when I went to Stockholm. I only shoot on film. It’s worth the extra cost; trust me. In fact, if you’re not shooting on film, then it’s not worth it.
Well, the truth is that this was before I even got my first decent digital camera, so my camera was a secondhand SLR, one that I barely knew how to work, one whose sensor I scratched trying to clean it. (I felt sick realizing that every subsequent shot I took would have a scar.) I was jealous of other people’s full-frames and electronic viewfinders, as if I would have been able to take advantage of them.
But two weeks after I got back, when I got a refurbished DSLR Canon T5i on my birthday, I, too, became a Photographer. Soon, I hoped, I would be able to return to my favorite place I had ever been and be able to document it with as many unscratched, properly exposed, edited photos as my heart desired. And the thing is, I took that trip about a month after Taylor and I started dating. I was already telling her through my intermittent wifi that I wanted to take her back there with me.
A year later, when we got engaged, we decided that I would for our honeymoon. And a year after that, we started to pack. Pretty light, some clothes, some toiletries, not much else to save some room for stuff we would buy abroad. It was actually kind of a snap decision, I remember, and one that I didn’t feel great about, that we would leave our DSLR cameras behind.
This was hard. I was a Photographer. I had been waiting for this for two years. But I realized, just a few days before we left, that if I took a camera capable of taking more or less infinity shots of my honeymoon, that would be all I did. I’m not so good that it doesn’t take me quite a few shots to get one I’m happy with. And I really hate editing, so it really has to be a good one from the start for me to be happy with it. And for what? I’d have a maybe really impressive photograph to remind me of a time when Taylor was impatiently, but graciously, waiting for me to actually spend time with her.
Again, if you’re not shooting on film, it’s not worth it.
So we picked up a handful of disposables. The rules were that we would document every (unique) meal we had (no need for a shot of the same breakfast almost every day) and every cup of coffee. These are the reasons we travel anywhere we do anyway. We would save one, maybe two, disposables for pictures of each other and random cool shit, but we wanted to have a system in place that would leave us with souvenirs—literally, in French, memories—from the trip to look back on but that would restrict us from focusing on the photos of experiences before the experiences themselves. A system in place where whatever photo we snapped of a moment was what we got. A reference to a moment rather than a moment itself entirely contained. Isn’t that what a photograph is?
There, unfortunately, is a flipside to allowing yourself only one chance to capture anything. Specifically with disposable cameras, in basically anything less than searing daylight, you better turn that flash on. But of course you won’t learn that until several weeks after the moment. About half of our Stockholm shots were decipherable.
About a week ago, armed with this knowledge and a Kodak FunSaver, we headed to Detroit for a long weekend to mark our one-year anniversary, again, mostly in it for the food and coffee. We agreed to import the Swedish tradition of getting coffee twice a day so that we could cover more ground and get more photos.
It wasn’t until that Sunday—after two full days of bookstores, food, coffee, more food, more coffee, hotels too nice for us, the Detroit Institute of the Arts—while wandering through the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle, trying to get as much as possible out of the last day of this trip, that I realized,
We had both completely forgotten we had brought the camera with us.
That meant six meals and four coffee outings, most of them, lost. My heart sank. There was a pit in my stomach, which was probably my heart. There’s really no cliché that can capture it. I was—you can ask Taylor—visibly devastated.
She reassured me that it was okay, that the trip wasn’t ruined, and that we had still had an incredible weekend. And she was right, it wasn’t, and we had. But it wasn’t until I could document her drinking an El Salvador at The Red Hook and until I could get several what I hope will be amazing shots inside the Pewabic gallery that I actually felt better. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal at the time, but years from now, I will want references to moments from our first anniversary. Someday, I will want to look back on all the food and coffee.
But I’ve realized in the last week or so that I will remember our anniversaries anyway because they are anniversaries. Increasingly, it becomes the things between anniversaries that I do not want to forget, the everydays that are not explicitly special at the time, because these are what our life really is. There are still nine exposures left on the FunSaver, and you can always buy more FunSavers or whatever, though they are maybe more expensive than they should be.
But it’s worth the extra cost. You never know when there will be food and coffee and random cool shit that you want to remember.
Jeffrey (‘17) ultimately settled on studying film and media studies and French, though food is his greatest passion. He lives in Grand Rapids and is trying to teach himself computer science so he can, among other things, cyberbully Elon Musk.