My Love Affair with Film

Today’s Film Friday blog post comes from pro photographer Caroline Tran. You can follow her on Facebook or visit her website.

Caroline will be presenting at Imaging USA 2016 in the Kodak Alaris booth #1820.  Join her on January 10  & 11 @ 4:00 PM! We look forward to seeing you there.

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My love affair with film began in college, when I first started taking art classes to balance out the heavy workload of my physics major. I ended up loving photography and one of my professors asked about my future plans; at the time I was set on continuing to get my master degree at UCLA and hadn’t considered photography as anything further than a hobby. He said, “I see so much potential in you,” and encouraged me to audit an extension class he was teaching there. It’s really funny to me now because back then I didn’t think as a grad student I’d have time for my “hobby,” but I loved it.

Caroline Tran

I loved the unique, nostalgic look of film and learned the ins and outs of working with it in my classes. While in grad school, I started planning my own wedding and fell right into the beautiful world of weddings and all the gorgeous details that come along with it. I loved the planning aspect so much that I just wanted to have a side business so I could keep my foot in that world. I had no idea that my little business would blossom into what it is today but I’m incredibly grateful to be able to work in a field I love and am passionate about.

When I started in the industry, many photographers were switching to digital photography, and that’s the age we live in. I wanted to go forward with the direction the industry was going, but found myself spending many hours behind the computer editing. Especially having started learning on film, I had a set standard for the look and feel of the colors that I fell in love with in college. I found myself spending an exorbitant amount of time on editing my photographs; I wanted a consistent look for my photos and would spend hours at the computer in post-process, getting all of my digital photos to look like film. The look is really important to me and it’s incredibly difficult to replicate. However, as my business started expanding and I had more opportunities to travel and shoot weddings abroad, I realized that the amount of time on editing wasn’t sustainable, especially if I wanted to be able to spend more time with my family.

I was pregnant with my first son, Cameron, when I made the decision to move to film. If I was spending so much time editing my photos to get that film quality aesthetic, why not just shoot film to begin with? Getting pregnant was the catalyst: I wanted to be able to spend more time with my family and less time behind the computer. I needed my business to be more efficient and wanted to work smarter.

I tried a few different photo labs before deciding to work with Richard Photo Lab. I immediately fell back in love with the process and I saved so much time on editing; it was absolutely worth it. Today with two kids and a thriving business I definitely think shooting with film is worth it to achieve both beautiful photographs and also so I can spend time where it’s important.

The best thing about shooting film is that it brought me back to capturing that look that I started with; I love the nostalgia of it, that unique style that stands out in a digital age.  My favorite film to shoot is (Kodak Professional) Portra 800.  Working with film for me is not just an art style, but an experience; you don’t get to see what you’re creating -you have to really know your craft.  I have to think through each shot, making sure everything is beautifully composed and being mindful about what’s within the frame. Each shot is time and money, and I find that taking that deliberate process for composing each shot creates a very distinct and special product for the client.

Film produces a distinct quality of photographs that is difficult to duplicate. I had come to appreciate this look when I learned how to develop film in college, but when I started my photography business I thought going completely digital would be following industry standard. However, in order to achieve the look of film, I spent copious hours editing my digital photographs during post-process. When my husband and I started a family, I realized this process was no longer sustainable if I wanted to have time to spend with them. I’d decided to switch to film in order to save time, but it also brought me close to an art form that I loved. Photographing with film is a special experience that has no parallel; it’s challenging and thrilling to work to create compelling photographs while working with the limits of film.

Film Friday: Shaun James Cox

Today’s Film Friday guest blog post comes from pro photographer Shaun James Cox.

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Originally from North Wales, I moved to London to study photography. I’ve been working as professional photographer since 2010, covering fashion editorial, exclusive events and society reportage worldwide. I have worked exclusively for royalty, society, fashion houses and celebrities. I work closely with the British Fashion Council, who play a crucial role in nurturing and supporting British talent.

04 Model Backstage at Margaret Howell LCM AW15 SHAUN JAMES COX

I began my photography education by shooting on analogue and being in the darkroom, processing and developing film; it is a beautiful place to learn and work. These days I take my film into labs, but it’s good to have that background of hands-on in traditional photography.

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I shoot my personal work on film. There is something special about film which digital doesn’t quite express: the sense of creation and tangibility, where each frame feels especially important and considered. That said, because many clients often need images the same day, I shoot the majority of my commercial work digitally.  It’s efficient.

03 Designer Casely Hayford backstage SHAUN JAMES COX

Most of the film I shoot is 120mm and I tend to use a lot of Kodak Portra film, especially the Portra 160 and Portra  400 . Both give beautiful tones and colours that work well with my style. I have some Portra 800 stock in the fridge, which I will be using to shoot backstage at this season’s London Fashion Week. Apart from the regular & expired stock I shoot, I have some 35mm colour IR in the freezer that I’m really excited about – it’s just waiting for the right project to get the best from it.

02 Model backstage at the Casely-Hayford show LCM SHAUN JAMES COX

You can follow my LFW highlights here.

Website: www.shaunjamescox.com

How and Why I Shoot Kodak Professional Film at Hawaiian Weddings: Guest Post By Wendy Laurel

Wendy Laurel is a film photographer who shoots weddings, families, and lifestyle work on Maui, Hawaii.  She was selected as a PDN winner in the annual Top Knots wedding photography competition for 2015 and her work has appeared in many wedding publications and blogs, such as Pacific Weddings, Style Me Pretty, Snippet and Ink, 100 Layer Cake, Green Wedding Shoes, and many more.  She lives on Maui with her husband and four children.

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Why I shoot film at weddings here in Hawaii is something I get asked all the time.  All. The. Time.  The simple answer is easy — I shoot film at weddings because I love how it looks. I shoot Kodak Professional film and I find that it gives me the colors of Hawaii that I see with my eye here and does it in a super pretty way.

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I am not a super technical person. They way I can explain what I see with film that makes me want to shoot it exclusively is Kodak Professional films’ colors, the depth in the image, the way film handles light.  Film images always draw me in.

I also have fallen in love with the process of shooting film.  For me, the simpler my process is, the freer I am creatively.   With film, I am freed from looking at the camera back, from worrying about the camera settings beyond the basic aperture and shutter speeds.  That simplicity keeps me in the moment with the people in front of my camera and inspires me creatively.

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People sometimes wonder how I shoot film at weddings as if it was a harder process than digital. But I don’t think it really is.  Here are my go-to’s for shooting film at weddings.

  1. KEEP IT SIMPLE

For the majority of the wedding, I shoot with mainly my medium format camera – the Contax 645.  I also carry a 35mm camera – the Canon 1v with a wide-angle lens, which I use for photojournalistic type shots, movement, and some fun portraits.  I also pack 2 back up cameras just in case.  You never know at a wedding what will decide to break.

I have a ton of film cameras that I love to experiment with.  I love my Rollei sl66 and my toy cameras (Holga and Lomos) and fun and different lenses.  But I pick only one “extra” camera to bring with me to a wedding. And I preload that camera with the film it will need and I usually shoot only 1 or 2 rolls through it during the bride and groom portrait time.  I have found that in older cameras and lenses, using Kodak Ektar film works really well.  The strong colors and contrast from Ektar help work against older lenses loss of contrast.

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  1. MY FILM BAG

I use an old shoulder carry camera bag as my film bag. It has three compartments, which I use for the three different speeds of film I will use during the day.  In each compartment, I have a zip lock bag of unwrapped 120 rolls of film.  On top of each bag is a replacement insert for my camera (Contax 645) loaded with that sort of film.  For me, that’s one compartment of Portra 160 and Ektar 100 mixed (my daylight outside films).  The second compartment has Portra 800 (my favorite inside or nighttime color film). And the third compartment holds Kodak Tri-x 400 (for nighttime reception shots).  There is also an empty Ziploc bag that I use to put in all my shot film.  I also put a couple of spare batteries in my film bag.

On the outsides of my bag are two pockets. In one is Kodak Ektar 35mm film, in the other, Kodak BW400CN and Tri-x in 35mm.  Those are for my 35mm camera- Canon 1v.

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  1. MY ASSISTANT/SECOND SHOOTER

I love to shoot weddings with someone by my side. It makes the day go smoother and I love having someone to chat with and bounce ideas off.  My assistant carries my film bag and reloads the spare inserts for me. When I finish a roll of film, I just turn around and open my camera back, he hands me a new insert and I hand him the insert with the finished roll.  Then he reloads that for me while I’m shooting.  Easy. Peasy.  He also shoots here and there as inspiration hits him.

Of course he doesn’t always have to stand right there with me. In slower times of the day, like the getting ready, I might be with the bride and he will be with the guys and I reload the film myself.  But in the busiest times of the day, its especially handy to have his help reloading the film.

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  1. BRING LIGHT

I shoot film all day and all night. So the reception is shot on all film as well.  For nighttime shooting, I like to bring a variety of lighting tools — 2 video lights and 2 flashes.  The video lights work great for first dances and cake cutting.  I set them up on nearby tables, or one on top of my camera and one held by my assistant while I shoot black and white film.   I have flashes for both the Canon and the Contax and I use those also. Flashes work well for dancing shots and candids.

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For me film is all about both the look I can achieve in my images and the process itself. I find myself being much more creative and artistic with film in my camera.  I love experimenting with things done in camera — double or triple exposures, light leaks, super wide angles or older cameras and lenses.  Its really the fun I have with shooting film along with the images I get back that keeps me committed to film.

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Not Fashion Forward from Guest Blogger – Kosuke Okahara

Kosuke Okahara is a celebrated documentary photographer best known for his in-depth work on Colombia and Fukushima, Japan. He is the recipient of several awards and grants including the 2010 W. Eugene Smith Fellowship, Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography, World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass, PDN’s annual 30 Photographers, and the Pierre & Alexandra Boulat Award. His photography has been exhibited at museums, galleries and international photo festivals around the world.

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Last February, I received an assignment for a kind of job I had never done before. It was from a fashion brand called Comme des Garçons. I haven’t done fashion work so I read the email again. It wasn’t a mistake; Comme des Garçons was asking me to shoot their Paris Fashion week show. They asked me to shoot as I always shoot because the designer, Ms. Rei Kawakubo, wanted to document the day of their collection from the beginning to the end.

Comme des Garçons Fall/Winter 2014-15 | Paris Fashin Week.

It was surprising that a big fashion brand asked me to shoot. I was curious so I said yes. When I asked them how they found me, they said they were looking for a documentary photographer for their show and eventually for a direct mail campaign. Comme des Garçons’s direct mail is widely known for its artistic concepts. They had seen my images and liked what they saw. This was a completely new experience as a photographer and I was excited to give it a try.

Junya Watanabe - Comme des Garçons Fall/Winter 2014-15 | Paris Fashion Week

Comme des Garçons Fall/Winter 2014-15 | Paris Fashin Week.

Comme des Garçons’s asked me to shoot as I always shoot. So I ran out to get enough Tri-X for the day. My guess was that it would be quite dark but I could push the film.

Comme des Garçons Fall/Winter 2014-15 | Paris Fashin Week.

The directions I had from Ms. Rei Kawakubo were quite simple. She wanted to express intensity but she didn’t want ordinary fashion pictures. Some people would expect backstage access when shooting a fashion show. But another condition from the designer was “absolutely no backstage”. She didn’t want any disruptions with the models. So for me, that wasn’t much of option. It was challenging in a way, but sometimes limitations allow you to push yourself further and to be more instinctive.

Junya Watanabe - Comme des Garçons Fall/Winter 2014-15 | Paris Fashion Week

Comme des Garçons Fall/Winter 2014-15 | Paris Fashin Week.

As a first timer going inside a fashion show, I didn’t know what to expect. When I arrived I found a large runway that took up most of the space. This was where most of the action would take place. As a documentary photographer, though, I began to see possibilities beyond the runway. I loaded my camera and started shooting.

Junya Watanabe - Comme des Garçons Fall/Winter 2014-15 | Paris Fashion Week

Once the show started, it was impossible to move – there was a huge crowd and the place was packed. So I focused on everything else; the people coming and going, team members setting up, and the environment itself.

Junya Watanabe - Comme des Garçons Fall/Winter 2014-15 | Paris Fashion Week

When I shoot, I believe that anything and everything can be a part of the story. Of course sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Regardless, I just keep shooting. That is the most important thing for me when I do stories. It may sound basic but focusing all the time is both difficult and exhausting.

Junya Watanabe - Comme des Garçons Fall/Winter 2014-15 | Paris Fashion Week

One of the greatest things of this assignment was that they allowed me to take my time in the darkroom. As they said they wanted me to do it my way, I printed all the pictures on fiber-based papers. I developed the many rolls of Tri-X according to my development recipe, then spent 10 days in the darkroom to print the images. These days in the world of photography, things move very fast but sometimes it is good to take time. Shooting film makes me think more. It forces me to look at images over and over while making contact sheets, choosing images, and then printing images. It gives me more time to understand the pictures during the process. I am not sure if this kind of assignment will happen to me again but it was quite interesting for not a fashion photographer.

Comme des Garçons Fall/Winter 2014-15 | Paris Fashin Week.

Guest blogger: Pro Photographer Elisa Bricker

“Film allows me to book more and spend less time at my desk!” – Elisa Bricker

Elisa Bricker

Elisa Bricker

Most photographers I know didn’t get into our field because they love spending time in the office. When I talk with other photographers, they share their love of people and stories, of documenting and sharing their work – not their love of editing! I share my love of film because I want more photographers to know how inviting the process is. I want to share how I was able to leave my desk to shoot more, without needing to reinvent my business.

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When I started photographing my clients using a digital camera, it was easy to over commit. My workweek was a mix of business tasks and hours spent at my desk culling and editing digital images. I loved the work I was doing, but I needed a better process, and I wanted to spend more time doing the work that really mattered to me – shooting!

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Film photography is an invitation to create with your subject. It’s an opportunity for thoughtful and intentional creativity, and it’s a way to streamline your workflow. The move back to film was an obvious one for me. It allowed me to book more work because I was spending less time at my desk. It freed my schedule for more personal projects, and simplified my week – meaning I had more time and energy for my clients and our work together.

To start 2015 we have an exciting opportunity to share our work, our lives and our love of film. We’ll be at Imaging USA, in the Kodak Alaris booth (#726). I’ll be in the booth twice: once on Sunday, February 1 at 2 pm and again on Monday afternoon at 1 pm. I’m looking forward to seeing you there.

If you can’t make it to the Kodak Alaris booth, then Edward and I (my husband and owner of Contax Rental www.contaxrental.com) are teaching a workshop in France.

This workshop is designed specifically for film photographers because we recognize both the allure of film photography and how intimidating it can be to try shooting on film without training. Learning film on your own can be a tedious and frustrating experience. Learning to use film with others is a liberating one.

For more information about our upcoming workshop in France this coming fall visit: http://elisabricker.com/workshop/

I cannot wait to meet you at ImagingUSA.

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Staying in the Moment By Michael Turek

The last time I was in a dark room was probably 2002, and the last time I shot film wasn’t too long after that. By the time I graduated from photo school I had switched to digital with a lot of conviction. I remember debating with some of my more reluctant classmates about it, and my argument was that I felt I could ultimately provide a better image with digital. It gave you more options, I said. Then around the middle of 2012 I started shooting film again, mostly out of boredom. After nearly a decade of digital, I found the experience of shooting on film to be a revelation.

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People ask me why I prefer to shoot film, expecting me to say something romantic about the way film looks, the texture of it. Instead, I completely stay out of that subjective and tired debate of whether it looks better than digital (off the record, I do prefer the way film looks). But what I discovered when I returned to film was that it had more to do with the absence of the LCD screen on the back of the camera than anything else.

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Putting any camera up to your face takes you out of the moment, but taking a picture and then looking at the screen on the back of the camera really takes you out of the moment. The disconnect is at its worst when making portraits of people. It’s uncomfortable enough to have your picture taken, but it’s even more uncomfortable to be snapped, and then seemingly judged by the photographer as he’s reviewing the image. The temptation to check the screen is way too strong.

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I’ve tried to turn it off. I’ve put gaffers tape over the screen. But these efforts are no better then a New Year’s resolution that I’ll never keep. Invariably, the subjects want to have a look for themselves and unless you’ve just shot a Pulitzer Prize winner, they’re probably going to feel less spectacular about themselves. Often subjects, assuming I’m shooting digital, will point to my camera and ask “can I see?” and I’ll respond, “No, but neither can I.” They then seem to be reinvigorated by the equality between us.

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I find that if I’m shooting with digital, I’ll be tempted to over-perfect any one shot. The instant feedback from the LCD allows me to make tiny adjustments, which many times are not imperative. Most of my best work is reactive, and when I start spending too much time on one shot I’ve only succeeded in making myself less open, less creative. Whereas with film, I may take two or three pictures of a scene, then say to myself, “OK, this is getting expensive, time to move on,” and then I change positions drastically, or take the subject to an entirely new location. As a result, by the end of the shoot, I’ve come away with true variations rather then just 75 versions of the same image. As it turned out, I was wrong about what I thought ten years ago; it’s actually the process unique to shooting film that seems to help me make a more creative image. Shooting film is a constricting parameter, and it’s well known that sometimes it’s easier to work when confined.

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Of course I still shoot digital for certain jobs, and for some applications, it’s the way to go. I can’t find an underwater housing for my Pentax 67 and I get seriously wet on a lot of my shoots. I can imagine digital is great for shooting tabletop still life with the client in the studio. For me, however, most of my best work comes on location assignments after I’ve had a day or two to get into “the zone.” Without trying to sound all metaphysical about it, shooting film seems to lessen the time it takes to get into the zone. I know I’m there when I’ve stopped thinking about the equipment, even stopped thinking about the composition. I only know I’ve been in the zone after the fact. You can’t be in the zone and recognize it at the same time; if you do, you pull yourself out of it. Digital, which makes so much possible, ironically causes me to be occupied by distracting technical options. Too many options are bad.

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It’s counter-intuitive but film makes me care less about getting the right exposure. (It must be said; the dynamic range of film is an amazing and forgiving thing.) Perhaps it’s because I’m preemptively measuring the light more often. Constantly taking meter readings, I have greater faith that my next shot will be properly exposed. In any case, I feel more present and more in tune with my surroundings, and I don’t have to spend much thought on operating the camera. I make do with what’s loaded in the camera, knowing that I can push process the next roll if I have to, and that’s that. Yes, it’s more challenging to shoot film but it’s less distracting then digital. Ironically I find shooting film to be more peaceful, almost meditative, and all I have to think about is where to put the viewfinder’s rectangle.

Carmel, CA, Coastal Living job

Michael Turek is a New York-and London-based photographer.

He first fell in love with photography on family trips to England and his high-school photo teacher urged him to pursue the medium. Four years later, he graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a photography degree and moved to Manhattan to assist prominent names. He soon began accepting his own commissions from publications on both sides of the Atlantic.

For Turek, photography is a way of experiencing life; it’s suggestive of a memory, but the immediacy forces him to move past the pictures he has taken to the images he hasn’t yet made. He is the recipient of accolades from American Photography, Communications Arts, and PDN; and he maintains The Turek Atlas, an online travel guide featuring his images.

Michael shoots with a variety of cameras but he is particularly fond of his Pentax 6×7 and KODAK PROFESSIONAL PORTRA 400 and 160 films.

One Roll a Week by Charlene Hardy

This week’s Film Friday post comes from  Guest Blogger Charlene Hardy.

Photo by Jonathan Canlas

Photo by Jonathan Canlas

As a mother of four, I marvel at the everyday changes that happen so quickly in childhood. I get to observe the wonder of children experiencing things for the first time. I cheer them on as they learn and achieve. I get to laugh with them as they find joy in the simple things.

Like most parents, I take photographs of important childhood events. But I wanted to do something different. I wanted to look back and remember my children the way they were not only during those happy childhood milestones but also during the day-to-day happenings of life. At the start of 2014, I began a personal project to document my kids throughout the year.

As I contemplated this project, I thought of ways to slow down and really take time to know what was happening in my children’s lives. I thought of my own mother with her camera, carefully composing and changing settings as my brothers and sisters squirmed with the excitement of knowing our photo was being taken. I wanted to re-create that feeling for my children who have grown up in the digital age, where photos are taken at lightning speed, never printed and often deleted as fast as they are taken. I wanted them to feel the importance of knowing that the photos I would take were permanent. I had the tools to make this happen, I just needed to carve out time from our busy days and make this a priority.

I chose film for this project because shooting film causes me to slow down. It forces me to take my time and choose every exposure carefully. I chose KODAK PROFESSIONAL T-MAX 400 film because I have always loved its versatility and beautiful grain. My children seem to notice a difference in the way I shoot with film and the photos I create have more depth and soulfulness.

My project is called “One Roll a Week.” Each week I limit myself to one roll of film and strive to document my children’s lives through timeless portraits that simply focus on their day-to-day growth. Every week, one at a time, I invite my kids into my small studio and take 4 frames of each one. In between frames we talk about their day, friends, or school; no topic is off limits.

WEEK 1

Shot on Kodak Professional T–MAX 400 by CharleneHardy

Shot on Kodak Professional T–MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

January 1st came and everything was set: film, camera and chemicals to develop the film myself. After setting up a stool and studying the light in my small studio, I called my 13-year-old daughter into the room. She eyed my equipment cautiously and asked what was going on. I told her about my project as she plopped down on the stool letting me know that she was not quite convinced this was how she wanted to spend her last moments of winter break. I put the camera up to my eye and studied the scene before me. I was taken aback by how grown up she has become. She sighed impatiently and I snapped the first frame. Lowering the camera, she looked at me in disbelief. I tried my best to explain how I was slowing down; I wanted to spend time with her, documenting her growing up in a meaningful way. Our first conversation of the year started in between those four frames.

WEEK 4

Shot on Kodak Professional T–MAX 400 by CharleneHardy

Shot on Kodak Professional T–MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

After school with my 8-year-old daughter, we talked about the week, her best friend moving away and recess. “The kids at school tell me my hair sticks up. I know it does but I like to think it just looks like I have wings and they help me run faster than all of the boys.”

WEEK 7

Shot on Kodak Professional T–MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

Shot on Kodak Professional T–MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

My 5-year-old son has just completed 100 days of Kindergarten.  I am amazed at how fast time has gone by. It really seems like yesterday I was dropping him off for his first day of school. I asked him how he felt and he excitedly replied, “I am 100 days smarter and I only have 80 more days until summer! Then I can go to college.”

WEEK 11

Shot on Kodak Professional T-MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

Shot on Kodak Professional T-MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

I spent two hours with my 11-year-old daughter at a retina specialist, where they numbed her eyes and tried to dilate them. It was an exhausting process- we got bad news about her progressing vision loss. That afternoon, her eyes were causing her pain and she kept closing them to try to ease the burning sensation. I took her home and we ended up in the studio talking. At one point I sighed, my heart heavy and I asked her, “What are we going to do?” Tugging her hair as she thought she replied quietly, “I just want to be able to keep dancing.” This is one of those weeks I will not likely be forgetting soon. Documenting the year is sometimes harder than I ever imagined.

WEEK 15

Shot on Kodak Professional T-MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

Shot on Kodak Professional T-MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

My five year old has an amazing imagination. One day he is a wilderness explorer, the next a gladiator. “Hey Mom, I’m a gladiator, gladiators are NOT glad. They make mad fighting faces like this.”

As of this week I have completed 17 weeks and it’s been such an adventure. I adore sharing my love of film photography with my children in a way that allows us to spend time with each other. It has really helped me to know them better. Some weeks are easy to document, filled with simple childhood pleasures: being chosen as part of the yearbook staff, dancing in a production or finally getting a 100% on a spelling test. But some weeks are tough. Childhood has its share of disappointments and it can be heart wrenching to experience. I try my best to capture a little of what is going on in their lives, the good and the not so good, knowing that together we are learning and growing together from these events.

Charlene Hardy is a portrait photographer specializing in Children and Family portraiture. She lives in Kennewick, Washington with her husband and four children. Charlene enjoys making timeless portraits of children using film and the hands on approach of developing and scanning the film herself. For more information on her work and her “One Roll a Week” project, please visit http://charlenehardyphotography.com