November 11, 2009

On the Sensuous Experience of Using a Film Camera

I left the Franklin Area Survival Center with a light heart and used two cameras. After donating clothes to this food pantry/thrift store, I bought a miniature digital camera ($2.00) and a no-settings panoramic film camera ($1.00). Since I cannot remember the last time I shot film, I tried the film one first.

I cracked open the film box, popped off the film container top (which released a whiff of film), extracted the cassette, clicked open the camera's back, pulled out the rewind knob, inserted the cassette, threaded the leader, closed the back and finally advanced the film. I was ready to shoot.

Compared with digital camera on/off buttons, what a sensuous experience! I felt like the frisky suburban housewife getting her hair cut by Edward Scissorhands, a gentle movie character who has scissors instead of hands.

(Click on an image to enlarge. Click your browser's back button to return to blog.)

On a recent lunch break, I darted down by the Connecticut River, in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. I ran into one of my students, proudly showed her my plastic film camera and declared, "I feel like I am on a sacred journey."

One of my early mentors, Jerry Berndt, encouraged me to use a variety of camera types to jog my brain and eye and fingers out of habitual ways of being and doing. Composing with this small, lightweight box was an injection of creative juice. I reveled in the sounds of the simple shutter clicks and the creaky gears of the film advance mechanism.

I had the film processed and scanned at a drugstore (Walgreens). I love the look. This is Autumn.

© 2009 John Nordell


Anonymous said...

A lovely way to greet autumn, say Roddy and Joanie.

Tim Dempsey said...

That last pano is simply majestic. Fabulous.

Unknown said...

gorgeous! also, i love the image of "you" and edward scissorhands. thanks...

Sabrina said...


I found a 35mm panorama camera at a tag sale for 75 cents a few years ago and still enjoy using it.