Since Wally's birth, I have been doing my best to document this time with photographs and videos of some of our best moments. I have folders on my computer labeled by each month and have been going through the images to narrow them down to the exact ones that I would like to include in his baby book. As I scroll through these carefully curated files I can't help but notice that something is missing. At first glance, it all seems to be there. Lots of smiles, lots of family, tons of love but each photograph has been narrowed down from a larger group of digital photographs to create a somewhat perfect collection of memories.
As a film photographer first, I find this somewhat misleading. The images are all sharp and the eyes are all open. The color has all been corrected and the light balanced, leaving only technically successful shots. While I love these photos (and anything Wally), they seem unauthentic and are lacking the spontaneity that makes photography so magical to me. I can't help but miss the 35mm and Polaroid images that captured my childhood. My mother always loved taking photos of us and I enjoyed getting rolls of film back to find that one great image out of the group. I have a baby box instead of a baby book (my mother was great at taking photos, not great at organization) that is full of unpredictable moments that have not been filtered. This is what I hope to create for Wally. I know an easy solution would be to just keep all the bad digital files and include them with the others but this is so hard for me. I shoot hundreds of images so it feels silly keeping anything but the best. However, when I get a roll of film back, so much more effort has gone into the production process, that throwing out the bad ones just seems so permanent and unnecessary. It is harder to physically discard photographs than to hit delete. We live in a time where there is so much excess, we tend to lose appreciation for what is simple.
In an effort to diversify Wally's baby book, I have been making more use of my vintage Nikon and Fuji instamax cameras. These analog beauties have given me images that are completely underexposed and other images that are really soft, but along with these throwaways I have some real gems. I have candid moments with loved ones and blurry smiles. I have images that take me back to my childhood where everything wasn't immediate and imperfections weren't edited out. I encourage you to get an old camera and put it to use. Focus less on getting a perfect image and focus more on capturing the moment.
I recently found some photos that I shot of myself when I was pregnant that kind of look like an American Apparel add for maternity clothing. If these would have been taken with my digital camera, I would have deleted them for sure. But I waited to get the film back and by the time I did, Wally was a few weeks old. So even though the photos are really bad, they are so uncomfortably real that I love them.