b&w museums and my failures with film

The first time I ever used black and white film, I was at the Portland Art Museum using my Olympus 30 RC point & shoot camera. This camera was the absolute bane of my existence. I got it for $15 at a garage sale, and I could not figure out how to focus the thing. Turns out, you can’t really focus point and shoot cameras, thus the name. Learning film is a process, folks, and I am only just beginning. (PS – if anyone knows something about how the focus works on this camera, I would love to hear about it!)

Fortunately, some of these pictures turned out, and I discovered a love for shooting black and white film at artistic locations. I tried doing a second roll on that camera and the film jammed and I accidentally ruined the entire roll trying to get it unjammed. Third time’s the charm, though, right? Wrong.

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There were a couple more failed attempts at capturing life on this camera. I got my film back from the Tulip Festival and cried when not one single shot came out focused.
 

I came very close to giving up entirely, and then I turned around within the hour and bought a Pentax K1000 off of Craigslist. Within the next hour I was downtown at the local university taking trial pictures.

After I got these shots back, I was relieved that I could actually figure out how to focus images. These pictures gave me hope that I could actually get better. The rest has been a learning experience with many patient friends and family as I tried out different shots at different locations with different people, many times in rivers or the rain (sorry Adriana). But one thing I never gave up on was taking black and white photos at museums. So when I got to go to The Getty with my family a few weeks ago, I saw an opportunity to redeem myself.

Not all of the pictures turned out perfect or even completely in focus, but it’s a step forward. There’s something unique about taking photos of art and removing the color. It forces you to look at the simple shape and construction of the works – how do the shadows work together to make up the figure? What is it that determines how a piece makes someone really feel? What shapes did the artist prioritize?

Fun fact, for a time in my life I wanted to be an art historian. I was also really into studying world religions. But my focus has always been on writing and book publishing, so I didn’t have time nor the resources to look into those subjects more. While I might not be able to justify taking college classes or paying money to study these things full time, I can combine these interests with other hobbies. It sometimes seems impossible to get started on any side project with limited schedules. We can only dedicate so much time to our hobbies before having to return to work (unless, of course, you’re one of the lucky ones who makes a living off your hobby). But if you go outside the box, you might be surprised at the paths you discover. Try combining some of your passions to save time – you never know what the outcome might be.