底片，不要跟我說再見 Don't say goodbye, film.
It seems like yesterday that I was walking on Han-Ko Street (漢口街), looking for my first SLR (single lens reflex) camera. That was a summer weekend. I was a sophomore student, eager to express my thoughts and to distinguish myself from my peers. I needed a hobby that could show my aesthetic perspective and capture the most dynamic days of my life. Although I have been taking pictures since I was a kid, it was only then did I start to seriously use camera as a tool of creation.
Actually, my first SLR was a Minolta SRT-102b, an old mechanical camera that was a gift from my uncle. Subsequently I got 3 lenses for that camera. The Minolta did not serve me long because I was never satisfied with the image quality and bulkiness.
At the end of that afternoon on Han-Ko St., I got the first SLR that I actually paid money for--a Contax Aria. It is a tight, black, mechanical camera that only needs battery for its metering system, similar to my old Minolta or the then popular Nikon FM2. On the same day I bought 2 lenses --Planar 50/1.7 and Distagon 28/2.8--some films, a camera bag, and a lens cleansing set. It was as of yesterday that I was carrying my new toys home on the metro, excited and worried that I might have spent too much money on a hobby that will not last long.
The Aria brought me into a new world. I started to take lessons in photography and darkroom. Shutter speed, aperture, focal length, process time, zone metering, color temperature, etc. etc. The hobby that I expected to have low-threshold and shallow learning curve turned out to be a fiesta of chemistry and physics. Never did I complain about the overwhelming knowledge. In fact, I probably enjoy the science more than the art of photography.
No one realized it was the dusk of film photography. Films were cheap. Darkroom was mysterious and cool. SLR was equipment for adventurist of life. After every tour friends will re-convene to share pictures and see slides projected on a big white screen. Each shot was taken carefully because the second shot costs another frame of film. It was a time when pressing the shutterbug is making a decision; when recieving pictures back from the photo lab is a rediscovery of memory.
Was I a good photographer? Not at all. Two years after I got my camera, I realized I was just using the camera to capture the moment rather than to create something innovative. I realized I am a photography opportunist, that is, I only take good pictures when a beautiful scene presents itself. Like most people, I take good pictures when I'm shooting children, animals, speactular landscapes or people that I care. These pictures are good not because I'm good at photography, but because they are beautiful themselves. I didn't experiment; I didn't fake "hip" pictures or pretend I have a sharp style.
It took me another 2 years to realize that's OK. I don't have to be the most creative or skilled photographer to claim I am a photographer. I don't have to claim I am a photographer. Whether I enjoy the process, the product, the equipment, the science or the target does not matter; all it matters was that I was having fun. And I had so much fun.
Eight years have passed since the day I was on Han-Ko St., my Aria is still serving me well. There have been scartches and wears on my camera and my lens, but my Aria never disappoints me when the slides return to me from the photo lab. Sometime I shoot more intensively, other times I may be too busy to pick up my camera. But whenever I feel like taking pictures, my Aria will be ready in the camera bag, waiting for me to bring it out.
Soon I will buy a digital camera. The cost of films and the convenience of digital camera will no longer justify shooting films. Soon my Aria will be shelfed in a closet or a box; perhaps waiting to inspire a new generation. Soon I will forget about those films I had spent on my Aria, and all the excitements they have brought to me. But before that day, don't say goodbye.