Anyone with a mobile phone can take some pretty cool photos. You can even apply a “vintage” filter to give your pictures that old-timey feel. But some people want the real thing: film. To them, it offers an art – and a science – that no filter can replace.
Founded in 1959, the Hong Kong 35mm Photography Society Limited is a community for lovers of film photography. The members love shooting on film, and it’s their passion and joy to share their experience with others. “Photography is a kind of language,” says Karl Chan, chairperson of the society’s activity department. “By showing someone a photo, I am able to share my message, and to reflect on how I see the world.”
Chan is quick to point out how shooting on film makes for a totally different experience than snapping a shot on your phone. “Film cannot be reused, and it’s expensive, so I have to pause and make sure that I am confident with that shot – with all the angles and light shades correct – before I click on the shutter,” he explains. “Usually when I use my phone, I take hundreds of shots before I choose the best.”
And turning that film into a photograph takes commitment to another level. “First you have to unroll the films in a black bag and spool the film onto a film reel, which you then put in a developing container,” says Elizabeth Liu, a committee member of the society. “You pour in different chemical solutions to develop the images, and in between the process, you need to [toss] the film regularly. After that, you need to put the film into a solution which fixes the images. Then dip it in water to cool it down before hanging it to dry.”
It’s an extremely complicated process, and that’s only half way to a photograph which can be framed.
“The next step is the darkroom, where film is developed on real paper,” adds Liu. “Light exposure is the key to developing the film. The longer you expose the film to light, the darker the photo will be, and vice versa. So you need to be really careful with your exposure time calculations.”
It’s not an easy process, and there can be a lot of mistakes that you don’t even realise until you see the finished product. “But I always remind myself that there only needs to be one successful attempt, and the outcome will be amazing,” says Chan. “The satisfaction of a successful project cheers me up.”
It’s easy to be inspired by the amazing photos we see on the internet, but Chan says originality is better. “Do not follow the trend,” he says. “Don’t go taking pictures of things or places which everyone else is doing. Instead, find your own area, and build a personal platform for your pictures. Use your own eye – it’s the most important feature! Judge the scenery with your own feelings, as the most outstanding photo is a personal one.”
And taking the time to find the scenery that’s right for your photo might even allow you to see beautiful things that you may have overlooked before.
“One of the things I like about taking photos is to be able to capture so many moments that people tend to miss,” says Chan. “They are all around you, but the busy life in the city gives people no chance to see these beautiful angles.”
The Hong Kong 35mm Photography Society Limited will be holding their fourth exhibition, “Creative Black & White Photography 2016”, from June 30 to July 4 at Hong Kong City Hall