I started my travels within the ‘safety’ of Europe, before getting more adventurous in my choice of destinations – Morocco, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Central America, India, usually travelling as a part of a small group tour. As a young woman travelling solo I loved the safety and security of this type of travel, of having the language barrier and logistics taken care of, of being with a small cohort of like minded travellers, of leaving a small tourist ‘footprint’, and most importantly, of still having an element of freedom and flexibility to venture off on my own from time to time.
I didn’t take the leap and purchase my first DSLR until around 2003, so from the time I first started learning the art and science of photography in high school in the late 80s, and throughout most of my ‘travelling years’, film photography was all I knew, and I particularly loved Black & White for its timeless beauty. In the era that it was, B&W was having a huge moment – Herb Ritts and Peter Lindberg were two of the hottest photographers on the planet, the old masters were having a resurgence, and I loved the idea that by stripping away the distraction of colour from an image, it became far more powerful in it’s ability to evoke emotion and tell a story, purely through light and shade.
In the analog world of film photography you had 36 frames in a roll, so you had to make every single one of those frames count. For each of my travels I would limit myself to maybe 10 rolls of film, depending on the destination and trip duration. I would purchase the rolls before I left Australia, and not get them processed until I returned home (once I had sufficiently replenished my depleted bank account after each trip – processing film was expensive!). Being limited to those 36 frames per roll made you think about everything – the light, the exposure, the camera settings, and especially the composition of the shot before you even pressed that shutter button, so as to not ‘waste’ that frame. And the worst part? By the time you found out if you ‘got’ that one shot, sometimes weeks or months later, it was far too late to do anything about it if you didn’t. (Let’s not even talk about “Will my film get wiped going through airport security x-rays?” or “Did the camera load properly?”)
Twenty years down the digital track how do I feel about film now, especially looking back on my travels? Do I wish I had taken more, or, just like the thousands of photos sitting on my phone and on my digital hard drives, would I not even look at them aside from those handful of ‘killer shots’ which is what I already have as a memory of that time anyway?
Digital has become so synonymous with photography in general, but also from my personal and professional perspective, and I love that it allows me the instant gratification of knowing I have the shot, that I have the ability to capture thousands of images on a tiny little plastic card, and the ability to manipulate the finished product through an unlimited number potential adjustments, providing ultimate creative control over the end result. With the rapidly evolving AI enhancements that are currently available and increasing daily, the outcomes are endless – but they also remove much of the ‘truth’ behind an image, and that’s what I fear we are moving away from.
Ultimately I do believe that, despite not having used film for many years now, starting my photographic journey in the analog era made me not only a better and more considered photographer from a technical perspective, but also better visual storyteller, and those are the things, regardless of the advance in technology, that I have carried with me throughout the duration of my career, and the attributes that I credit much of my professional success to.
Below is a selection of my favourite ‘killer images’ from this time. If you love them, you can purchase limited edition fine art print versions of many of them here.
It has been a while since I hit the road in the way that I used to, and I miss it terribly. I think it’s time to start exploring again… what do you think?? Where should I make my first port of call?