In Praise of Film Cameras


One day my buddies and I were hanging out, doing what I can’t recall, but it was probably vaugely hip, because Mike had brought along his Holga camera.

“Holga.  People like those for wedding photos.”  I said.

Mike seemed really skeptical.  “Are you sure you’re thinking of the right camera?”

“Yeah, for like, hipster photos.”

“Yeah. Huh. Surprised people would want to use a Holga for a wedding. They’re really… hit or miss.”

“Who knows why hipsters do the things they do.  Anyway, you should bring that camera to my wedding.”

We’d go on to hire Mike as the second shooter for our wedding, and bring that camera he did, along with a Pentax K1000, if that means anything to you artistic people.  [Mike carried around THREE cameras all day long. WEDDING HERO!]

The film photos came back about a week after we got back from our honeymoon.  I was still flipping through our digital photos almost every day with smiles and happy sighs; that love hadn’t even started to fade.  I didn’t feel like I needed “more.”  So I  didn’t expect to be as blown over with happiness as I was when I flipped through the set.  All the wonderful emotions of our wedding weekend came back in a rush, much more powerfully than they had with the digital shots.

Then it hit me: my brain was conditioned in the first twenty years of my life to look at a film photograph and think, “this is a memory.”  Even though it looks less like real life than a digital image, it taps into feelings that are more real.

And the film photographs carry a special weight with a richer sense of time and history.  I can imagine my children looking at these photographs more easily than I can imagine them looking at the digital images, even though I’ll obviously be sharing both, and even though my children will never develop the emotional attachment to the look of film that I apparently have.  Film is antiquated, so these month-old photographs already look like something from the past, like something for the next generation to use to peer into ours.  And that makes them powerful and even more beautiful.

So, thanks to Mike Rubino’s camera collection and hard work, I have something from my wedding day that I didn’t know how much I wanted: sometimes out-of-focus, sometimes-gritty, imperfectly-lit frames from my memory of that wonderful weekend.

When I look at the digital photos from our wedding, I think “that was beautiful.” :

When I look at these, I think, “that REALLY HAPPENED.”  :

All photos by the wonderful, delightful, generous and talented Mike Rubino. Thank you, Mike! [Louis, I still love you, don't worry.]



  1. I think you just hit on why I decided to only print instagram photos from our honeymoon (i mean, the reason beyond the fact that we forgot our camera and only had our phones anyway). While we were away I was hanging out, making an instagram pic out of a photo we’d taken during the day, and it occurred to me: these look like memories. So I got about 40 printed, and, sure enough, they look like memories to me. And I think it’s because instagram makes your photos look like old film photos, which, in my head = real.

    So, in a round-about way, thanks for backing me up. I do love my fake-film photos.

  2. film photography makes my heart ache. in a good way. these are beautiful. and i suddenly want to dig out my old SLR and see if i remember my high school photo lessons…

  3. Yes, there is something magic about images that look “old”.
    We were not so lucky as to have “Holga” images, but we edited some to black and white or just for fun played with some tricks (70s light and so) and the effect is immediate. It is like you are looking at a completely different picture.

  4. This was a great entry Robin, thank you so much for saying all of that! I think you’re absolutely right about the emotions that film photography provokes; film is unpredictable, imperfect, and often very surprising. We can’t check to see if someone is blinking or if the light is just right, but in the end that doesn’t matter because the MOMENT is right–whatever it may be. It may be expensive and take extra time (and produce occasional clunkers), but it’s more than worth it.

    I recently read a great article about why, exactly, we love lo-fi photography so much, via Instagram and Hipstamatic on iPhones (http://www.macworld.com/article/161514/2011/08/whywelovelofi.html). That author would do well to read your entry.

    Thank you again for giving me this opportunity!

  5. Great post, as always, Robin!

    Oodles of beautiful snaps, Mike! I always forget how much I like photography until I see this great work around me…

  6. That picture of the four of us is probably my favorite of the wedding (of the ladies).

    • Me too. I’m glad both the posed and candid (my fave as well, above) versions of this came out so well because I kind of demanded my BOYFRIEND, the hero of this entry, take it. (Hi honey!)

      I was actually surprised he didn’t take one of the four of us with his digital to make sure it was in the bag, with …um, how much I demanded this photo. Look, you are my biffs, and I have a similar framed photo of us from NYE a couple years ago and memories and frames and friendship and photos and .

      Anyway, I love that shot. And my girls. And my hero.

  7. Great post. And great photos, obviously.

  8. First, I haven’t been here in a while, so CONGRATULATIONS!! You both looked so beautiful.
    Second, I think it’s a really smart observation you make about film conjuring the idea of memories! I too love film for this quality, even if it looks less like “real life”.
    Gorgeous photos, I love the one of you and your girlfriends.

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