In My Opinion: Neil Braidwood: Snap happy

YOUR summer holidays are probably already a distant memory, but did you take photographs while you were away? And if so, what did you take them on?

The answer is probably your mobile phone – as so many have quality cameras already built in. But – and no disrespect – how many of those photos you took are any good? Maybe you uploaded them to Facebook, or added a trendy filter and posted them on Instagram. But will those photos live on in the way photographs used to before digital? Will you ever print them and attach them to your fridge or put them in an album?

While I was winging my way to Italy recently, I read a really interesting piece in Monocle Mediterraneo magazine. Senior editor, Sophie Grove, was calling for us to think harder when capturing a photograph while vacationing. Maybe even shoot on film, of all things. Indeed, she went further and asked us to trust in our memories – “Instead of photographing the lemons at a fruit stand, buy some, and interact with the vendor. It will enhance your memory of the moment.”

And she’s right, really. Experiences like that do live with you longer.

During my holiday, I watched, as tourists snapped mindlessly, pointing their digital cameras or smart phones in the general direction of the subject, and not considering what they were capturing. Were they even taking it all in? At a Dali exhibition I visited, I counted the frames one woman snapped of a sculpture. 36. That’s a whole roll of film in ‘old money’.

When I was a design student, cameras weren’t allowed in exhibitions, and we resorted to sketch books. Consequently, we spent longer in the gallery, and our understanding of the art was enhanced by closer observation.

My dad bought his first camera (a Voigtlander) in 1948, when he was 19. He shot on print film to begin with, but then switched to Kodak slides when he married and started a family. My whole life is captured on transparency. And some of the pictures he took are incredible. We had regular slide shows, and collapsed in fits of giggles at the changing hairstyles and fashions.

My teenage daughter is already using an old compact film camera we picked up recently, and marvels at the way you use the rangefinder to frame your subject. She is patiently looking forward to seeing the results once the film is finished. Good things come to those who wait.

If you can’t find a film camera but wonder what all the fuss is about, then download a lovely little app called Thirty Six, which treats the pictures you take on your smart phone like you’re taking them on a roll of film (36 was the number of frames you had at your disposal).

You don’t get to see the finished images until the roll is finished, then mark up an old-style contact sheet. This simple concept makes you consider the picture you take all the more carefully.

Try it. You might surprise yourself.

Neil Braidwood is head of CMYK magazine design and publishing company. He is also vice-chair of PPA Scotland.