All photos © Lauren Keim
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I teach digital photography classes, and I tell this story to my intro students about how until 2007, I broke or lost every camera I owned. College trip to Greece? Broke the camera. Move across the country? Broke the camera. Son's birth? Forgot the camera. Move *back* across the country? Dropped camera in a creek.
In 2007 my dad who is not an optimist but who is an enabler got me a Canon Digital Rebel, and I still have it! I banged around on my own for awhile, took my first class in 2010, and I now teach the classes that I took.
I'm a southerner. I grew up in the mountains of Tennessee and after some years away from the south, we now live in Virginia, a couple blocks from the Chesapeake Bay. Growing up in the south, I couldn't wait to get out, and even after 14 years I kind of can't believe we're back. But Virginia is beautiful, and the Tidewater is beautiful, a stone's throw from marshes, the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay. We love it here.
Our bayside home feels full, with three humans (my husband, our son and me) and three bad dogs, but when I need room to breathe, I can always grab my camera and head to the beach.
I'm drawn to film because of process and product. First off, the colors and tones of film can't be beat. There is a richness to film images that gets my heart beating faster every time. And once you're shooting medium format or larger, your images start to look three-dimensional. What's not to love?
I'm much more process oriented than product oriented, and for me, shooting film is all about the process. It slows me down and forces me to shoot with intention. I think about each shot. I take care. My shooting has become more reflective, and I like how that shows in my work.
My Pentax 645n is my workhorse camera. It's the one I trust the most when I *need* to get the shot or when I'm in a place where I'll never get back to. I don't even have to think about this camera.
But let's face it. It's steady, and we all need steady, but it's not exciting! And I love playing with other, older cameras. My favorite medium format camera to reach for right now is my Rolleiflex 2.8. In a lot of ways, this camera feels like my soul mate. I have long loved the square format and the structure it brings my images, and the Rollei just feels right in my hands.
Because we live by the water, my all time favorite camera to reach for in the summer is my Nikonos V. This underwater beauty is built like a tank and takes everything, from sand to snow, that I throw at it. I love that I have no expectations except surprises when I get rolls from this camera developed, and I generally adore the water shots it gives me.
You'll generally find Fuji 400h or Superia loaded in my cameras. I accidentally stumbled on my favorite way to shoot and develop, which is rating it at box speed and then pushing two in development for contrast. I'm trying to fall in love with P400, but it just hasn't happened yet.
Someone asked me this week what I like to shoot, and I had a hard time answering. I feel like I'm at a crossroads with my work. I have long been a still life photographer, starting with food, when I was a digital shooter, and moving on to other things as I transitioned to film. We moved to a new house a year and a half ago, and I left my beloved studio space behind. It's taken an adjustment, and I definitely shoot differently here. We live by the Chesapeake Bay now, and I'm drawn to the light here, especially the play of light on the water. When I was shooting still life, I wanted even steady light and I was hesitant around strong directional light and sharp shadows. I may have lost my studio (for awhile at least!), but I gained a sense of exploration and a willingness to experiment that I'm not sure I had before. Now I find myself looking for light that plays along the water and strong silhouettes and shadows. My favorite images are ones that bring the relationship between the sun, the land and the bay to life and show the connection among them all.