I’ve had an on and off love affair with photography since my early teens, when I borrowed my dad’s Konica, shot 35mm TRI-X (I think), developed and printed it in the makeshift darkroom in our upstairs bathroom. The wave I’m currently surfing started when I rediscovered film, after a decade or so with digital cameras. A year ago I found my wife’s old Olympus OM-1 in the closet (she apparently got it used in highschool for photography class) and realized I didn’t really know how to use it. So, I turned to the Internet (which was confusing) and to books. The first one I got was Jose Villa’s. While the imagery indeed was nice, it didn’t really tell me much about how to shoot film. The second book I got was “Film Is Not Dead” by Jonathan Canlas. That changed everything.
Since then I’ve understood that Canlas is somewhat of a father figure in the community surrounding today’s film photography. He’s been shooting professionally for at least two decades and up until a year or so ago, he also used to travel around the world, giving workshops on shooting with film and how to run a business on top of it. I never got to attend one of those workshops, but now he’s just released a digital version, FIND in a Box, which supposedly everything from the real life version, and more.
This workshop consists of eight lessons in PDF and video format, which takes you through the basics of shooting film (including light metering), film stocks, gear and how to actually shoot families, weddings and more. It’s invaluable to see how he interacts with the people in front of his lens to get the story he wants and why personal work is the foundation of paid work. It contains nuggets of wisdom it would probably have taken me a decade of trial and error to discover. Not to mention a ton of wasted film.
It’s obvious Canlas loves his craft and he lets that shine through every word he writes. His prose is soaked in knowledge, but also a liberating sense of humor. It’s deeply personal, opinionated and (I assume) a reflection of his personality. It’s also fun to see how he’s changed his opinion on some things since his book, like the superiority of the Contax 645, or how much to overexpose Portra 160/400. Maybe he’s human after all.
In the end it’s not his profound technical knowledge that’s the main take-away for me (even though I need it), but instead his passion and the way he looks for beauty and what matters most. He makes me want to lead a photographer’s life. It’s as simple as that.