Until about a year ago, I was convinced that I lacked the capacity to create visual art. My flailing stick figures in art classes past made it clear: I’m no Picasso. This is where photography comes in. Unlike other art forms, shooting photos allows those who lack skill with a pencil or paintbrush to create masterpieces in an alternative format. Once I figured this out, I ventured to a camera store and bought my first analog camera: the Asahi Pentax Spotmatic F. Since then, I have shot around ten rolls of film, and collected a few more cameras along the way.
When I finalized my study abroad plans for Barcelona, I knew I’d be shooting rolls that I’d treasure for the rest of my life. However, there were a few obstacles to face. Despite owning a diverse collection of rolls, I couldn’t take any of them with me to Spain. This is because the TSA security systems damage any undeveloped film that it processes. I realized that I would have to find someplace affordable in Spain to buy new rolls. In addition, my favorite camera broke the morning of my flight to Europe. I was luckily able to replace it with a Nikon analog camera. I had never used it before and would have to scour the owner’s manual to ensure I wouldn’t waste any film. Finally, I would have to find a reputable and cheap photo lab, in addition to the Spanish vocabulary needed to converse with the employees there.
My first goal once reaching Spain was to purchase a roll of film. Fortunately, on the way home from school one day, I walked by a printing shop and decided to look inside. Upon entering I smiled at the older man standing behind the checkout counter. I asked him if he spoke English, which he did not. After stumbling through conversation and trying to articulate what I needed, I acquired a 3 pack of film for around 24 euros. The first roll I loaded into my camera was Black and White. For the next two weeks, I shot photos around various parts of Barcelona and Valencia.
Talking the Talk
Once I figured out how to unload my roll from the Nikon, I began my search for an affordable lab to get my photos developed. I decided I’d ask my Spanish teacher Fernando about film-related vocabulary. He ended up teaching me the verbs for develop (revelar) and scan (escanear). Fernando even recommended a good place to get photos developed in Barcelona: AmigouLab, located just minutes away from my dorm. I headed there right after class. After conversing with their developer in Spanish, I sent in my roll for seven euros–about half the price of what I pay in the US!
Why I Love Film Photography
I’m ecstatic that I decided to bring along my photography hobby with me to Barcelona. Although it took some adjusting, the feeling of accomplishment over a fantastic photo makes it worth it. Film is such a unique way to capture a memory and I learn more about it each time I shoot a roll. In addition, its cheaper here compared to America, and there are more labs in my Barcelona neighborhood than in my entire hometown. I would encourage anyone interested to pursue film photography. The limited 36 shots per roll forces you to take your time before pressing the shutter button. You experience living in the moment in a different way and are rewarded with art to treasure for years to come.
Shea Weingold is a student at University of Pittsburgh and an ISA Featured Blogger and is studying abroad with ISA in Barcelona, Spain.