Film photography can be like time travel.

My b&w negatives can be categorized into two groups: self and lab processed. The split occurs around 2006 or 2007. Everything before was developed and proof printed in a lab, everything else I did and most have contact sheets. Another difference is organization. Compared to the pre-2006 negatives, my more recent ones are immaculately organized. My earlier shots are a jumbled mess and often I get nervous when I have the urge to print one. The nerves come from the very real probability that I just might not be able to find what I’m looking for.

The nerves came today when I got the bug to print my shot of Edgar Allen Poe’s original resting place this coming Wednesday. I started off close, digging through old Holga shots I took when I lived near Baltimore. My hopes were dashed when that pack of photos wasn’t in with the rest. In totally I looked through 3 large boxes, my darkroom, my old darkroom closet, and on my camera shelf only to find the necessary packet buried on my desk about 1.5 feet from where I’m typing this.

Before 2003-ish most all photography was film. 2003 saw the introduction of the Digital Rebel, a 6.3mp dSLR that was the first real digital camera an enthusiast could afford and want to use. So when I go negative searching in the pre-2006 tangle I see a lot more everyday shots. Shots of old friends and co-workers I rarely get to see. Weddings I attended, places I vacationed at, and lots and lots of crappy shots of just stuff I took when I was learning photography.

Two things really hit me this time as I sifted through memories and attempts at meaningful photography. The first is that I had no idea “we were just kids” in our 20’s. You feel all grown up at the time, but looking back from the second half of 30 I can’t help but think “Geebus, you were just a kid.” Maybe I’m just getting old.

The second epiphany is how downright shitty of a photographer I used to be. I’m not saying I’m a genius now, but I used to be gawd awful. Heck I had to use a Holga to make even interesting stuff look interesting. A lot of today’s search had me scratching my head wonder WTF I was thinking, if I was thinking, when I took that *ROLL*. Whole rolls of mindless drivel, shots of whatever happened to be around me and every once in a while a gem of something I’d actually consider printing today. I started out, probably like most people, a really, really, crappy photographer.

Nested in this second realization was a gratefulness. I am so grateful that my life led me to Michigan. I love shooting urbex and have been more this year than previous this year. It’s a real calling for me. Not only do I find the images compelling to look at, but these abandoned, often historical structures are quickly being demolished. Documenting their very existence as well as this period of transition in history feels very important to me.