Last year I got a Hasselblad which is a medium format film camera. It was an impulsive purchase but wrought from my disenchantment with my photography, and digital photography in particular. I’ve never considered myself a “photographer,” really I’m a dilettante at best, but film photography has been an off and on hobby for me since I was a teenager. I liked the process then, learning about aperture and shutter speed and trying to understand images I was creating without being able to see them until later. All of this took time and money and patience. Now, most of us with cameras get instant feedback when we take photos. We take hundreds more than we need to so we can get the perfect shot. It’s not cost prohibitive with digital, and if we want, we can print things out really fucking huge.
I have hundreds and hundreds of coffee photos. When I look through them there’s a distinct increase in quality as my cameras improved, a pretty decent peak, and then a decline as I disengaged from the process. I didn’t think about shutter speed, responding to light, composing a photo for the sake of a beautiful photo. Every picture I took was framed with the context, Will this fit into the font image shape on our website? Is this image a good main photo for this coffee on the product page? This urgency and marketing focused shift with what I was doing slowly disconnected me even more from the subject matter. Marketing is a necessary thing, I’m not sure I would call it evil, but I wonder if people can tell when a photo is taken with purely for marketing use and when it’s taken because the subject of the photo is meaningful to the photographer. At least in my case, that shift I found myself in caused my photos to start being really, really bad. Like, straight up ugly. This just made me sad. It’s like when I roast coffee and I’m in a bad mood—things are less than stellar on the cupping table the next day.
Returning to film in a relatively hardcore way has been a reboot/refresh for me, and taking photos with the Hasselblad is pretty damn metaphorical—for coffee, writing and life. Recognizing that a better understanding of and participation in the process is crucial almost more important than the result (though, we do need results.)
So, what? I decided it might be interesting to take only the Hasselblad on the first trip I had scheduled after I got it, which was Colombia. Really not a great plan for taking stellar marketing photos, since there’s a possibility none of them would turn out, but I found that freeing. There’s not many because with purchasing film, processing and scanning, each photo ends up being like three dollars each and out of a twelve frame roll, you’re not going to get twelve good photos. I’m not saying these photos are amazing, or even good at all, but I like what’s behind them.
Oh, here’s the marketing part (which was not the point of this blog) but the Colombian coffees we’re offering right now are bonkers tasty. We’ve expanded our relationship with Nodier Andrade so we’re buying a range of types of coffee from him, which makes for a better relationship and better coffee on both sides. El Meridiano from the Tolima region is a coffee we’ve offered for years but this season is really one of the best yet. Boom!
To buy these coffees in Canada go here.
P.S. Biggest drawback of a big clunky film camera that takes a long time to adjust and focus is that it is terrible for taking farm dog photos. My dog Kevin seems to understand the concept and has thus become the most photographed thing with the fancy camera.
Flowering coffee plants in Oporapa, Huila.
Horse buddy at Finca El Mandarino.
Nodier Andrade and his son, Hector.
My travel companions and some of my coffee BFFs, Janell and Brett from Wood Burl in Dayton, OH.
Hotel in La Plata, Huila.
Hector, Mary, Jennifer and Nodier.
Family home at Finca El Mandarino.