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Finding Self-Love through Film

by Traci Felton

Nearing the end of 2020, it became harder for me to look in the mirror.

Fall semester finished, winter break began, and the year’s end was setting on the horizon.

Yet, amid my newfound freedom, I felt more caged than ever. All the idle time allowed my anxieties to run amuck in my mind.

And as my intrusive thoughts increased and my sleep worsened, moments in front of the mirror reflected the toll my mental health had on me.

Little did I know, many of these issues would be done away with a little black case on Christmas Day.

The Christmas case (which was really a box, but we’ll keep it as a case for alliterations sake) contained a compact 35mm point-and-shoot camera -- just a step above convenience store Kodak disposables.

I was thrilled to receive the film camera and even more excited to put it to use.

The petite point-and-shoot quickly found a home within the palm of my hands. Rarely was my camera ever not strapped over my shoulder and often was it kachick-ing away, capturing any clever composition my eyes could find. The ability to create art with just the world around me pushed me to go outside to make more photos. 30-minute walks turned to hours-long adventures around the city, filling my free time with explorations around my own neighborhood.

Soon enough, I photographed my neighborhood 24/7, day and night, rain or shine.

Within a week of owning my film camera, I had completely altered my daily routine. Shifting from staying cooped up alone in my house to daily walks outside enjoying nature, conversing with my neighbours and reconnecting with my neighborhood.

My time was now spent holistically engaging with the world outside my window panes. The negative thoughts I used to wallow in faded with each negative I developed – leaving me with positive memories all imprinted on my 35mm films.

And, strangely enough in the social climate of COVID-19, film photography enabled me to break out of my shell and interact with the people around me.

On the streets, someone may see me posted up with my camera and strike a conversation. If I saw a particularly interesting person, I would ask to take their portrait and, whether yes or no, it opened up space to get to know one another.

The barrier of my camera lens began to act as a bridge between me and others.

Giddy about my new hobby, I reached out to the people in my life about what I had been getting into. As I shared the numerous pictures I’d taken, they’d say that they loved my images but, more importantly, they loved that I discovered so much happiness in such small frames.

It then occurred to me that, all this time, I was building a deeper love for my life. A love I had neglected for a long time. A love I needed more than anything. And a love that I desperately wanted to share with anyone I could.

From that point on, I decided to put the camera down – just for a little – and reconnect with the love already surrounding me…But I did make sure to take a couple pictures in case I ever forgot.