Guest Blog by Shelly Valdez
Greetings! I’m Shelly Valdez, aka Shelly Sometimes on various social media sites (visit my Flickr page!), and I live in Denver, Colorado. I work for a technology public relations/marketing firm, doing all sorts of graphic design.
I’ve been interested in photography ever since I was a little girl when someone gave me a Kodak Instamatic camera. I didn’t have an allowance to be able to afford film, so I would go around pretending to take pictures with it! I didn’t really pick up photography seriously until about 2005, when I got my first digital camera.
I’ve been dabbling in film since 2010. I was shooting a DSLR at the time, and I also had just purchased my first iPhone. Not many people think of iPhones as a gateway to film photography, but that’s what did it for me! I found a camera app called Lomo and I wanted to learn more about that style of shooting. That led me to purchase my first film camera – a Holga 120CFN.
I didn’t really get “hooked” on film photography until late 2011. I’m a big thrift shopper, and I used to look at cameras all the time, thinking I might hit the jackpot and find a Leica! Instead, one day, I found a Mamiya Sekor 500DTL, complete with a couple of lenses and a flash – they were a little battered and dirty and I don’t think I paid more than $20 for the lot. It only took one roll of cheap drugstore film to create a monster. I couldn’t learn about film photography fast enough and I experienced the first symptoms of what would turn into a serious case of G.A.S.!
Now, I shoot pretty much exclusively on film – the DSLR is gathering some dust on the shelf as we speak! I’m a big fan of vintage mechanical cameras – I use a Rolleicord III for lots of my shooting lately. I’ve been lucky enough to shoot with so many different kinds of cameras: 35mm SLRs, rangefinders, 110, 127, you name it. I’m also addicted to all things Polaroid – I shoot both integral and pack film!
I love experimenting with all different kinds of film, but I definitely have some favorites. I’m not a big E-6 shooter; I stick with black and white and color print films. I’ve become really fond of both Fuji Neopan Acros and Kentmere 100. Can’t beat the price on either of those and you get really great results! For color, I love the cool tones of Fujifilm Pro 400H. And for instant films – I could go on for days. LOVE The Impossible Project’s new film for vintage Polaroid cameras for sure!
I’ve used quite a few different plastic “toy” cameras in the past – in addition to the Holga 120CFN, I’ve had a Holga 135BC TLR, a Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim and a Diana Mini. As much fun as these cameras are, they can be expensive to purchase and that’s what made me so intrigued by the Debonair 120 plastic camera when I first heard about it on the FPP. A medium format camera for only $19.99? As far as I could tell, I had nothing to lose – even if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t be out much and the money was going to support the FPP podcast!
When I first unpacked the Debonair, I had to laugh – this is a really lightweight camera and there’s not a lot to it. I could see a lot of advantages to it over other toy cameras right away. It’s SO easy to load – no worrying about propping up your rolls with bits of cardboard, having the sponges in the camera come loose, taping down the back of your camera so it doesn’t come off, etc. I’ve run all kinds of film through the camera so far – tungsten slide film, black and white, color of various ISOs, and it delivers great images all the time.
Shots from the Debonair have a look that I can’t describe – it has the same sharp focus in the center and fall-off on the edges that a Holga does…but it’s different somehow. I’ve had some shots come back that had an almost 3D quality to them – they were just that clear and sharp.
Funny story about my Debonair – I thought I saw some dust in the lens after I shot my first roll, and figured I could just screw the lens off and clean it out. Well, big mistake – I actually broke the lens straight off of my camera! I panicked, but figured out pretty quickly that you could just screw it right back on. Now, I have to be careful when I focus or the lens comes back off, but besides that, I haven’t noticed any difference at all. Good thing I bought a second Debonair as a back-up!
This year I decided to enter The Krappy Kamera Competition ( http://www.sohophoto.com/krappy_kamera_comp.html )! It’s held by the Soho Photo Gallery in New York City. They’ve been doing this juried competition since 1992, and it’s my understanding that they receive hundreds upon hundreds of entries every year. I saw notices about it for months on Twitter, and thought it sounded great but I didn’t plan to enter. Then, close to the deadline, I changed my mind and I further decided to only enter images that I took with my FPP Debonair. Out of all the entries, 50 images were selected to hang in the exhibition, and one of them was mine – a double-exposure shot on Lomography Redscale film that I named ‘A Forest Entire’. To have a photo hanging in a gallery in New York is a dream – even though it gives me a pretty good laugh to know that it was taken on a broken plastic camera!
I don’t have any new exhibition or competition plans in the works – although I always have my eyes open for cool ones! I’m looking forward to participating in the 600 Exposures on a Polaroid 600 Project (http://snapitseeit.com/600-exposures-on-a-polaroid-600/) and March of Film (http://marchoffilm.com)!
I’m concentrating now on getting better at developing my own black and white at home – I started doing this a couple of months ago, but there’s so much to learn! I’m also going to be buying a Hasselblad in the next couple of weeks – I’m so excited, and I can’t wait to take my photography to the next level!
All photos by Shelly Valdez / Check out the FPP Plastic Filmtastic Debonair 120 film camera HERE!