There is a fine art to capturing a connection between two souls – an even more delicate balancing act when it comes to film photography. With a finite number of frames to shoot, it requires a powerful concoction of intuition and craftsmanship. To be able to not only anticipate those fleeting, magic moments mere seconds before they unfold but to capture them poetically, takes a true master of their craft. For Blue Mountains-based wedding photographer Damien Milan, capturing the most real and raw moments of a wedding goes hand-in-hand with analog photography. Surrendering to the challenge of shooting film, Damien is able to slow down and draw his subjects into the present with him. Going against the grain of clichéd photo ops, Damien’s slower and meditative film process allows his couples a moment of pause. A respite to breathe and take in the magic of every single nuance with each other, instead of experiencing it all in a blur.
As a hybrid photographer shooting on both digital and 35mm and medium format film, Damien crafts a collection of images with an unparalleled depth of tones and textures. Tying the two genres together is Damien’s ability to distill the atmosphere of each small moment he is privy to into a single frame – even the most fleeting. From capturing stolen kisses under a streetlight to chasing lovers through misty mountains, each analog and digital frame of Damien’s emanates a nostalgic warmth that we are so fond of. A long-time favorite of The Lane, we adore Damien’s atmospheric mementos for their unfailing ability to transport us elsewhere for a brief moment in time.
With his soulful photography style drawing him from Australia to Europe to capture elopements in wild, unexplored destinations, Damien found a moment in-between weddings to reveal the process behind his poetic film captures…
Film is a beautifully considered, slow and authentic process, what kind of weddings or couples do you feel are likely to be drawn to film?
I would say film photography attracts couples who enjoy images that feel a little different than just perfectly clear images always in focus. They want their photographs to evoke a certain sense of nostalgia which will likely outlast most trends.
With a finite amount of photos available for you to shoot with film – every frame is incredibly precious. How does this impact your approach to capturing an image?
I think shooting film (and especially at weddings) puts the photographer in a very different mindset. It forces you to be even more present and capture images in a more intentional way. I personally find the process very meditative.
“Shooting film at weddings definitely puts me out of my comfort zone. The thought of missing a crucial moment due to the physical limitations of analog cameras is quite daunting. But I believe one doesn’t push their creative boundaries enough if they are too comfortable with their craft.”
Tell us about film’s timeless aesthetic – what sets analog photography apart from digital photography?
There are many ways to emulate the aesthetic and feel of film stocks with digital photographs these days and I definitely use some of these tools in my digital work. However, the process remains different and there is something unique and beautiful about light being captured on celluloid. Shooting film has definitely taught me to embrace small imperfections like the grain, texture and tones of an image that make it even more special and unique.
How much editing goes into your film photography in post-production?
I generally don’t do any editing on my film photography as I want to preserve its authenticity. However, I do like to experiment with the way I shoot a lot. To me a strong image is created on the spot making the most of available light rather than behind a computer screen.
“I like to think that this analog process helps me to feel more present and to capture moments in a more soulful and meaningful way. It gives my couples a more poetic perspective on their day which they seem to love.”
Film is a physical process, from shooting to processing in a lab, with an element of mystery for how it will all turn out. What’s so special about this process for you and your couples?
Ultimately I’ve always wanted to create timeless images for my couples as I hope they will feel the same way in 20 or 50 years as they do today. I think capturing images on film contributes to that pursuit of timelessness and I very much enjoy the simplicity of looking through an analog viewfinder, adjusting the focus manually and releasing the shutter without any distractions. I like to think that this analog process helps me to feel more present and to capture moments in a more soulful and meaningful way. It gives my couples a more poetic perspective on their day which they seem to love.
For you, what is the most magical part about shooting film at a wedding?
I won’t lie. Shooting film at weddings definitely puts me out of my comfort zone. The thought of missing a crucial moment due to the physical limitations of analog cameras is quite daunting. But I believe one doesn’t push their creative boundaries enough if they are too comfortable with their craft. I do feel like using both analog and digital cameras at weddings gives me the right balance as well as a good variety of images for my couples to enjoy.
“…There is something unique and beautiful about light being captured on celluloid. Shooting film has definitely taught me to embrace small imperfections like the grain, texture and tones of an image that make it even more special and unique.”
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