There are small moments in our lives that we need to remember. There are connections we make with other people that are random in nature, instant in connection, fleeting in time, and priceless for ages to come. Rarely are these small wonders documented and preserved with a physical memento. Maybe we stop to take a selfie and post it on Instagram. Maybe. The lifespan of something on our IG feed is measured in minutes and not in decades. I got to be part of someone’s beautiful and fleeting small moment which, in turn, became a beautiful and fleeting small moment for me. I got to be a part of it because I was paying attention.
Meg and I were recently in Paris enjoying a brief respite from our hectic lives of work and children. On one particular evening we were walking across the River Seine near Notre Dame. It was the end of the blue hour where the lights from the streets mix with the sky. The rain had stopped and everything was glowing and beautiful. We were full of good drink and Meg had just played the piano in the Shakespeare & Company bookstore. For that moment life was good and the things that create so much anxiety in our lives were nonexistent. We paused on the bridge to look up at Notre Dame and I noticed a young lady gazing at the cathedral, soaking up the city and the moment just as we were. I quickly pulled my camera up and took two photos of her and then Meg and I walked on across the bridge.
Then I stopped. I told Meg, “I need 90 seconds.” I had taken a photo of the girl because I saw that she was having some sort of moment standing on that bridge. Somehow taking a photo of her moment would help me remember my moment while standing on that same bridge. I had the photo for memory but she didn’t. She needed to have a photo of herself in that moment. Not one of, “Stand here. Look at the camera. Smile!” or an arm stretched out selfie, but a real representation of that moment that I caught when she wasn’t paying attention to anyone around her. I approached her with a smile and used the five words I know in French to say, “Pardon me. Excuse me. Please a photo.” I held my camera and my printer next to each other and made them dance and said, “One moment please,” as I turned the SP-1 on and its lights started flashing.
In about 20 seconds a print started rising from the printer. She cautiously smiled as I handed it to her and she asked if I spoke English. I told her that my wife and I were just standing next to her and I noticed she was having a nice moment on the bridge and I took her photo and I wanted her to have a copy. About this time the Instax print started to develop and she could see an image.
She was a little shocked by all of this but as her image began to develop she gasped and covered her mouth in surprise. I said, “Merci and Bonsoir!” and she stopped me.
“Please. I want to tell you something. I am from Mexico. I have a boyfriend there and tonight we decided that at this very moment I would stand on this bridge by Notre Dame. He is standing on a bridge at home right this moment and we are having a sort of time together like ESP or something. Thank you so much for this. I will cherish this and give it to him. I will always remember this. Thank you so much for doing this.”
Some dust suddenly blew into my eyes and I started watering up.
It’s these moments of people’s lives, the moments that have a story behind them, that draw me to street photography.
Sometimes it’s mundane.
Sometimes it’s romantic.
All of it is humanity.
The story above is the point I want to make with the blog post but, if I leave it at that, I’m going to get a gazillion questions about the printer. So — I’m going to go ahead and talk about the printer. Please note that I have no affiliation with the division of Fuji that handles Instax.
I’ve talked before about the Instax cameras and what a door opener those little things are. However, the SP-1 is replacing my Neo Classic camera in my bag for a few reasons: The main reason is I would take a photo with the Instax camera to give to my subject, and then I would take another shot with it to keep for myself because I love these little prints. Now with the printer I can shoot with my X100T or XT1, choose the shot I want to give away, and only print that one. If I want it as a print for myself then I can do that later.
The other reason is I have more control of focus, depth of field, low light capabilities, and exposure when shooting with my X series camera as opposed to the Instax camera. I will say that prints from the printer are not quite as sharp as those from the Instax cameras but for my reasons of using the printer they are totally fine and I’m completely happy with the print quality.
Despite the language barriers my little camera and my little printer became a magic potion that gave me the ability and confidence to approach all sorts of people for portraits on this trip. Meg and I met a number of amazing people thanks to this little combo opening doors for us. I’m pretty sure that I received more back in free drinks than the money spent on the Instax film.
Oh the people you will meet with a small camera and a little print! For instance — I started taking photos of people in a bar around midnight one night in Cologne and Meg and I ended up going out with them until 4am. Young single people of the world. Listen to me. Heed my words. Get an Instax printer. Get an Instax printer. Get. An. Instax. Printer. I’m grabbing you by the shoulders and shaking you and telling you that you have to get an Instax printer.*
Because I’m getting a lot of questions about this thing on my social media feeds, I’ll answer some of the most frequently asked:
• I’ve only been using this feature on the new X100T. Haven’t used it yet on my XT1.
• You can print directly from a Wifi enabled Fuji camera to the printer. No need to send to your iOS or Android device first and then print.
• You can print directly from iOS or Android devices with their free app. You can print photos from your phone’s camera or if you have another brand of camera that can send photos to your phone then you can go camera -> phone/tablet -> Instax SP-1.
• It takes about five-ish seconds for the X100T to connect to the printer and another 15 or so seconds for the print to be made and come out of the printer. It’s safe to say that you can shoot a photo and have a print in your hand in about 30 seconds.
• The achilles heel of this printer is the fact that it uses two CR2 batteries. UGH! I’ll be getting a few sets of rechargeable CR2’s for this thing. The literature says you can print about 10 packs of film on one set. That’s 100 prints. My first set lasted about six or seven packs of film. YMMV.
• I have ZERO affiliation with Instax. It’s a different division of FujiFilm that deals with Instax. I paid full retail price for my printer and film.
• The images above of are unedited JPGs from the X100T shot with the new Classic Chrome film simulation. I only downsized for web and added a wee bit of sharpening for the downsizing. All are shot without any of the conversion lenses. All shot aperture priority, auto ISO, and auto WB.
• Midwest Photo Exchange currently has them in stock.
Bringing it back to the real point I want to make with this post.
The girl on the bridge in Paris.
I saw her moment and was able to give it back to her.
More than that being the story of Instax, that’s the story of print. A physical tangible thing that never needs batteries or firmware upgrades. A physical memento that can be viewed for a lifetime. I have a lot of photos sitting on hard drives and the images that bring me the most joy are the ones I have in print. I have to print more. This Instax is helping with that.
PS – The photo of the girl on the bridge… Most amazing photo I’ve ever taken? No. There are some issues with it. It won’t be in my portfolio. Do you think she or I care much about that? Not one damn bit. Something to think about.
*A nod’s as good as a wink to a blind bat. Know what I mean? Know what I mean?