Why Film: Taylor Mackay

Updated: Dec 18, 2019


We all have moments from our youth that marked us. Moments imprinted in our minds. Unforgettable. Some of these moments are saturated with pain and sadness, while others are dripping in happiness. I’d like to focus on a moment, rather, series of moments, which fall in the happiness category.

Growing up, I always looked forward to family vacations. An opportunity to get out of California’s bland Inland Empire and into the unknown. An opportunity to capture these moments. To freeze them in time with the help of my big, green, plastic, fixed-aperture Vivitar camera. While my technique could have used some serious work, as a child, there was something that came through in every picture: happiness. These were the moments I wanted to hold onto forever. Framing, composition, exposure…none of that mattered. What mattered was how I felt and when I felt happy, I snapped a picture. As time went on, I progressed to other cameras, eventually ending my “analog” experience (or so I thought) with a Kodak Advantix camera.

Fast forward five(ish) years and I was a senior in high school. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but I did know I needed an arts class to graduate. As I browsed through the courses, I arrived at two final options: a true art class (drawing, painting, etc.) or photography. I thought on my previous experiences with each. I took an art class in middle school which was…OK. I had a creepy, pervert teacher who was fired a few years later after it was discovered he placed a mirror in front of his desk so he could peep teenage girls’ panties. On the other hand, photography was tied to happy vacation moments. The choice was simple: I would be enrolling in photography.

Over the course of the year, I had a love affair with film photography (at this point in time, it was just called photography). I loved taking pictures, but nothing could capture the magic of the darkroom. The strange lighting, the smells, the semi-broken enlargers, classmates experimenting with drugs in the dark recesses of the room. It was a fairy tale which, promptly ended the second the bell rang on the last day of school. I was going to college, I had a new Canon PowerShot, and high school (along with film photography) was a thing of the past. I had moved on.

A decade later, I found myself back in California for my brother’s wedding. The day before the wedding, I was wandering through rooms of my parents’ home, looking at things, getting nostalgic. Maybe I was going through this exercise to see what has stayed the same. Maybe to see what has changed since leaving for college in 2006. As I entered my brother's room, something caught my attention. A green binder resting on the reading nook by the window. Last I remembered, this green binder housed negatives (now long forgotten) from a high school photography class. Uncertain if there was still something inside, I opened the binder. Slowly.

I was presented with several sheets of poorly archived negatives. The analog gods smiled upon me that day. Having forgotten what was on the negatives, I held them to the window. Some images were better than others, however, they all brought a smile to my face. Happiness.

They were my friends.

They were my family.

They were places I had been.

Memories time had erased now returned. There was something special about being able to hold these memories in my hand. I began to remember the changing bag, Patterson tank, making prints, the soft red light of the darkroom. It was nostalgia in its purest form. I needed to recreate that feeling. I wanted to, once again, in the words of Ansel Adams, make photography. Digital wasn’t dead to me, but for the foreseeable future, it would be taking a backseat to the medium which reignited my passion for the art form: film.


My given name is Taylor, however, to the people of the Amazon, I am lovingly known as “índio branco.” While I am revered by Amazonians as a master of the churrasco, peixeiro, and champion to the downtrodden, in the United States, I lead a humbler existence as a healthcare consultant. In my leisure time however, you’ll find me focusing on two things: family and film photography, the latter of which has come from my desire to continuously evolve my photographic experience. In order to continue this evolution, I started a website, “Film Awakening,” to record my experience, as well as the experiences of others, with film photography. To me, photography is more than a picture. It is a feeling, a moment, a story.

IG: thefilmawakening

Website: www.filmawakening.com (you're on it)

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