cambridge alley

During my first year as a new mom, all I did was shoot polaroid film. Honestly, I did not have the time to deal with digital, which seems quite the opposite of what you would expect. But my sx70 was just the perfect tool for me at the time. I could slide its slim body into the outside pocket of the diaper bag (I know! This bit of extra info will probably shock most male film buffs!) 🙂

In any case, the portability and also the unpredictable nature of the medium were just the perfect mix for an ongoing creative challenge for me at that time of my life. My trick was to go for a stroll, so that my baby girl would take a nap. Then I would just park the stroller and shoot. That easy and so gratifying. (If you try this though, make sure you lock your stroller break. Also keep one feet on the stroller and one eye on your baby – just in case! I speak from experience!).

I know most moms revert to cel phone shooting these days, and I’ll admit to doing much of that myself. But, If you are a mom, you know that in the baby phase – especially – our brain turns into mush. There is just so much baby talk and not enough adult interaction and intellectual stimulation. So I’ll let you in on this little secret. Instead of pulling out the cel phone for a picture, switch to film. Film will make you think and it will keep your brain cels alive! Besides, there is no need to download and edit. What new mom has enough time for that, right? Have the husband do a film drop off for you at the lab and you are all set. Or like me, shoot instant, and have your day’s work in your hands immediately.


It gets better, though. For me, the best part is that when I look back at the tiny squares I captured back then, I see tiny stories in each of them. My own secret stories that no one else witnessed but me.

Like these polaroids, from a trip to the UK circa 2011. I don’t think I had actually shot anything in black and white for 20ish years until I got this box of ace polaroid film by the Impossible Project that year. And that is pretty much all I shot during those two weeks we spent in Cambridge. It was end of November and freezing cold. I roamed through the winding cobblestones streets and along the river in search of inspiration, while my husband was at work. I challenged myself to get as much of the 16 shots I had in the two boxes of b&w polaroid film I had brought with me. I missed a few shots for sure. It took me a little while to figure out how to control the developing temperature and how to get the proper tones in such weather. Back then you also still had to protect the film as soon as it came out of the camera. So it was actually probably hilarious to watch me juggle a baby and all that instant film jazz. I had enough work cut out for myself for sure. But these are now tiny stories I will never regret and forget. Tiny anecdotes of my hustle to get the shots during 1h naps. Good times. Just me, an old camera, a sleeping baby, and 2 boxes of film.


What beautiful film adventures do you have planned for the weekend?

*Alessandra Cave is a photographer based in San Francisco. She is the author of “Shooting with Soul: 44 Photography Exercises Exploring Life, Beauty, and Self-Expression”.