Film is not dead

This post is a continuation from a thread on artdc.org regarding the rise in medium-format camera prices on ebay. Rather than hijack that thread, I’ve decided to post my own thoughts based on the observations I’ve made over the past 6 months or so.

Film is becoming retro and so are the medium-format cameras, particularly box cameras, Twin-Lens Reflex (TLR’s), and Bronicas. I’ve also noticed the prices steadily going up from 2-3 months ago. The starting prices are much higher, as well. Might be something to do with the post-Christmas shopping but I really think a lot of the photographers who started with digital are looking more into the roots of photography and seeking out more interesting cameras to do so. I’ve noticed on Flickr that many of the die-hard digital photographers who started with digital are starting to shoot film, now, as well.

Film is not dead.

Until about Sept 2007, 100% of everything I was seeing was digital. I was reading articles about the demise of film, Kodak ending production on printing paper, people not understanding why I was still shooting film and coming damn close to ridicule.

While photography is photography, film and digital are two totally different types of the process and require different skill sets. During the height of the digital revolution, people for the most part seemed to be closed off to the idea that film was still a viable form of photography. The amount of shit that’s come my way from digital photographers, all unsolicited feedback, by the way, from random people to even sales people in various camera stores. Film? Why do you want that? Digital is the way to go, blah blah blah.

When my website was redesigned in June 2006, all of my photos were transitioned to Flickr. They then stream in through a type of RSS feed to my website. I never really spent much time on Flickr until about a year ago when I realized that there was such a large community in the area. Most of the photos on flickr were digital. Then, something changed.

More retro films started to appear through a company that I order film through. More film cameras started to appear in places cameras seemed wierd, like in Urban Outfitters; I think I even saw some on Gap’s website last summer, things like that, etc.
These were novelty film cameras that were “fun” and offered a more retro/vintage feel, an alternative to the digital that had already saturated the market.

I started to see people on Flickr who had only ever shot with digital start to buy used film cameras from ebay and start shooting in black and white. Older harder to find cameras began to appear on Flickr. Medium-format photography has come to the forefront and seems to be more novel at the moment than 35mm, particularly with the populous becoming more familiar with the $20 Holga.

My view is that digital has been overly saturated, everyone has a digital camera of some type, and it’s really so very different from film….it may be light reflected through filters but that is where the similarity ends. It is so far removed from traditional photography that those who started with digital are searching for the meaning of photography. To do this, you kinda have to go back to the begining and learn about the process and how photos were taken with film.

Photographers are returning to the roots to learn more. There needs to be a way to separate your work from the deluge of digital snapshots showing up every where you turn. Alternative processes, multiple-exposure Holga images, Polaroid processes, pinhole cameras, even pinhole cameras made from things like matchbooks, paint cans, and cardboard are being used to distinguish photographs from the point-and-shoots of birthday parties and wasted bar gatherings.

It’s just really funny to me that many of the die-hard digital photographers who poo-poohed my choice to stay with film rather than jumping on the digital revolution are now looking at film differently.

I am not bashing digital photography by any means, nor am I targeting any group of people. This is simply my interpretation of the transition I have observed over the past six months. Digital is great; it’s just not for me.

Welcome to film! Enjoy your stay!

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4 Responses to “Film is not dead”

  1. ChicanaFeliz Says:

    Its ok to be a little bit of a luddite. I know some people that do it in purpose in opposition to the in your words, “god damn” digital revolution.

    Its kind of how the Digital Underground said in their song, “Do Whatcha Like!”

    Smell How ya’ Like!

  2. admin Says:

    I’m not a luddite. You’ve missed my point, entirely.

  3. Jack Whitsitt Says:

    Chicana –

    I think you’re misinterpreting the focus of this post. Luddites typically avoid and dislike accepting technological change. Angela, by maintaining a blog and using digital equipment at Ofrenda, has obviously accepted and embraced technological progress.

    The issue is that film and digital photography are often treated as the same art. They’re not.

    Film photography physically has different characteristics from those of digital photography. These stem from the imperfections in the materials themselves (film, cameras, etc) and the variations in process (development, printing) introduced into film photography by the photographer.

    Angela is taking issue here with those people who did not originally understand the artistic, real differences between the two mediums, scoffed at her for not embracing the “better” of the two, but who have now come back and are embracing “film” as they always thought one was different from another.

    That isn’t being a luddite – that’s appreciating that some people can be pretty hypocritical and that it’s best to be nice and jump on bandwagons with your eyes open in case you find yourself needing to hitch a ride back. 🙂

  4. R. Landry Says:

    It’s nice to see some folks who are really serious about good photography are coming back to film. This is good, with film it really is an art which requires skill and know-how.

    I have been a serious camera buff since the early sixties, my first slr was a Pentax SP II, which allowed me to really learn what taking photos was all about. With all the accessories that was available with the Pentax gave me the opportunity to learn how to use properly in taking good photos.

    Over the years, I have owned almost every Pentax slr made including many fine Nikon, Rollie, Leica & Hasselblad all of which I learned how to use proficiently.

    In the past five years I like many fell for the hoopla about digital and had to buy a Nikon digital A Coolpix 5700 with all accessories. Not the friendliest of digital cameras to learn to use, however it did give me the bug to move onto several pro models of Nikon Digital models. Along with the Nikons, I have also the Pentax K10D a great camera as well.

    In the past year of using digital cameras I felt I was missing something, and that was the enjoyment of making the combination of film, developing and fine slr cameras. I have recently started to use my old Nikon F4, F90S, Pentax K2, and PZ1. Many it was a great feeling to get back into using these fine film cameras to be able to use my past experience in taking photos Color & Black & White. Rather a pleasant challenge to work a little to get some good pics.

    I know there are some of you who think film is dead, and that new technology is the way to go, fine but really your just kidding yourself, all the know how done by computer chips take away the really ability required in taking good pictures.

    Any way I have the blessings of knowing how to get really good pictures with film and some pretty good ones with digital, and having both formats gives me the edge in being pleased with what I can do with getting good pics.

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