Film Rekindled: It’s An Event

This post was inspired by a question from a fellow enthusiast.

As I was typing my response, I realized that I haven’t done this type of introspection since the eighth month mark. Even though it’s a good list, I wanted to go deeper since all of the bullet points are part of a larger reason why film is special to me.

To briefly expand on the four points:

  • It’s meditative because I have to make each shot count.
  • I shoot less than digital because there’s a tangible cost to each shot, which further magnifies the need to make each one count.
  • Chimping in photography means reviewing the photo right after you take it, which isn’t possible with film. This adds to the meditative aspect; I’m forced to focus on the present.
  • I enjoy that I don’t have to do any processing. Just drop the film off at the lab and look forward to seeing the results.

If you’re thinking you can do these four things with digital, you’re right. But the key distinction is that it’s a simulation, especially with the last two.

With film, I don’t have a choice. I can’t immediately see the photos I take. I can’t change the look of a film.

This is not film versus digital. This is a case for film photography. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

For me, it’s something that I schedule. Something that is refreshing. Something that I look forward to. It becomes an event.

This quote comes to mind:

At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.

– Maya Angelou

I’m sure Maya wasn’t referring to film photography. But the parallel is there. When I think back on my outings with my film camera, I often don’t remember the settings (e.g., aperture and shutter speed) I used. Instead, I remember how much I enjoyed walking around in search of a great photo and feeling inspired to create.

Do you shoot only film or digital, or both? And is it an event for you? Let me know in the comments.

And check out more from Film Rekinded here.

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3 thoughts on “Film Rekindled: It’s An Event

  1. Wow, it’s pretty cool you’re in contact with Eric Kim! I’ve used some of his articles a few times as references when writing papers for art classes. 😀

    To the question though: I used digital cameras occasionally but I didn’t officially become a photographer until I started using film, and let me elaborate on that, because I don’t think that about people in a general sense (it’s just that digital images rarely do anything for me). Before film, I wasn’t a photographer because I hardly ever took pictures, I didn’t study or analyze what I was doing (or try to improve it), I just captured snapshots of things that I didn’t want to forget on my phone, I was never consciously or deliberately making a decision to create anything, and I never ever went anywhere with the express purpose of taking pictures. I started out not seeing myself as a photographer but a film-user, and that didn’t change for a long time, because I didn’t do it consciously to make images, but to learn how to use a film camera.

    I was born in 1985 so I remember using film growing up, but then digital came around and it was new and exciting. When I was younger I used to think that anything modern was good and newer was better, just like most people my age. Why would anyone want to use an old camera? Why would anyone want to use film? I never saw the point, but 5.5 years ago now, I was rummaging around my grandparents house and found one of my grandpa’s old cameras (a TKC Kalimar). I decided to take it home and use it, because I’d kept hearing that film looked better than digital (it’s true) and I wanted to see for myself again, as I hadn’t used film since about 2002/2003 at that point. I can’t say any of my images were all that stellar, but I just fell in love with the process.

    I took that camera to a cousin’s wedding the next Spring and spent a lot of the time hanging out with their pro wedding photographer just geeking out about photography and the film days. He’d gone all-digital years before but back in the day he had done a lot of stuff with the Contax 645. He’s good friends with my cousins and I’ve kept up with him on Facebook over the years, I guess he dusted off that Contax for the first time in over a decade to shoot some Portra because a high schooler asked him to shoot his portrait session on film. I keep forgetting you’re in Louisiana and this guy is based out of Ruston.

    I started finding other better cameras at garage sales and thrift stores for super cheap, with which I was able to do a lot more. From 2009 through 2012 I just documented my life the way people were doing it just 10 years before: on film. Spring 2013 I got asked to do some portrait sessions for a small private school and that took me to the next level. In preparation, I bought a few pro films to shoot the sessions with, Kodak Ektar 100, BW400CN, and Fuji Pro400H, but the results I got weren’t satisfying to me. I spent the next day or two just reading all I could on the internet about film and different film stocks and concluded that a portrait session for clients (even friends) was not the best time to try out three new film stocks, so I did a reshoot using what I already knew: Fuji Superia 400 and Fujicolor 200 (those two films and a lot of post-processing got me through the commission successfully). This was also the first time I gave my business to a local brick & mortar camera store, a business that I still use and a place where everyone knows my name.

    Then that Fall I took a photography class at college, that brought my work to another level. Shooting color negative for the previous four years certainly gave me an edge over my classmates, but I still learned plenty about how to achieve the look I wanted by bending these mechanical apparati (camera and enlarger, as well as chemicals) to my will. I also learned a lot about interacting with people and ended up doing fine art portraits for my final project. I learned and enjoyed myself so much in that class that I decided to start a photo blog. I got tired of reading so much negativity and misinformation regarding film, especially how much it costs, so now for over a year I’ve written about good deals and getting the most for my money shooting film. Writing this blog also inspired me to declare a minor for Visual Arts, emphasis on Photography, because a major in Sound Design & Music Composition just isn’t enough for me now.

    -I love film because it looks better. There’s a depth and soul to film that borders on the mystical for me. It can’t be quite defined or explained, only felt. For get science, this is alchemy.
    -I love the look so much that I don’t mind the process or the workflow. I didn’t get into this because it was easy; just the mere fact that I have to work at it makes it more meaningful to me.
    -The limitations of the process become an asset. You can’t take many shortcuts using film. There is real cost to each shot I take, which makes me more patient and deliberate. There is that “decisive moment” as Cartier-Bresson wrote, and one has to be ready for it when it comes, not looking down at an LCD screen at what they just took.
    -What I’m trying to accomplish in my work might not even be attainable for me, but the fact that I keep on striving makes me a better photographer. There’s actually an element of the Islamic concept of Jihad inherent in that. Not that I’ve never actually seen myself as waging a holy war, but digital does have the lion’s share of the market so I do militantly support film any way I can, because the film manufacturing industry needs to meet a certain bottom line to survive, because it’s my medium of choice and I want to be able to use it, because it should be an available creative choice for photographers and filmmakers not just today, but in the future as well. I want to die knowing that processes like film (and magnetic tape as well) are not only being used, but being used so much that there is still an industry supported by these people, supplying artists with the creative tools needed to make amazing work.

    Thanks for asking the question, I don’t think I ever thought about it quite that way before. I’d encourage to you at least try developing some of your own film one of these days. There’s definitely that “Ah-ha!” moment when you take it out of the tank, or seeing a an image on a piece of paper materialize before your very eyes in the darkroom. It should be experienced at some point in your life! I like what I’ve been able to articulate so much I think I need to copy some of this to my own site. Thanks! 🙂

    I see you’ve changed your site’s look since I was here last, I like the new design!

    Like

    1. Wow Joe, thanks for sharing that! I’m glad that you were able to articulate so much. You should definitely create some posts from these thoughts.

      Your point that the limitations of film become an asset really resonates with me, and I couldn’t have said it any better. I think that’s why challenges like the “one camera one lens” or the “one focal length” are popular. There’s no doubt that constraints can often help us get better, if not only eliminate analysis paralysis.

      Since I’m a minimalist, the idea of buying equipment to develop and scan film is not very appealing. But I have considered learning to develop black and white before, at least once like you suggest. We’ll see!

      Also, thanks for the feedback on the new design. I wanted to keep it minimal. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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