This is a popular hashtag you may have seen trending amongst photographers who swear by the art of film. By spreading it’s popularity in online communities, film based photography has created a unique fan club of millennials who want to learn more about the dying skill. They, or should I say we, hunt for film cameras at garage sales, thrift stores and second hand antique shops. You know what they say, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” My camera fell into my hands in this exact fashion, being turned over from rags to riches. Almost a year and a half ago, a dear friend of mine gave me a YASHICA FX-3 which he rescued from a yard sale. Tossed into a box with other camera parts, this one got a new life. Ever since then, I too have joined the film photography guild. I’ve spent countless pennies on film development and film purchases, as well as asked around some of my fellow photography supporters what their take is on the craft. The response I observed was unanimous; everyone loves film.
Although it’s been dominating the photography scene for almost 130 years, film photography has been losing the race to its more popular and more modern cousin; digital photography. In 2016, photographers never shy away from grabbing at the latest and trendiest digital camera. Nowadays, you can even replicate the look of old photography with digital preset filters. Yet many artists, including myself, are still drawn to the complexity surrounding the archaic nature of film.
But why? It’s expensive, it takes time and you only get one shot to get it right. Some people may think that when shooting film, you miss out on the opportunities that a DSLR camera could capture. I however, think it can be interpreted the other way around. Those who don’t experiment with other mediums are in fact the ones who are missing out.
The answer to your “why?” when wondering about film lies in the experience you have from behind the camera. Nothing forces you to concentrate harder than when you are looking through the viewfinder of an aged camera. Every shot is your “money shot” as you’re paying for every frame. You are required to slow down and consider your surroundings when playing with film photography. Some people may look at this as a limitation whereas others see it as a challenge or a creative liberty. The intricacy and precision involved in setting up and arranging each photograph pushes you to not waste time when shooting your subjects. Rather than spending countless frames on the same idea (which all usually end up looking practically identical), you are forced to condense your thinking into one single capture. At the end of the day, it is really quality you are looking for, not quantity.
Not to mention, when receiving your film from the print shop, that is the first time you see your product. There is no live view or auto mode that can correct you while you are in action. Just because you are holding a fancy camera and auto mode has picked a shutter speed for you, doesn’t mean you are now an experienced photographer. Try taking all of that away and relying on pure knowledge when looking for results. With film, everything must be done manually, which serves as the greatest learning tool of all. Learning about photography as a student, the best thing you can do is make mistakes. That way, you are genuinely understanding your camera’s functions and settings.
Of course, I myself have only scratched the surface when learning about film photography; my iceberg is still submerged. I have so much left to learn when observing and appreciating the art. Stepping away from technology and challenging yourself is always something we should try to indulge in, especially when our everyday lives are flooded with electric overdose. Technology is changing how we live our lives, but that doesn’t mean it needs to change how we see art.