In recent years, film photography has been making something of a Lazarus style comeback. Prices for used cameras and lenses have skyrocketed, some old film stocks are being made anew, and new processing labs are opening. Hashtags like: #filmneverdie, #filmisnotdead, #istillshootfilm, and #analogueforever are trending everywhere on social media.
Eastman Kodak are now producing four times the amount of film compared to just a few years ago. They claim that sales of film are increasing between 15% and 30% per year. This is quite remarkable considering that by 2010 film sales had almost evaporated completely.
Interestingly, many people now using film cameras are in the younger demographics and had only ever used digital previously.
"We don’t think this demand for still film is a fad that’s going to go away. It’s sustained itself for four years right now, and the growth just seems to be accelerating. The future looks bright."
- Ed Hurley (Eastman Kodak)
If you have read some of my earlier posts you would already know why I went back to film after a digital dalliance. For me it's about the process. I really dislike the digital workflow but love the process of shooting film. Also, I love film cameras.
But why have so many others taken up analogue photography? I couldn't say for certain but I do have a few theories...
I'm not talking so much about the hipsters that wear old cameras around their necks as accessories (do they even have film in them?), that's fine... Whatever blows your sax. It is kind of trendy to shoot film at the moment though, whether a toy camera, or an Instax, or a classic camera. This is driven, in part, by the likes of some celebrities and influencers jumping on the band wagon. Kendall Jenner, for instance, did a spot on TV banging on about her Contax T2 and overnight the price of them doubled.
Still, whatever leads people to the path of righteousness can't be a bad thing.
I've don't want to sound unfair to Ms Jenner, she does seem to be a keen film shooter and is something of an advocate for keeping film alive.
I'm not sure how many would come into this category but there must be a certain number of people that have fond memories of picking up their pack of prints from the chemist and those classic look happy snaps. I suspect many would put a few rolls through their old camera and realise it isn't as much fun as they remember.
Life is pretty fast paced these days. We expect things to happen instantly and be available whenever we want. So much stuff is disposable. Film photography makes you slow down. You can forget about the gizmos and gadgets and just immerse yourself in the slow, deliberate process.
It's similar to music - where vinyl records now out sell CDs. Taking an LP from its cover, cleaning it, putting it on the turntable and sitting back in your comfy chair to listen to an album is an entirely different experience to not-really-listening to an endless playlist piped through your phone.
Recently, in one of the Facebook groups I follow, a guy posted a typically lovely sunrise shot at the beach. In his comments he explained how he got up early and drove to the beach for sunrise only to be met with a bleak grey sky and no colour... sob! He then went on to explain how he "saved" the shot by using Photoshop's new Sky Replacement Tool to, well, replace the sky with a better one. Lots of people commented "great job", "beautiful result", "wonderful image". At least the guy didn't try and pretend it was a legitimate photo.
The point is that a lot of the digital photographs we see everyday are heavily manipulated. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that, hell they're your photos - do whatever you like. I do believe that there would be a lot of people rejecting this style of digital imaging in favour of the more organic, tactile process of shooting and printing film.
Imagine you are hosting a dinner party and you're planning desert. You could go to the supermarket and pick up a meringue base, a can of whipped cream, some fruit, chocolate etc and assemble an amazing looking pavlova. It would probably taste pretty amazing too. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, a bit of added creative flair, with the strawberries and kiwi and so forth, and you have a winner.
Some people however, would see the planning, and preparation, and cooking something delicious from scratch as more authentic. Even if the process is harder and a lot more work - there are people that find that way of cooking much more rewarding and satisfying. It's also riskier, even good cooks can make bad souffles sometimes.
Let's face it, digital cameras don't have a lot of personality. For the most part they're little black boxes with some buttons and dials that all do the same things in slightly different ways.
Some manufacturers seem to have realised that most cameras are dead boring. Makers including Fujifilm, Olympus, Nikon, and a few others have started producing retro styled bodies that look a lot like the film SLRs and rangefinders that are now hot property.
You really can't compare using a beautiful, quirky, unwieldy manual camera to a little box of electronics with an EVF. There is an elegant simplicity to having nothing but an aperture ring, a shutter speed dial, and a focus ring to work with, free of menus, and buttons, and dials, et al.
Send me a comment and let me know why you shoot film, or alternatively why you never will again. I would love to hear your thoughts.