I know there’s a lot of advantages to our current modern age. I for one can’t imagine a life without my PC, laptop, smartphone and other assorted digital gadgets. I know that having a digital camera which allows me to take around 700 images at ISO’s up to 3200 is the only reason I have become a somewhat known photographer, and I am thoroughly aware that being able to load those images into lightroom and being able to post-process them within a couple of minutes is the only reason I can do what I do.
I hate to see what is happening in the world of film photography.
First let me explain why I am writing about this now. I have shot my first wedding recently (you can expect a post about that somewhere next week) and I decided to take my 40 year old Canon AE-1 with me as second body. To make sure the shots coming from that camera added something unique to the pool of pictures, I loaded it with some 400 ISO heavy grain black and white film. Today I finally got around to heading into the city to get them developed, but to my surprise the one photo store I knew of here in Hilversum doesn’t even exist anymore. After searching “photo store” on my phone, I finally found another one, which turned out to be the oldest and last one there.
After arriving at the store, I quickly found out they didn’t actually still process black and white film there, they had to send it to a nearby lab. The friendly lady working there explained to me that they had to get rid of their dark room to be able to fit a new digital color printer in the shop. She much regretted the dominance of digital these days.
I had a wonderful conversation with her about the subject, and it made me realize how big a shame it is that film is slowly disappearing. Not only is film a lot better than digital still, it also has some other advantages.
First of all, photographs on film have a lot more intrinsic worth than digital captures have. I still have all the shots I took with my dads old AE-1, lying here in little folders in my room, including all the negatives, and I still look through them regularly. I’m sure that when I am a lot older, I’ll find them in a box somewhere in the attic, and I’ll remember how I first got into photography, with a pang of nostalgia no doubt. Meanwhile, I have 31.405 pictures on my pc right now, of which about 3600 are actually worthwhile, and about a percent of that meet my current standards. I’d say I won’t look back on a single one of these images after the coming couple of years, except for some shots of my baby nephews, which carry their own intrinsic worth.
Secondly, shooting on film teaches new photographers to think about their shot before taking it. Especially if you’re young when just starting out, and you don’t have money to blow on film and development costs. Also, having only 36 or 24 exposures in a single roll really helps remind you that every shot should be worthwhile.
Thirdly, shooting on film makes photography more fun. When shooting digitally, you take a shot, see if it works, and nearly forget about it immediately. When you shoot film, you shoot the roll, or maybe two, and then you have to head out to get them developed. Then you have to wait for them to be developed (or you develop them yourself if you’re one of those lucky sonsabiatches who have their own dark room). And all the while you’re waiting anxiously to see how they turn out. Every shot you take is like your personal little visit to a casino.
Idunno, maybe I’m just a sentimental sob. Maybe digital photography is the best thing to happen to the medium since it’s invention. All I know is that I’ll be taking the old AE-1 out for a spin a bit more often. I’ve missed the old brick.