The news was announced last week, January 6th, that Kodak is reviving the Ektachrome line of 35mm film. A cheer could be heard going up, from the throats of those who relished the film in its heyday up until production ceased in 2012. Such an announcement was bound to have excited those who still love film photography and those who are just picking it up, in the same way that many music lovers are rediscovering the delights of vinyl records. The news also prompted a spate of commentary on social media. Reactions ranged from glee at the return of some fine old-school tech to puzzlement and disdain at the idea of bringing back something that clearly appeared to be a tech dinosaur.
Reaction here at Oncatography was more to the glee side. Digital photography is the way of the now and the future, but film is fun. Film brings with it a slowness and fuzziness that digital photography does not have (unless you let the filters do the thinking for you). So what if the person next to you has a camera phone, and can keep shooting if you have to stop and reload? So what if they can post to social media instantly, while you have to wait on film to come back? Quantity and speed are nice in this age of high volume demand and low duration attention spans. They have their place. But...
Digital and speed are not the only arbiters of success or superiority of image. Having a phone camera or digital camera does not make one a photographer, necessarily, it just means that one can take as many pictures as one likes...just like everyone else. And crap that is shared on Facebook or other platforms is still that: crap. Which most of what gets posted seems to be.
Digital does many things well. It revolutionized photography similar to the way that computer-assisted drafting disrupted hand drafting in architecture, engineering and manufacturing. I know because I cut my professional teeth in architecture learning to draw by hand, which taught me so much about learning to build buildings. Film photography functioned in a similar fashion as I learned to "make" photographs. These days, I use digital equipment for most of my professional endeavors; I have to, as it is the nature of the business. But I have noticed that long periods of shooting digitally tend to engender in me a laziness of eye and mind. This is something that generally does not happen when I shoot with film. Not only do the cameras I use require a deeper engagement with process, the inherent unknowns around the output of the film has a "duende", a spirit, that gets flattened by the relentless efficiency of digital.
Will film turn around and replace digital? Of course not. The fuzziness and mystery of film does not have broad enough appeal to the cultural appetite for image consumption that surrounds us. Film is worth preserving and nurturing, though, if only for those of us who do not concern ourselves overly much with what and how fast the person next to us is posting on Facebook. A touch Luddite, I suppose, but there you have it.
Here endeth my sermon 'against the dying of the light.
Author's note: a shorter version of this first appeared as a 'reply' to a Facebook comment, January 10, 2017.
I know it has been WAY too long, but I thought it time for a short note. I am about to leave for a brief trip to New York City, the luxury of a visit for pleasure. Naturally, I will be bringing a camera. Not one. Not two. Not three. Just one.
Why is this noteworthy?
Because the only camera of my own that I am taking...is my 35mm film camera. This will be my prime means of documentation. This represents quite a leap into the low-tech past, and it leaves me a little nervous.
I almost have my scanning act together, at least enough to finally release some works that are the offspring of my fling with one of my latest loves...her name is Holga, and she is high maintenance...but the pictures! I give you now some happy accidents for your edification and delight:
Experiment A, September 4, 2011
Experiment B, September 4, 2011
Experiment C, September 4, 2011
Earth Sprite, September 2011
Flower Sprite, September 2011
Sometimes the things you do not plan turn out to be more interesting than you expect.
Apologies, one and all. Seems I have to dust off the place! I didn't realize it had been since February 17th that I dared to nail a thesis to this church door. No way to get souls in the pews, I know.
Having said that, allow me to offer you all a bit of practical advice:
When setting out to take pictures with your nifty new film camera, especially if those pictures are to be of someone you haven't seen in too long, so it is a sort of special occasion...make sure that you have actually loaded film into the camera before leaving the house without backup.
That is all, carry on, as you were. I hope to have some more eye candy up soon (when I have the actua pictures to print...dangit.)