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Why use film when digital is now surpassing even the best film stocks?
Why take the long way home?
Photography is a form of art, and every art form has a unique process. In the case of film photography, the film acts as the medium in the creative process, similar to how marble serves as the medium for a sculptor. Just as sculpting marble requires patience, thoughtfulness, and attention to detail, working with film demands the same qualities from a photographer.
The experience of shooting with film is incomparable to digital technology, as it provides a unique and unpredictable challenge that can lead to unexpected results. At times, shooting digitally is like sculpting with a CNC machine.
In my opinion, parameters are a crucial part of the artistic process. They can be as simple as the tools at an artist’s disposal or complicated as the limits of physics. When an artist understands their own limitations and the parameters they face, they can create something truly magical. In the context of photography, film provides a parameter or an unknown for the photographer. When an artist understands their own limits and the parameters they face, that is when the magic happens. Film provides a photographer with a parameter, an unknown.
Yes, digital photography is convenient and cost-effective, but it lacks the ephemeral, tactile quality of film, the feeling of capturing light – a moment in time – in a physical form. There is something magical about the anticipation of waiting for film to develop, its unpredictable and fragile nature, then getting to hold that moment up to the light and see it.
I am a photographer and for work, I use the best tools at my disposal. When the client wants ‘x’ they get ‘x’, but when I, the photographer, can create for myself, not the client or social media, for me, that is where my mind wanders and sometimes it comes to film.
Michael from Retro Photo Reading (@retrophoto_reading) put it well the other day when I was in the shop, “Film is a photographer’s drug” and it is. In today’s world it is an extra, arguably unnecessary cost in most cases, but so are a lot of things we do every day. Film is not what is addicting, it’s the high of film and I think I know what that high is.
Shooting film is like cooking from scratch from the garden you planted, fixing up and driving your oil-leaking classic car, or travelling somewhere far away where you barely know the language. These things are hard, unnecessary, costly, time-consuming, etc, but they are many people’s most cherished activities to do alone or with friends and family. Embrace the process, these parameters create opportunities to think and develop a deeper meaning – not just the matter at hand but life – I believe that is what ‘this’ is all about.
So, go take the long way home…
…with that film camera in hand.
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