Despite being down and out for the best part of more than a decade, film photography and its ardent supporters refuse to roll over and let the format become a footnote in the chapters of history. In fact, we’ve seen a resurgence from the format in recent times, despite the fact film accounts for only a fraction of the market it once occupied. Even some of the industry’s heavyweights have moved to back film again, with the likes of Kodak announcing a return for film to its line-up.
Whereas once upon a time film was born out of necessity rather than choice, an emerging trend has been for younger photographers, who never had exposure to the format, to experiment with it and the associated manual processes as a way to adjust their style and spark their creativity. Therefore, with effectively a new target audience, film is finding a foothold in a market that is continually seeing more and more photographers looking to differentiate themselves from their peers.
There is also a different planning element to shooting with film. Photographers are not afforded the luxury of being able to shoot endlessly and review. Instead, film photographers need to have a different degree of foresight and planning to envisage how their shot will pan out. There is a unique quality that comes with shooting in film, something born out of control as well as copious amounts of research and development from film manufacturers. With this, photographers take on another level of complexity to produce their work –a challenge many are embracing as a way to fine-tune their photography skills.
A certain nostalgia also separates the world of Photoshop and computer processing with that of darkrooms and chemical processing. Sure, one can say that both may serve as forms of manipulation in their own right. Film however, has a markedly more difficult aspect to incorporating subtle modifications, and is generally more ‘respectful’ of the true source – many consider it to produce higher quality photos courtesy of greater sensitivity and colour range.
Of course modern-day digital cameras are more advanced than they have ever been – and will continue to improve. However, with these advancements, many have become dependent on their equipment rather than looking for a way to creatively ‘tell’ their story. What’s more, digital photographers are becoming more consumed with technology and computers than ever before – so much so, that in many ways it has been to the detriment of the business they are running.
Film can be a timely, expensive and frustrating process – that, there is no doubt. But for the passionate photographers out there, looking for a raw, visceral experience, there’s just a certain lustre and excitement associated with film that means it will continue to occupy a niche for many years to come.