My memories of film photography trace back to when I was a wee child. Even then it was a medium that captivated me. The distinct ‘click’ of the shutter and rhythmic hum of the film reel as it advanced is one that put me into a trance. It still does. With the onset of affordable digital cameras, and subsequent ‘death’ of film culture, I hadn’t had the joy of hearing that all too familiar click in a while. That was, until I moved to Cape Town at the start of 2016 and I realised that film was very much alive and kicking.
The recent resurgence of film photography became evident to me when I started seeing the #35mm and #filmisnotdead hashtags on Instagram photos. Or perhaps it was when I noticed the multitude of hip youths carrying old Pentax and Olympus camera’s around their necks wherever they went. The resurgence of film, like the resurgence of vinyl records and vintage clothing, is for some an attempt to try and get back to the raw roots of things.
Capturing a moment in time is a meticulous process, with film this process is heightened. To many in the modern world, capturing an image means whipping out a smartphone and snapping 5 photos in the blink of an eye. Mostly, this is done without much thought and if the image isn’t satisfactory it can be ‘edited’ instantly.
Film forces you to take pictures without the distraction of reviewing and editing them seconds later. With most film cameras you can’t even see the image after you’ve taken the shot. As a result, composing and framing your subject becomes more important before pressing the shutter button.
The invention of digital image photography resulted in the slow death of film photography. It is a medium that is more user friendly and allows for more photos to be taken without any real expense or experience. Unlike with film, when you’re taking photos with a DSLR camera, the LCD screen allows you to see the photo after you’ve taken it.
With film, every photo is precious, because you’re not shooting on a memory card, but on a roll of film, limited to around 24 exposures (or photographs for those of us not familiar with photography lingo) depending on what film stock you’re using. DSLR cameras of today capture film on a digital sensor instead of on an actual strip of film.
To me, it’s the tangible nature of film that’s so appealing. Digital archives are so easily lost – memories stuck on the hard drive of some forgotten computer that sits in a cupboard gathering dust. It may be a slower process, but that’ what so many aficionados appreciate about the medium.
So, whether you’re a familiar face at your local film lab, or you’ve never picked up a film camera in your life, grab a disposable next time you pass by a camera shop. Take that bit of extra time capturing moments, whether you get it all wrong, or end up on Rookie Mag’s homepage, it’s worth a shot. Literally. Oh, and whatever you do, don’t forget to use #filmisnotdead. Otherwise, you know, all the cool kids won’t be able to gaze upon your #film masterpiece.