Think about it: there used to be a photo developing station in every grocery store. You could (and in some cases, still can) pick up film in a gas station. People would print photos and bind them together into books that became family heirlooms. Then it all went away.
But the good news is all on the film side. The other side of the equation – new film cameras – isn’t returning at the same speed as film stock. Why is that?
Leica is doing their thing, but that’s out of the reach of most photographers. Nikon has the F6, still in production, and Lomo does a good business. But from there, medium- and large-format film cameras are the only ones still in production. Where are the new 35mm cameras to meet this growing film demand? Is the demand still not at a level for camera manufacturers to supply new gear?
Not that there’s any reason to worry; there are tons of used film cameras out there waiting to be rediscovered and refurbished (it’s coming up on yard sale season, after all). For the most part, buying a decent film camera is way more affordable than buying a new digital camera.
Maybe that’s when we’ll know film is back in a big way: Pentax, Canon, Fuji, and the rest fire up their film camera production machines again.
The physical world is what it is: messy, random, and tactile. The digital world, even at its best VR-helmeted incarnation, is a mere simulation.
A lot of the world is waking up to that fact. Even Silicon Valley, in all its ones and zeroes, realizes the value of IRL play, meditation, and good food.
This was one of the parting messages in David Sax’s book, The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter. The book was a reading assignment from CJ Chilvers (read his review), and is a piece of non fiction that, along with Sound City, has helped me think more about physical things and why I value them.
The crux of Sax’s research: the culture and media that digital left behind, or revolutionized, (film photography, record albums, paper) are coming back as more than fads. People are writing notes in Moleskines, reading actual books, and opening up new vinyl pressing plants. Business owners are successfully expanding their book store empire. And yes, even Silicon Valley is finding physical things worth exploring.
A lot of people, for a lot of years, have said, “Print is dead.” Or, “no one reads magazines anymore.” Film photography is obsolete, and a hassle. A paper-free office is the goal. At my art museum job, in a very literate college town, I’ve even questioned the value of print media and products.
What Sax found, though, is that the very people we thought were abandoning the real world — young people — are actually the ones buying vinyl records and asking for paper textbooks at school. That’s comforting, for those of us that value analog media. It means the world isn’t as upside down as we had feared (although Sax neglected to talk to newspaper publishers – he mostly sticks to sunny stories of success).
Speaking of young people: Sax’s chapter on education was especially eye-opening. Digital tools in the classroom (think electronic whiteboards, tablets, video lessons, etc.) are an overhyped lie, Sax found, with no real metrics to show their much-bragged-about value. Digital is no savior. Those of us who work in higher education heard about the MOOC for a few years as this great college disruptor. But as Sax shows, only about 10 percent of online class takers ever finish the lesson, and many more people find a relationship with a real live teacher more worthwhile.
Amen! Think about the online photography video versus a one-on-one workshop with a photographer whose work you appreciate. If you want to pick up clone stamping, a Photoshop video can certainly teach you how in a few minutes. But to get real valuable advice on how to shape your artistic vision, nothing beats spending actual time with an actual person. Analog education matters more.
The findings in The Revenge of Analog pop up in the news with regularity. We get more and more news about classic film stocks coming back. Some of my favorite bands now release vinyl albums along with digital downloads. Just the other day I received a new magazine coming out of Detroit, asking for my advertising dollars. Look all around, and we feel analog’s return in our bones.
The truth is, for many of us, analog never left. No revenge was needed. I still read my books pulped page by pulped page, I still have two magazines arriving in my mailbox every month, and I write in actual notebooks with an actual pen. And don’t get me started on music.
Structured in case studies around companies that are giving analog a go, Sax’s book makes the point that analog can be a thriving business for a lot of people, even if it’s outside the majority. Good enough is good enough, and there’s still money to be made on the weirdos and normals alike.
Because there are fewer and fewer places selling honest to goodness film these days, trying to snag a roll was random and difficult. If I didn’t want Kodak instant cameras or Fuji Superia, I was stuck using Amazon or B&H – especially for my favorites, Agfa Vista and Ilford HP5.
But CameraMall had those and more. Medium format film! Kodak Ektar! Weird Ilford film I had never heard of! My beloved Agfa! It was like a candy store. As a bonus, they also develop 35mm film.
It felt really, really good to plunk down the $10 for two rolls of film, knowing that I had a local place to shop from. They benefit (yay, camera stores!), I benefit, and somewhere down the line the photography industry benefits.
And really, the film costs the same in store as it does online, I get to geek out with the guy behind the counter, and it’s an excuse to get out of the office and go for a walk.
Find your local place, if you have one, and shop from their film selection (or memory cards, or tripods, or whatever). Order some prints. Check out their used gear section. I know ordering online is super handy, but the benefits of shopping local are numerous.
I’ll bet that after you do, like me, you’ll feel better about doing it.
I’m Matt Lockwood and I currently live in a small town in the northeast corner of Indiana. I’m a business professional with a very enjoyable career in the data and content analysis field.
How did you get started in photography?
I started gaining a strong interest in photography after I graduated from college in 2012 (Oakland University, Go Golden Grizzlies!) with a BA in Cinema Studies. A lot of my inspiration comes from some of my favorite directors such as Ingmar Bergman, John Ford, David Lynch, Alfred Hitchcock, Andrei Tarkovsky, Carl Th. Dreyer, Charlie Chaplin, and Federico Fellini.
Some films that have inspired me include Seventh Seal, Onibaba, 8 ½, Ivan’s Childhood, Night of the Hunter, and Vampyr.
What do you like about your photography?
What I love most about my work is the many ways to explore natural lighting, composition, exposure, and different types of film stock. I’m currently a huge fan of Ilford Delta 400 and Ilford HP5 Plus 400.
You do great black and white work, and that translates well to your film work. Where do you get inspiration for your style/ideas?
The themes I like to explore in my work include realism, neo-realism, and avant-garde expressionism.
Any upcoming projects or shoots you’re working on?
I plan on starting a portrait project. There isn’t really a theme for it, but more of an exploration of different individual expressions and moods.