The Renaissance of Film Photography

By: Jacob Hales

Film: a format that has been exiled to the bin of obsolete mediums and antique machines due to the invention of the digital sensor. Invented in 1975, this digital photographic sensor sparked controversy amongst photographers, however, it wasn’t officially brought down to the consumer level until the early 90’s. By 2005, digital cameras seemed to have officially replaced the film format. It appeared digital was here to stay.

However, in recent years, your grandpa’s old film camera is actually making quite the comeback. Companies like Lomography and Impossible have sparked a resurgence in film sales. These companies began to sell cheap, plastic cameras like the Holga and the Lomo LC-A, along with cheap film stocks to get started in the format of film photography. Currently Lomography has a photo sharing tab on its website where nearly 14 million film photos currently reside.

But it’s not just Lomography that’s taking action, companies like Kodak and Fujifilm have started producing more and more film to keep up with the sales. Film formats have also been lost along the way; 220, 620, 828, 127, and 126 type films haven’t been produced in over 20 years. It’s not just film formats that have suffered; many companies that produce film have been lost in the age of digital. Color reversal films, known for their rich and vibrant colors and tones, have taken the biggest hit. Kodachrome, Ektachrome, Astia, and Velvia have been discontinued due to the “harsh” chemical process required to develop the images. In reality, the chemicals aren’t as much harsh as they are expensive. Despite this, Kodak has announced its revival of the incredible Ektachrome stock film, and to some photographers, this could also mean the revival of the most legendary film of all–Kodachrome.

So why is film better than digital? This is a question that genuinely sparks a lot of controversy amongst photographers. Most have truly embraced the switch to digital photography, including famous photojournalist Steve McCurry, who is well known for his photograph of the Afghan Girl. It was shot on Kodachrome film with a Nikon FM2. It can be considered by some to be one of the most famous photos of all time. Unfortunately, Steve has officially made the switch to digital. There are obvious benefits about both digital and film, but, in the end, it comes down to quantity versus quality. While, digital photographers get a bulk load of photos, most are basic images. With film, the images have more dynamic range and contain a wide variety of colors. Not to mention, it’s cheaper than going out and buying an expensive Full-Frame DSLR. The film is always with you, you load into the camera by hand, you wind off each frame with your thumb, and then rewind it back into the canister when you’re finished. The film is then sent of to a developer for processing. A week later, you are presented with the fruits of your labor. There is just something so nostalgic and magical about holding physical photographs. The natural colors and glossy prints seem to capture the hearts of hipsters and photographers all over the world.

If you were to ask a photographer ten years ago: “What do you think about film?”, you would most likely get a response along the lines of how it’s outdated and going out of style. But now, it seems the tides have changed; the number of film photographers is increasing, and outdated film stocks are making their way back on the shelves. Maybe we should go back to film photography to remember what it means to take a good photograph, to remember to take your time and think about the quality of the shot not the quantity, to remember what photography is all about. Maybe film is here to stay after all.

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