Is film photography really saved?

Apr 10, 2017

Vincent Moschetti

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Is film photography really saved?

Apr 10, 2017

Vincent Moschetti

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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We all have seen some very encouraging news recently coming from major film companies bringing back or releasing new film stocks. Some promising accessories, like the “Lab-Box Film Tank”, have also emerged and it seems that nothing can stop the return of film at the front stage.

The present and near future seem very promising for film photographers and you can read everywhere that film is back…but aren’t we celebrating a bit too fast? I recently had an interesting talk with Juho Leppänen who’s behind cameraventures.com about the future of analog photography and its whereabouts in the next 15 years.

YouTube video

Juho studied the situation over 9 months and interviewed over 300 people directly involved in the industry – from CEO’s to famous film photographers or even teenagers – just to have a global picture of the current situation and how we could make sure that film won’t die a second time. He looked at the situation from his baby boy’s eyes and asked himself :

“Will my son be able to shoot film, like I did, when he’ll turn 15?”

This question made him look at the situation from a broader point of view and wondered what happened to the major actors of the industry. Because saving film is one thing but who’s going to process all these rolls once the last mini-lab will stop working?

The truth is that most labs are relying on old equipment (often running on Windows XP) and parts are becoming more and more difficult to find. Another forthcoming obstacle will be to find staff skilled to maintain these pieces of equipment.

So he decided to knock on their doors and ask what are their plans for the coming back of film? When he could find them, the answer he received was nothing but a cold shower and seemed unanimous…none of them seems to have a plan of bringing back new solutions or at least updating the existing machines. We are on a sinking ship and the captain is long gone!

My guess is that none of these companies has anticipated this comeback and they are now waiting to see if it’s not just another fashion that will fade in the next years. I believe they are well aware of the situation but don’t want to risk investing too much in a technology that could potentially re-disappear as quickly as it came back.

Sure, there will always be some labs capable of processing films and incurable photographers developing at home but that won’t be enough to keep up with the current dynamic in the resurgence of film.

Another sad truth is that every day, there are fewer analog cameras available and without cameras, there is no demand for film (and all that gravitate around). This is another endangered species because of the collectors with cameras molding on their shelves or simply because it cost too much to repair or CLA. The point is not to blame anyone or point fingers but rather draw a realistic portrait of the situation and what are the difficulties coming up on the horizon.

In today’s society where we have been accustomed to replacing our equipment frequently, I don’t see why manufacturers (like Nikon or Canon just to name a few) would bring back to the market new analog cameras capable to last for decades, when they count on us to replace our equipment every 2 or 3 years. That would go against their business model and shareholders would start raising eyebrows.

Sure we can always play with cameras from Lomography or the recently re-introduced Holga but that will never be enough to fulfill everybody’s needs.

Since we are not ready to see new durable mechanical camera anytime soon, the solution is to maintain the ones that already exist. To make this possible we have to help photographers to easily get in touch with qualified individuals or shops. There are plenty of people that still know how to CLA a camera but we still need to know where to look for them. By ensuring that a maximum of cameras is in circulation and working order, we can help to preserve a constant demand for films stocks and supplies that come along. This also keeps the fabrication costs at an accessible level so a maximum of photographers can afford the luxury of the analog workflow.

Nowadays, everything happens on the Internet and building an online presence takes a lot of time and energy (I know what it takes!). I can certainly imagine that small shops or individuals don’t have the resources or knowledge to do such a tedious task.

That’s where Cameraventures.com comes to save the analog world!

The idea behind this website is to create a global platform where photographers, store, labs, printers, service center, individual repair guys etc… can connect locally or internationally with each other. Everybody who has something to bring to the film community is welcome to join and propose its services.

For people who’ve just joined the party, it can only be a plus to have instant access to a network of professionals who can bring solutions when we need assistance with our gear, processing or when looking for equipment for example.

This is not something new to Juho, who already owns a shop of second-hand cameras since many years. On top of that experience, he has successfully created a solid online network of shops, labs, film distributor and is also training a team of technician in Finland, but it’s time to bring this to a larger scale if we want to save as many cameras as possible.

His approach and determination to keep film alive make me think about a story that is usually shared among environmentalist but fits perfectly the situation:

One day a terrible fire broke out in a forest – a huge woodland was suddenly engulfed by a raging wildfire. Frightened, all the animals fled their homes and ran out of the forest. As they came to the edge of a stream they stopped to watch the fire and they were feeling very discouraged and powerless. They were all bemoaning the destruction of their homes. Every one of them thought there was nothing they could do about the fire, except for one little hummingbird.

This particular hummingbird decided it would do something. It swooped into the stream and picked up a few drops of water and went into the forest and put them on the fire. Then it went back to the stream and did it again, and it kept going back, again and again, and again. All the other animals watched in disbelief; some tried to discourage the hummingbird with comments like, “Don’t bother, it is too much, you are too little, your wings will burn, your beak is too tiny, it’s only a drop, you can’t put out this fire.”

And as the animals stood around disparaging the little bird’s efforts, the bird noticed how hopeless and forlorn they looked. Then one of the animals shouted out and challenged the hummingbird in a mocking voice, “What do you think you are doing?” And the hummingbird, without wasting time or
losing a beat, looked back and said, “I am doing what I can.”

– Source

To me, Juho is the hummingbird of the film community (I hope he won’t mind the comparison!) that can make this come back sustainable for the next decades. He’s showing the example to follow but won’t be able to succeed if he’s alone. That’s why he needs a massive support from everybody who believes in his project and wants to go from the seat of spectator to Actor of the future of film photography.

Until big players decide to come back in the game with new cameras or processing machinery, we are all by ourselves. That doesn’t mean we can’t survive without them! We’ve seen the power of crowdfunding so we must federate our forces together if we want to give Juho’s son the chance to shoot film when he’ll turn 15!

He’s looking for enthusiastic companies and individuals to join and become partners of cameraventures.com . So if you think that you have something to bring to the film community, let him know by filling this quick survey. His team will review your application and get in touch if they have a collaboration opportunity for you. You can also read here the summary of his study which is really interesting too

I wish all the best to Juho and his team for the future. They’ve put a lot of efforts in making this happen so it’s important to encourage them in their fight to keep film alive. Spread the word and let your family or friends know about Camera Ventures! Talk you soon and keep shooting.

About the Author

Vincent Moschetti is a photographer from France. He has been into photography since 2013 and worked exclusively with digital equipment until recently. While looking for new ways to challenge himself, he got hooked by the beauty of shooting with film cameras. From this discovery, he has decided to sell all his digital cameras and get committed to analog photography for at least one year.

You can follow Vincent on his website and Instagram or like his Facebook page. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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13 responses to “Is film photography really saved?”

  1. Fabrice Bacchella Avatar
    Fabrice Bacchella

    The expected life time of analog film is the same length of hipstears beard. Today it’s long, and suddenly it will be gone forever

  2. Liam Avatar
    Liam

    I don’t really see any reason for trying to save ‘analogue’ colour photography, B&W is a whole other matter though… Today ( as in years past ) most college level photography programs still insist on B&W film in their curriculum but colour is solely in the digital realm.

    The advantage of B&W, of course is to explore tonality and the expression of light. The craftsmanship that one develops ( pun intended ) adds to a lifelong desire to distill emotion into a two dimensional form.

    1. Jay Dee Avatar
      Jay Dee

      Saving analog photography of all sorts is like saving analog musical instruments — there is a difference that matters, and that many appreciate and enjoy.

      1. satrain18 Avatar
        satrain18

        Saving analog photography of all sorts is actually like saving typewriters — there will always be a clique of snobs who will claim to the death they will be always better the laptops and that laptops lack soul.

        1. Jay Dee Avatar
          Jay Dee

          I never understand why people base their opinions on what somebody else MIGHT say or do. Are these characterizations really yours, or simply fantasy?
          Since you brought it up, typewriters and laptops both have a wealth of negative issues, with neither cornering the market. “Soul” doesn’t come to mind for either.

          1. satrain18 Avatar
            satrain18

            Might? They already did. This isn’t fantasy, this is observation of the film photography community, especially the one who claim to shoot ONLY film:

            “Digital Is Soul-less.” -Thomas Kuo, a.k.a. “TheCincyKid”

            “Digital is the devil.” -“justfilm”

            “Glossy and 3-D are characteristics of Satan’s cameras. They will seduce you and then you will go to Hell. Be careful. Shoot only with film.” -“justfilm”

            “Digital ‘Photography’ isn’t real.” -“Sultan Vahdetin”

            “It’s(digital photography) basically Computer Graphics and bollocks” -“Sultan Vahdetin”

            “Digital sucks!!!” -“Nikon FM2 Photography”

            “Digital it’s only for zombies photographers, they’re suffering mega pixels desease” -“Nikon FM2 Photography”

            “How about we focus on hating digital! How it uses a computer and numbers to generate a color and then process layers upon layers of data to spit out a digital image not unlike a computer generated avatar, only every effort made to make it look real? Then consider silver bromide being converted by light and no data conversion needed when printing traditionally. It’s the difference between living in the “real-world” and and artificially created one, or VR (virtual reality). My medium of choice is real-world with soul. Brain dead VR is for people who have no soul. :))” -“Circles_of_Confusions☯”

            “I’ve always viewed digital as “Video Stills” and not a real picture.” -Eric Greaux, a.k.a. “greauxe”

            “I love making dslr users feel small and inadequate.” -“I’ll fight you for that sandwich”

            “I do hate digatal cameras
            because
            it looks airbrushed flat slick glossy
            one dimensional
            because people are always holding the dam things up in the air and the cell phone cameras!
            and runing my shots when its in a public place or event
            because anyone can freeze frame
            its more like a video game than photography
            now everyone thinks there a photographer
            its very few who know how to use a digatal camera and produce a photograph insead of an “image”
            its like insant food, add water and stir
            I like having the camera right on my eye I like seeing the world through my camera
            I like the waiting and hoping that I “got that shot”
            I like the warmth and the grain I dont want to fake it
            digi’s look very simular theres no individual style if ten people took a photo of the same thing with a digi theyd pretty much all look alike not so with a camera people do have individual styles that film reflects
            film cameras last
            film cameras take better photos” -Deborah Olin. a.k.a. “Debbie C.B.’s”

          2. Jay Dee Avatar
            Jay Dee

            Quite simply–who cares? Like film?– use it. Otherwise, don’t.

    2. Man Beadle Avatar
      Man Beadle

      “I don’t really see any reason for trying to save ‘analogue’ colour photography”

      Go and look at William Eggleston, Saul Leiter and Bruce Davidson. All gone, yes, just flush it down the toilet. That’s what it’s all about isn’t it?

      1. cb78750 Avatar
        cb78750

        One thing about Eggleston, who’s work I love, is that he had the resources to have his work professionally processed. His photos were famously rich in color, due to the very costly and now virtually unobtanium dye transfer process used to print his work.

  3. Ralph Hightower Avatar
    Ralph Hightower

    I continue to shoot film. I still use my Canon A-1 that I bought new 30 years ago. I added a used Canon New F-1 in 2013. With two film cameras, one is loaded with B&W film and the other with color. I added a DSLR camera also in 2013. As long as my film cameras work and film is available, I’ll continue shooting film. I enjoy photography; it doesn’t matter if its film or digital.

  4. Raffaello Palandri Avatar
    Raffaello Palandri

    At R&T Global Services (www.randtglobalservices.com) are making a camera with film and digital backs. They are looking for testers (the prototypes will be available during the summer).

  5. Man Beadle Avatar
    Man Beadle

    Yeah, same thing goes for paints and inks, just forget about them because now we have Photoshop filters that can do all that! (there is not one art supply shop left in the city I live in apart from The Works… which is not an art shop).

    I have zero problem with digital, it has its own wonderful aesthetic if people bothered to explore it. What bothers me is when people think their plain old digital image doesn’t look interesting enough so they inevitably use effects that call back to looks made possible by experimenting with film. You want your photos to look like film, shoot on film. You want them to look digital, shoot digital. Does any millennial even know what the cross processing filter or the chrome, platinum, sepia terms mean on Instagram? I have been to shows for example where the photographer has used techniques only available to film such as sloppy borders, in place they’ve used digital templates they’ve downloaded, you can spot it a mile away. I had a conversation with the photographer (polite I assure you) and she didn’t actually understand what a sloppy border was in relation to the neg carrier in the enlarger when printing. Same goes for fake bokeh, lens flares, light leaks, various types of grain, One click and they’re done. Lazy as fuck. I simply have no respect for that cheap throwaway attitude whatsoever.

    Fabrice here thinks those who use film are Hipsters, I think smarmy arseholes like Fabrice probably don’t even know what an f-number is and think a 12MP phone camera can rival a DSLR… because that may also have 12MP, Must be just as good, right. Don’t worry, Fabrice I see you everywhere. Can’t wait for the 38Mp iPhone!

    1. Jay Dee Avatar
      Jay Dee

      Smarmy is clearly analog, which is why it is so handy…