- Where Do We Go Now?
Let’s look at some of the reasons why there is hope for film in the future.
- Film photography is a mature technology
Photographers can learn, know and count on the medium. Not too many surprises around the corner here. The materials, film, chemistry, printing papers, are refined and predictable in their basic behaviors, compatible across different brands, and widely available (for now anyway.) Once understood, these resources are capable of beautiful images and rewarding creative experiences. There is a satisfying hands-on aspect to this kind of image making. Plus, you don’t need to carry much equipment into the field to take quality pictures.
- Film images can have a magical quality.
Many photographers prefer the look of film, and even film grain. Collectors, galleries, and museums are still currently much more comfortable with silver prints (the most common type of B/W print) made from film, both for their aesthetic qualities, and their archival characteristics. And then, there is the often stunning richness of black and white prints, not really reachable by other media (at least so far).
- You don’t need to keep up with the latest digital camera, memory card format, image editing software version, or inkjet printer inkset to make beautiful black and white prints with state of the art quality.
The best that the film and silver based medium can offer is available now. You don’t need the next model or format.
- You won’t spend your life away staring into glaring computer monitors.
“What? It’s been 2 hours since I last said I’d be only a few minutes?”
- The hands-on darkroom experience is unique and visceral.
Nothing compares to the magic of a B+W print coming up in the developing tray.
- Film equipment on the used market is priced low, to sell.
There’s never been a better time to pick up bargains in quality film cameras and in dark room equipment. (I know I wrote dark room as 2 words. You’d be surprised how many online searches spell it that way)
The market is definitely moving away from silver-based film and darkroom equipment.
On the other hand, film photography and darkroom classes are still filling up at many high schools and colleges, such as the colleges where I teach.
So, where does this all leave use users of film?
At the risk of making a prediction (in public on line no less!) I’ll make a stab at it.
- Film photography will become what it was in its infancy.
That is: an enthusiasts’ medium, something that people pursue for their own reasons.
- Small manufacturers will step into the huge hole left by Kodak and other major players.
- Film lovers will continue to support and buy these products.
- We will have quality black + white photographic art into the foreseeable future.
That’s my take on it, and I’m sticking with this fantasy. There. Done.
Long Live Film!