On the Subject of Film

When the subject of film comes up my first impulse is to flippantly say something like, “Oh, film was nice, but no serious photographer would use film.”  Well, that’s not right. And should any of us be putting a definition on what a “serious photographer” is?

In my opinion, film, and those photographers that use it have positioned themselves in a new place among image-makers. These days most photojournalists and commercial photographers employ digital technology, but I think those that are interested in pushing this medium into a creative place are increasingly becoming aware of the unique characteristics of film.

A film purist can easily set up a home lab with an enlarger and complete chemical process, but there are also those that have embraced both digital and film and the results of the technological cross breeding can be exciting. Film has, in my opinion, a tactile quality that is different than digital capture.

Let’s not get into the boring discussion of film vs digital. That’s become wearisome. Film is different than digital. I think it depends on how one wants to show a subject to viewers. And as I wrote, I think the technological cross breeding of film and digital is exciting and rewarding.

The dialogue now may be about computers, monitors, and software. With film we wanted the best enlargers, and enlarger light sources. What lens was mounted on the enlarger was as important as the lens on our cameras. I had a cabinet filled with many different kinds of enlarging papers from around the world, and another stacked with a wide assortment of developing chemicals for both film processing and printing. All this is still available if one is willing to take the time searching out suppliers.

Serious digital photographers are faced with expensive computers and Photoshop’s steep learning curve. Those serious practitioners of film photography will still be dealing with lots of learning. However, quality film cameras, and quality film processing equipment is cheap and the required processing and printing equipment can easily be found languishing at garage sales. I think one needs to search out the best film equipment in the same way as the best digital hardware.

I don’t use, or even think about, film much, but in the last two weeks I have had several conversations with different young photographers that are making images with film cameras and starting to accumulate the equipment to process film and print pictures.  I will admit I enjoy talking about all that. I liked film cameras and same as with today’s photographers, I thought about and researched those cameras in my quest for what would fit my needs the best.

On the subject of using film photography and digital photography, this week has also found me reproducing a client’s very old photographs. (some easily over 100 years old) I photographed each image, loaded them into my computer, then using PhotoShop corrected the fading and discoloration, added contrast, retouched cracks, and finally sharpened and saved them on a CD.  Most photographs were over 40 years old will start to fade soon, if they haven’t already. And those boxes of family history may be lost as people move them to damp basements or garages when additional space is needed.

Making a quality digital image from the negatives or slides of those wonderful old family photographs and saving it on a space saving CD is ideal.  As I mentioned these two mediums work just fine together and a matching print can be made it the future.

I welcome the chance to exchange thoughts with those photographers who are using film in this day of digital technology. Many see it as a “retro” kind of thing, but maybe it’s not that at all. Including film in the creative and artistic process of photography is just one more factor in the continuing evolution of this exciting medium.

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

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