Why Film Photography Will Never Die
Over the past few months, I’ve found a new way of creating. I've been taking photos since I got my first camera phone (I was lucky enough to be one of the last generations to have tactile buttons to dial and text), but never with much thought – similar to almost everyone in today's day and age. Photography has been made into an easy, convenient part of normal life ever since they put a camera in a phone.
The last couple of years have been good practice. Visual storytelling has always been my way of creating, whether it be through videos or photos. With filmmaking being the highest form of visual storytelling, I decided to try to get into film school. Luckily, I am lucky and I got in. I got to watch, read, write, and make films for an expensive education. It was all I could have ever asked for.
I've made a multitude of different types of visual stories, whether they be more internet-driven or narrative-driven. I've been on some of the largest movie sets to ever exist and have seen masters at work. My biggest impression after seeing that world is that I am not anywhere close to being ready to exist in it.
I need practice. I need to create my vision before I attempt to embark on something of that scale. For that reason, I dedicated myself to becoming a photographer. Henri Cartier Bresson broke down what it means to be a photographer by comparing the different arts. "Movies tell a story visually. Photography is an immediate reaction, drawing a meditation." Learning that reaction is important. I have to develop an instinct to know exactly what I'm looking for so that I can then create my vision. And that development starts with photography.
Filmmaking and photography are different forms of art, but I have great interest and goals in both. There's a great quote about being good at multiple things. "A jack of all trades is a master of none but oftentimes better than a master of one." The master of none portion was added to make it more of an insult to not become a specialist. The quote has a long history of being used in many different ways, but I think the version I put is most accurate. Being a master at one thing is very impressive and useful, but it is certainly not a characterization a great director would want to have. A director must be able to see and understand everything and then narrow it into a vision, and visuals are a large part of that.
The problem was that my previous version of taking photos wasn’t enough. I needed to find a way to make photography harder. The ease of digital hindered my ability to master that instinct. Being able to make unlimited mistakes and still get a decent photo wasn’t making me a better photographer.
I decided to dip my toes into the old world of... analog. Taking away the benefits of digital photography just might be the greatest decision I have ever made. Film photography ups the stakes; you only get one chance at making that picture. Film photography forces you to make an image rather than just taking one. Roland Barthes’ photo theory book, Camera Lucida, remarks that, "what the Photograph reproduces to infinity has occurred only once: the Photograph mechanically repeats what could never be repeated existentially." This quote is referring exclusively to film photography, digital was not yet an option in Barthes’ time.
The reason digital does not entirely apply to that quote is that you can review your work immediately, despite the fact that the exact moment you captured won't ever happen again. Yes, photography is photography no matter the tool, but with digital you can attempt to remake the same image shot for shot right away (if it's a studio shoot). This is not possible with film.
My journey with analog is just starting. I've shot 7 rolls of medium format film and 8 rolls of 35mm film. I've been happy with a lot of my results thus far, but I know I have not yet come close to creating and finding my vision. But taking the step into the film photography world has gotten me much closer to it. It has forced me to think out every shot, and it has forced me to learn how to use all of the tool’s technical aspects to make an image.
This article is pretty much just a journal entry for me, but I think it helps encapsulate why I believe film photography will never die. Deep down, everyone working in photography and films knows that it will always have its place alongside digital. The pictures you've seen throughout this article have been shot on film by me.