Today’s blog post comes from Bellamy Hunt, AKA Japan Camera Hunter. Be sure to check out the end of the post for a Film Friday giveaway!
Why do you love film? This is a question I get asked a lot. Maybe it is because of what I do, but people always seem to want to hear a different answer. But in reality, there is no special answer other than the one that I always have felt. Let me try and explain it to you.
I can vividly remember my first forays into photography, when I was a very small boy and I had a Kodak Instamatic camera which my mother gave me. I didn’t really have the first idea of what I was doing, but I enjoyed doing it, taking pictures.
As I got older my enjoyment of photography grew. I studied the process at college, I worked professionally in a studio using film, I did events and tons of personal projects using film. Which is what we all did, as there was no other way.
When digital came on to the scene I thought it was a godsend. I could spend more time taking pictures, and I could edit the ones I didn’t like. But all was not good in happy valley. Whilst I enjoyed the convenience and the speed of using a digital camera, I found the images lacking something…they were too clinical. I also found myself becoming lazy, slipping. I would spray and pray, and continuously chimp to check images. This was not what I had trained to do, I should have been trusting my skills.
So, I made the decision to switch back to film. It wasn’t a hard decision. I was working for a camera supply company so I was no longer in need of pro digital cameras, as I could rent them if needed. I sold my digital cameras for a pittance compared to what I had paid for them less than 2 years previously. And for that pittance I was able to buy myself a film camera that I had dreamed of owning as a teenager.
For me, film gives me the opportunity to present the world as I see it, with all of the flaws and the mistakes. The world is not a perfect place and I don’t take perfect pictures. I don’t want my images to be razor sharp every single time. With digital I strived for consistency, with film I revel in the inconsistency. Film has also pushed me back into being creative again. I am more thoughtful and aware of how and why I shoot. I mentally prepare projects and compositions in my head, as I don’t want to waste film or opportunities.
Added to that I am a borderline luddite, with a dash of chemistry geek and a full dose of tactile process nerd. So film photography for me is the logical conclusion of my personality. I love the idea of allowing just the right amount of light to react with chemicals on a strip of plastic to create an image that is indelible. A single frame, frozen in time that will probably be around long after I am gone. Tell that to my hard drives (two of which I have lost in the last two years alone), I still have the negatives from that Kodak Instamatic.
I mentioned in previous articles too that shooting with film gives me time. Everything in the modern world is so frenetic, it seems to come at you from all directions, a bombardment of information. Running JCH takes up a huge amount of my time (not that I am complaining, I love it). But when I go out and shoot I can disconnect myself from everything for the briefest period and take the time to calm down and enjoy the little things. Watching people, human comedy and the barely contained chaos that is a big city. I have no rush to see my images, no sense of urgency for a result. I don’t need to feel validation by running home and uploading 150 images to Flickr or whatever. This gives me a sense of balance. Getting my negatives back and checking them is something I can do on a quiet evening with a nice cup of tea on standby.
But it is not just that. It is the look. Sure you can get filters and plugins now so that you can make your digital images look like a certain emulsion, but it is just not the same as the real thing. Because the real thing comes out that way, without having to change anything. And this is not about the megapixels or resolution or whatever. This is about the imperfect nature that is film. The slight uncertainty and the unique minute imperfections that make it such a pleasure to use.
So why do I love film? Because film is like love itself. It is imperfect, irrational, sometimes frustrating and almost impossible to rationalize, but when it works it feels fantastic and keeps me coming back for more.
My favourite Kodak film? There is a constant, which has been a film I have come back to over and over again, that one is Tri-X. It is so perfectly balanced and easy to use, you just cannot fail with a roll of tri-x. I hope it lives forever.