A few months ago I had an “ah-ha” moment when I was writing the post on Analog Efex Pro. I realized how silly it was that I was showing people how to add imperfections back to their images when they could be doing just that with a roll of film and a cheap camera. It dawned on me that we’ve reached a point where the outcome outweighed the experience. This isn’t a bash on AEP because it’s a fun program that I’ve enjoyed using. Instead, for me it's more about an awakening and recognizing that there’s something to be said for things that are truly analog. It’s about having an authentic moment with my craft and being forced to slow down. Film is a humbling process and a great equalizer that exposes your every weakness, but in the end strengthens your core.
When I was younger I developed film for our family newspaper business and frankly, I was never good at it, probably because I didn’t enjoy it. Now, 25 years later I find myself becoming fascinated with film, loving the entire process, including all the the imperfections and limitations. Much like newspapers, film is far from being in vogue, but I can’t imagine a world without either one. Organic food has seen a resurgence, as consumers have voted with their shopping carts and told manufacturers they want organic options. People are choosing slow food grown in an “old fashioned way” over quick and easy processed food. Now I can't go to a grocery store without seeing an organic section and farmer's markets are everywhere. I'm a photographer. Give me a camera and roll of film or an SD card and let me do my thing. All that I ask is that I have options. The thought of world without film and our sole reliance upon software makes me second guess my own creative path. It's time for me to start voting with my cart.
Recently while we were in Belgium I shot ten rolls of film and it was nerve wracking as hell not knowing if any of it turned out. Not only was my gratification not instant, it was weeks away! I was especially tense since I lost a complete roll earlier this summer because I mishandled my medium format film. But, in the end, it was a good learning experience that allowed me to appreciate the digital shortcuts we experience today. And more importantly, I fell in love with the imperfections and worried less about everything being “digitally” perfect. It felt authentic because it was authentic.
Going forward I'm going to take baby steps as I allow myself to disconnect from current expectations and worry more about building a stronger photographic foundation. My reintroduction to film will be slow, possibly a roll of film a month, and while the idea of a darkroom sounds like fun the reality is I might leave that process (for the time being) to those who are better equipped.
For those of you who are looking to stick your toes back in the water and dust off your film cameras, here are some great options for getting film developed. If you’re looking for one-stop-shopping, then consider thedarkroom.com. They develop, scan, and make prints. If you’re looking for high quality, individual developing and plan on scanning your own film or want drum-scanning, then talk to JR at Printlab because his work is top notch.
If you have any other questions, feel free to drop me a note on the blog.