A List of Reasons to Pick Up a Film Camera

John Crane has many reasons for sticking with film during his career, but this is one of my favorites:

"I spend so much time in front of the computer that when the time comes to get away and enjoy photography – the last thing I want to do is pick up another computer."

That's a new one to me and I love it. His photos are wonderful too.

I've been dipping my toes back into analog photography for a year or two now. It's more than a nostalgia trip. Forcing your brain to think more about what you're shooting really helps.

And it's fun. Who says this can't be about fun? Unless you're a pro, fun is the only reason you ever need to justify using film.


Back to School

My wife got a new job at a college. I'm taking advantage of the situation to go back and re-take several photography classes with a discount. It's been 20 years since I've taken a college-level photography course.

I'm excited by the prospect of having a beginner's mind again. Maybe I'll argue a bit with the professor, but I did that the first time around as well. Right, Monte?

The point is, we all could benefit from a beginner's mindset. I may have devoted most of my life to writing and photography, but what could be possible if I walk into a classroom dropping all my assumptions? Could I be the student with the most to learn?

I think it's a worthwhile experiment.

If I walked around life in general with that attitude, I'd bet I get more out of every experience. 

As an aside, the only thing that has lessened my enthusiasm for this experiment is the equipment required for the classes: an SLR and a tripod. I sold all of that stuff around 2009. As my recent writing has shown, I hold no grudges against such gear, just the lack of creativity they tend to foster in me. Everyone has a different constraint-happiness level. Mine is somewhere between the iPhone and rangefinder fixed-lens film cameras.

So, I picked up an entry-level SLR and tripod to meet the minimum requirements. I'm really trying to like the experience. I'm practicing. But everything I've produced so far has only confirmed what's already in the book. Constraints work.

Why Choose Film in 2016?

It's rare that a pro-analogue article gets beyond nostalgia, but European CEO gets it right in their post Film Photography Makes a Stunning Comeback (via David Sax):

"'Necessity is the mother of invention; there is no point staring at the back of a film camera after taking a shot – that time and energy is already going into the next one. Not knowing immediately what has been captured is a creative advantage', said Walter Rothwell, a professional photographer who regularly uses analogue cameras for his work."
Rothwell is not alone is this view, as more and more professional photographers are choosing film for similar reasons. This is particularly apparent in the world of fashion, as photographers seek to take back control of a creative process that is falling ever further into the hands of editors. 

Hollywood Directors have made a similar argument in wrestling back control of filmmaking from high-paid actors who want to review the scene they just acted in to determine if it works best for them (not necessarily the movie).

Another part of the article that stood out:

"For related reasons, the Hasselblad Xpan, a panoramic film camera, is one of Rothwell’s favourites for personal work. 'The Xpan was a unique moment of madness from a large manufacturer; a comparatively small panoramic camera that shoots across two frames, producing very high quality negatives. Around 10 years ago, I noticed that I was ‘seeing’ panoramic photos, so I got the camera to answer a yen.' Rothwell’s panoramic street photography has earned him international acclaim, and while it would certainly be possible to use the panoramic mode on a digital camera or phone to replicate the effect, there is something about the lack of choice that lends his shots a unique feel. To stitch together a panorama from digital images with would not give the same results in terms of artistic impression, though the scene may be the same."

I cannot rationally explain my desire for the Xpan and Xpan II. They remain two of maybe a handful of cameras I still lust after (even after my A Lesser Photographer experiment) for the very reason stated above. I see in panoramas, but digital cameras have never offered a great way of capturing that vision.

The rest of the article offers the same arguments I've made here for years about the lack of an archival digital medium and the fact that most of our modern photos will probably disappear in short order. There may never be another Vivien Maier to discover.

I dare you to read the article and not fall in love with analogue again (if only for a few minutes).

“Mobile” Photography Doesn’t Matter

Neither does DSLR or any other form of modern photography. Photography technology will progress in ways we can’t foresee.

But it will progress.

Today’s top-of-the-line camera is tomorrow’s relic. Today’s most popular camera (the iPhone) is also tomorrow’s relic. All images from today will be seen in the light of advances we can’t imagine and it will happen in 20 years instead of 50.

The future of photography technology can’t matter to you now. What matters is the story. What matters is the subject. That’s all that will survive this era.


From the A Lesser Photographer Newsletter.

This Week’s Newsletter

The Best Thing You Can Do When Launching an Idea
“Constraints are a control mechanism buffering against the nature of how ideas work. Ideas like to go on forever, like the party guest who has endless stories to share with you, standing between you and the appetizers.” Absolutely. This was not written with photographers in mind, but applies perfectly. 

The Most Photographed Generation Will Have No Pictures in 10 Years
“I guess it wasn’t that important then. Digital was cheap. Cameras were everywhere. It just didn’t seem that important.” Mike Yost tackles a topic we have in the past. He says printing is crucial. I would add that printing books of your photos is crucial as well (not to mention easy and inexpensive). (via Craft & Vision)

Stop Thinking, Start Feeling
“There is no right and wrong way to photograph. There is only your way to shoot and the other ways.”

What is the Role of the Digital-Age Arts Critic?
“Anxiety about arts journalism and its struggle to adapt to the digital world hasn’t abated. The inherent subjectiveness of music, film, and literature encourages anyone with a blog or Twitter handle to play critic, drowning out once-authoritative voices.” Gatekeepers gonna gatekeep. Or at least convince themselves there’s still a way. (via Andy Adams)

How to Spot and Combat Anti-Free Speech Tropes
As a writer and photographer, I believe free speech is at the core of art and progress in civilization. It’s shocking how anti-free speech “free” societies have become. Writer Ken White compiled a list of lies we’re told in the U.S. about free speech and how to combat them.

David DuChemin Offers Mentoring Service
What a great idea. As a hardened amateur, I’m free to reject anyone’s critiques. But, if I wanted to get a photo business going or learn something specific from someone who’s been there (saving countless hours online and in a library), this is the way I’d do it. The summer sessions are sold out, but he may offer more in the near future.

This article and a list of interesting links appeared in the weekly A Lesser Photographer newsletter. Subscribe here.

Give Your Camera to Your Kid

“They don’t care about the perfect shot, nor do they wait for it. They have no clue what the ‘rules’ are. Everything is interesting to them and worthy of being shot — especially what’s happening right now. They bring true meaning to the spirit of ‘point and shoot’.”

Sounds like something that should apply to adults as well.

Police Body Cameras Work

The San Diego Police Department started using body cameras on their officers and the results are dramatic:

“Complaints have fallen 40.5% and use of ‘personal body’ force by officers has been reduced by 46.5% and use of pepper spray by 30.5%.”

Years of arresting photographers for documenting police activity seems insane now.

Just like any in any occupation, there are great cops and bad cops. The great cops know cameras can be a force for good in the right context.

It’s time for cameras on every police officer.

Are You Getting the Most Out of Photography?

Guy Tal can change your entire attitude towards your role in photography. This is a great paragraph: