Ebb and Flow of Film Photography

Quick selfie with the LomoInstant

Quick selfie with the LomoInstant

Go back to the 1980s with me. My parents’ camera(s) were brought out on only the most commemorative of days. Birthdays, pageants, Christmas mornings, family reunions, weddings. Film was the means to document a moment of time.

By contrast, the current era has popularized the documentation and public sharing of everything on social media: from meals, to travel, to selfies.

The years between went something like this:

By the 1990s, film had become precious to me. I took much care in what I photographed and found great frustration when the photos I took didn’t turn out as planned. And I never knew if they’d worked until the film was used up, I’d taken them to a lab, and received my envelope of photos. Labs were readily available, and when I got my film processed, I had something tangible. A physical manifestation of a memory.

I wanted to take photography in college, and learn the ins and outs of the technical aspects. I wanted to learn how to develop and manipulate the film, but the expense of it seemed too great. Film began to decline with the availability of digital cameras. Processing my film eventually became harder to do, until the option was sending them away. The one hour drive through processing booths that were once in every grocery store parking lot were closed. It was more expense, and as a result, I had a box full of undeveloped film.

I was late in the game with digital cameras. I finally got one sometime in the early 2000s. I still had a bit of a block when it came to taking photographs. It took some time to get used to the idea of taking a hundred shots to get exactly the right one. But I did, I now have thousands of photographs on the hard drives of computers, discs, and jump drives. I've only ever held a few of them in my hands, though. Digitization has always lacked the reward of the tangible. I know I have my photographs, but I can't hold them. Digital cameras started to be unnecessary. Cellphone technology became so good that the cameras on phones were all that was needed. Late in the game again, I relented to using my cellphone for most of my photos.

Then something strange happened: 

Analog cameras began to make a comeback! There were suddenly new versions of film cameras, even instant cameras are having their day. With the help of sites like lomography.com, film is now popular again. As the popularity increases, film and cameras are even available at popular bookstores and trendy clothing stores. Poloraid film is readily available for those instant cameras that got stuck in the attic back in the 90s.

For me, it's another learning curve, and a welcome outcome that I can put on my physical wall, not just the social site "wall". I am in the process of learning to welcome what I would have previously found as a mistake. Perhaps that ray of sunshine wasn't intended as part of the composition, but isn't it interesting? I continue to learn, and hopefully come up with a meaningful way to incorporate all these available technologies into my art.

Light leaks with a pinhole camera.

Light leaks with a pinhole camera.