We are living in an age where the scrolling culture of social media has transformed the way we think of photography, infiltrating all aspects of consumer and cultural society. This current over-saturation of images, coupled with the birth of the digital age has not only revolutionized photography, but also threatened the extinction of film. However, in the midst of the whirlwind, a very distinctive moment has been generated; one of slowing down. A silent resistance has been growing amongst amateurs and professionals alike, returning to film photography in an attempt to create more meaning and depth to their images, as opposed to the 0s and 1s of the digital medium. However, there still is a tendency, particularly in the Instagram era, to romanticize shooting film – focusing on the idea of it, rather than its tactile process, which is what greatly separates digital and analog.
Shooting film forces you to rethink what you shoot and how you shoot it. Not only is the reliance on post-production processes eliminated, but so is the option of shooting hundreds of versions of the same photo and seeing it on demand. What this essentially does is center the majority of the work around the thinking and planning of the image pre-production. Composition, lighting, exposure, and overall semiotics of the image are sensitively thought through resulting in what photographers believe are much more substantial and artistic images.
That being said, the beauty of film photography does also lie in its accidental nature – its unpredictability. As thoughtful as one can be in setting up the image, a photo is ultimately one among many representations of a certain moment in reality, and the serendipity of the captured moment often crafts the perfect mistake. The difference between shooting digital and analog, here, is the dialogue of suspense. With digital photography, the room for ‘error’ is much slimmer. The surprise of colors, textures, light and the bare subtleties in film give photos more character. There is also something quite special in actually waiting for results in an age of instant gratification that makes it seem almost impractical. Both the time and work that is put in between shooting and actually viewing an image makes way for a moment of reflection, shooting film, thus, becomes a matter of slowing down. To be alone with one’s film, and one’s thoughts in a dark room, to be disciplined and patient and respect the process for what it is, presents the true magic of film photography.
It is definitely worth the mention that our very own AUB is actually in the process of building a dark room in a time when others are closing down. We have Heather O’ Brien, brilliant photographer and Assistant Professor of the Fine Arts department to thank for that. She started the initiative in an effort to give students an opportunity at a real hands-on experience with film photography, a truly essential and irreplaceable one in today’s digitized world.