Why I shoot Film and not Digital
“Why do you shoot film rather than digital photography?” Walk around the modern day world with a camera hanging from your wrist that was manufactured in 1939, just one year before the second World War would begin, and you too will be as familiar with this question as I. The same way I would accept and enjoy a hot coffee on winter’s first morning, I accept this question – gladly. Two words can preface my response: anxiety and ownership.
Like many other young men growing up in the past, present, and I’m sure the future too, anxiety has plagued me in my recent years. Panic attacks often stemming from having not yet learned the concept of acceptance over control, personal mortality, and the all too frequent and horribly dreaded “anxiety hangover”. But what does anxiety have anything to do with choosing film over digital photography? Everything. The digital camera gives you a level of control that 100 film cameras wrapped around your neck could not match. A photographer is like a therapist and the camera settings (aperture, shutter, and ISO) are like three crazy individuals needing your help to make their complex three way relationship goals a success (a photograph). It is not easy. With film photography you can only load one roll of film at a time, which makes your ISO a frozen variable, a constant. One less variable to think about. Now, this could all get really confusing really fast, so I’ll spare you the lifetime of details and give it to ya straight. The less you have to worry about the more present you can be, and the more natural photographing becomes. The digital camera gives the photographer the pressure to get “the perfect shot”. With the ability to immediately see your photograph, many photographers become preoccupied reviewing that frame on the digital screen, tweaking settings, snapping another frame, review, tweak, snap, and so on and so on. When your capturing the world at speeds of 1/1000th of a second, the world has moved on and your in the past. Film photography offers no fix to a fiend of instant gratification. However, once rehabbed from the necessity of instant gratification, the film camera will reward you. You will be relieved of the burdening anxiety of having to decide was that “the perfect shot” by having no other option but to simply snap and go.
Ownership. Physicality. Tangibility. You can hear about the ocean, see a photo of the ocean on the internet or in the books, but until you have felt the sand in your toes, smelt the salt in the air, listened to the waves break, and gazed far into the oceans horizon you can never know what the ocean is truly like. Film must be loaded by hand. You can run out of film. You have to develop your film in extremely aromatic chemicals. You hang your film to dry. Not a moment before all that is completed, patience is finally rewarded with imagery. An experience similar to no other. My negatives are slipped in special sleeves and filed away in binders chronologically ordered. Growing in size daily, a collection of 1000’s of moments in time accumulate that no hardware crash can ever take away from me. This physicality is completely absent in the digital process further distancing one from their own work, whether its realized or not. The ability to capture light and time seems taken for granted when there is no concern of running out of opportunity (film). This can quickly make for a “trigger-happy” finger and a hard drive full of all filler and nothing killer.
Despite my passionate love affair for film, I will confess that the digital camera in my closet is not covered in dust. The digital camera is a handy tool for me to document my silk screened canvases that are made using primarily film photographs. So its all full circle.
So why shoot more film and less digital? Because a day at the beach beats a day on the computer.