Why film? I think the better question should be “why not film?”. I get a lot of people coming up to me and asking about the equipment that I am using while I am out and shooting with one of my many film cameras and almost always the question “can you still get film?” is asked. No, I just like walking around pretending to shoot with an empty camera. I don’t say that but I am thinking it. I find that people are interested in film and becoming bored with digital because they see it constantly. For the older people, it reminds them of better times and younger folk think of it as something different. Look at the Holga cameras and how well they are selling, I know a store here that can’t keep them on the shelves.
This is one of my favorite shots taken with a Nikon F4 camera and a 80-200 f/4 Nikkor lens down on Beale St. here in Memphis on one of my forays with a film camera. I had this one printed large 24″x36″ and it hangs in my house as a reminder of why I like film. I also donated a copy to the “Make-A-Wish” Foundation fund raiser auction and not to blow my own horn, It was the highest selling item of the entire event. Film has a mystique to it. There is an intangible quality that is hard to describe but it is there all the same. I have been shooting film for almost 30 years and I still enjoy seeing my prints for the first time after I have developed them. Even if I just take a roll or three and have them developed, the anticipation is almost palpable. Digital is kind of, meh. Don’t get me wrong, I think that they both have their place and I use a digital camera quite often, but it is just recently that I have been doing so.
There is a certain amount of knowledge that one must have when shooting film because you don’t have the immediate feedback that digital gives you. Knowing how to meter and read light is a must as well as knowing the type of film being used. A digital camera lets you shoot a scene and “chimp” to see if you captured it correctly and if not you can shoot it again but with film that luxury is not available. In one of my earlier blogs I wrote about the “Best camera, EVER”, the little Argus C3 and how it changed photography for the masses. I have several of these in-expensive cameras and I love to take them out and put a roll of film through them just for fun. “That’s the camera Colin Creevy has” was screamed at me by a very rambunctious girl about 10 or 12 as she dragged her father towards me while I was out shooting. The poor father couldn’t figure out if he was intrigued, perplexed or irritated as he examined his daughter and then the camera and back at his daughter. He was very interested in the camera and began to ask questions as we struck up a conversation between his daughters squeals of delight. “Can you still get film?” eventually emerged from his mouth, but only after he had asked some rather intelligent questions first.
Those types of reactions are reserved for my film cameras as most people tend to ignore my digital unless they want to see the picture I just took. Film has an allure. I can generally tell by looking at a print if it is a digital capture or film. Maybe it is the fact that I have been looking at film prints so long that I can judge by the grain or texture maybe even the rendering of the highlights and shadows, but I can. Film cameras and lenses are relatively cheap these days and good quality equipment can be had for next to nothing, I know, because I just bought a Yashica Lynx 5000 with a fixed 4.5cm f/1,8 lens and a dead meter for $10.00. Even with a non-functioning meter the camera still takes some phenomenally sharp pictures on good quality film. So, if you don’t already have a film camera collecting dust somewhere, go out and hit the yard sales and find one for a couple of bucks, put a roll of film in it and start shooting. Even if it has a sticky shutter and light leaks all over, mores the better because it will be challenging and create interesting images just like a Holga but for a lot less money. And if you like it, let me know. Better yet, If you live near Memphis drop me a line and I will lend you a camera and we can go shooting together. Why film? Why not?