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March 4th, 2010

This Year in Photography: Film makes a comeback

Posted by Clark Patrick

Clark Patrick is one of those photographers who I immediately fell into a 3-hour conversation with the first time we met. He’s young and smart and passionate and has very strong ideas about everything — especially photography, as you’ll see below. Tired of looking at the year behind us, Clark conceived a series of posts on where photography would go in the next year. First up: All about film.

Here and below: Some favorite film images by Clark Patrick.

We all know that over the last few years digital photography has grown by leaps and bounds. Digital image quality is getting better almost exponentially and computer editing tools are getting easier and faster for professionals and non-professionals alike.

What I would like to argue, however, is that analog, film-based forms of photography will make a huge comeback in the very near future — in fact, it’s already happening.

In 2007 Kodak conducted a survey of 9,000 professional photographers asking them if they still used film. Over 75% of those surveyed responded with a ‘yes’.

More recently, San Diego-based commercial shooter Robert Benson took a small survey of fellow professional shooters, asking who still uses film and for what purposes. The answers highlight why film is still an important choice for professionals.

In this interview Brian Finke says, “I almost exclusively shoot film … I get the, WOW, reaction when I pull the first Polaroid and everyone on set sees I’m shooting film. I am instantly seen as an art photographer…” I love Bryce Duffy’s explanation of how film differs from digital. He says, “It’s like listening to a vinyl record on a turntable through a Macintosh tube amp through good speakers versus listening to a high quality MP3 on your iPod through a pair of expensive speakers.”

©Clark Patrick

Everybody’s Favorite Crappy Camera

To further understand why film will remain a serious force within the future of the photo industry, take a look at the skyrocketing popularity of the Holga film camera. In the past few years, websites like Lomography have made this camera a must-have for many hip young aspiring artists as well as established shooters reconnecting with their roots.

The Holga is also, arguably, the worst film camera ever made. It is made of cheap plastic, the lens is plastic, it only allows for minimal focusing control, its poor design and construction allows light to leak onto the unexposed film, and it almost requires modification to work. It’s like a little handheld photographic chaos creator. And in this way it epitomizes the best aspect of ‘analog’ imagemaking: You never really know what you’re going to get.

Plus, since the camera is so inexpensive, people also love modifying it and creating their own new cameras to further their own specific creative visions – on film. That whole idea is even at the core of the Lomographic Society’s 10 Golden Rules.

I feel the rise in digital photography has actually inspired many shooters to go back to using film, especially with simple cameras like the Holga. And there will be further digital backlash instigated by younger photographers who reject many aspects of the current digital world. These are the same types of people who will take down their on-line social network profiles, start handwriting letters, and block text messaging from their cell phones (or get ride of them altogether). These artists are the future analog creators. Growing up in a digital world, they have a fresh way to look at what the analog world means.

©Clark Patrick

Give Me Polaroid or Give Me Death

More proof that film still matters can be found in the public’s response to Polaroid’s announcement that it would cancel its instant film lines in 2008. Save Polaroid was formed immediately and there was a massive response on Flickr from photographers all over the world. I personally received at least 10 e-mails from professional photographers the day it was announced.

The Save Polaroid movement was so strong, it inspired The Impossible Project, which lobbied to bring the instant film back. The Impossible Project has now taken over one of Polaroid’s former production plants and is set to release a black-and-white version of instant film within the next month. I’m excited to hear that 8×10 instant film might be back this year as well. You can watch a great video about all of it here. (Dave, I dig that hat and beard combo.)

In case you missed that timeline, Polaroid instant film production was canceled, production plants were disassembled, then they were brought back to life by a very dedicated fan base less than 18 months later. After that, let’s just say I’ve got a lot more faith in the instant film business than I do in the auto industry.

As a little aside, I’d like to remind you all the Fuji did not stop production of their instant film lines when Polaroid did and is still making various lines of instant film.

©Clark Patrick

Art School Kids Grow Up Fast

As a professional you might be yelling at me through your computer something like, “Clark, that’s great that a bunch of hipster kids love playing with a Chinese toy camera and crying about Polaroid cutting off their fun instant pics, but come on, there is no serious market for this type of imagery in the commercial agency environment…” Although that may be true right now for agency work in general — I believe there is potential for its growth in the near future.

Here’s why: I personally know one under-30 commercial shooter who was commissioned for a fairly substantial agency assignment last year using a Holga and/or other types of Lomo cameras, specifically for that ‘look.’ And guess how old the art director was who wanted that ‘look.’ 24.

Film has a potentially big place in the commercial world because those fore-mentioned hipster kids are in art schools all over the country right now and in a few years they will be the art directors and creative directors hiring professional photographers. And they will want to see something else, something interesting to them, including something that isn’t digital. Obviously, digital isn’t going anywhere and will continue to grow and develop as the technology changes, but film is already on its way back.

A New Film Future

One major barrier I’m sure someone would bring up if I didn’t is the processing costs associated with film. In many ways, that was a huge part of film’s downfall in the first place as digital technologies became the cheaper option. My thought on this point is fairly simple. The use of film within the future of our industry will come back as a stylistic choice as opposed to a price-point choice. If a given shooter has a film look, he or she will be able to use film and the client will pay for it.

I also think photographers today can use much less film they did before digital options were available. It is possible to do a whole shoot using only a single sheet of film. Plus, there are always digital tools to back up your film shoots in case that one sheet doesn’t turn out. Part of the reason professional shooters used so much film before digital was because there was no back up. It had to be right on at least one piece of film.

The way I see it, film will come back strong before it even gets a chance to go out of style — just like ’80s fashion. Plus, I’m sure Terry Richardson will be partying with a junky 35mm camera somewhere for the rest of his life. As long as he is kickin’ it, we can all … keep on rockin’ in the film world!

What are your thoughts on the use of film in the professional photo world of the future?

Post comments here or feel free to send me an e-mail: revolution@clarkpatrick.com. Want to be friends? Sweet! Find me on Facebook, Twitter, or talk smack about my portfolio here.


22 Comments

  1. March 4th, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Keep Your Film Skills Fresh? - MNdigitechs.org | Blog

    [...] This Year in Photography: Film makes a comeback This entry was written by Nate, posted on March 4, 2010 at 11:57 am, filed under General and tagged film, future. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. « PS3Cluster Guide: By The Cluster Workshop [...]

  2. March 4th, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Todd Hafermann

    Will film make a come-back? Of course it will… Only not like before. It will be and still is a tool, much like all of the other options we have as photographers…Am I going to go out a buy back all my film gear? No thank-you… Will I ever forget the “open up 1/3 from a good type 55 polaroid for your normal” Nope! Its a “look” digital is a “look” too. Film does have its disadvantages in time and costs…. It probably won’t be cost effective for the majority of jobs but for those occasional A++ jobs where you get to play “artist” YES! bring it.

    On a final note… Does anyone out there remember Arron Jones and the Hosemaster? How bout the Turbo Filter?

    Heh, heh,heh.

  3. March 5th, 2010 at 5:16 am

    anoon

    Terry is all digi now… D3 and on camera flash.

  4. March 5th, 2010 at 2:43 am

    Polaroid One600 Classic Instant Camera | Digital Answer

    [...] This Year in Photography: Film makes a comeback | RESOLVE — the liveBooks photo blog [...]

  5. March 7th, 2010 at 8:29 am

    "Dual Photography" Able To Look Around Corners | ModernPhotography.info

    [...] This Year in Photography: Film makes a comeback | RESOLVE — the … [...]

  6. March 7th, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Jeremy Wade Shockley

    As a true lover of film, prints, and all things tangible…I found this to be a very good read. I too have thought the same, that simply shooting film of any kind ten years down the road will become a market, or style unto itself.

    My Pentax K1000 with it's wonderfully fast primes lenses is simply waiting for a call to action…and yes it is cost prohibitive to knockabout with film these days..and still produce the digi files as a final product for consumption…..

    …so yes- perhaps future clients will be willing to foot this bill!

    Cheers, Jeremy

  7. March 7th, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    liveon35mm

    Being one of the few if not the last shooting live music only on film I can only hope all of this is true!!
    http://liveon35mm.com

  8. March 9th, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    clark patrick

    Thanks for the comments! Greg, I dig your website.

  9. March 10th, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    matt haines

    Yay, film! I must admit to shooting it only because it's fun. Sort of like a vacation from digital. My professional work is 95% digital…but sometimes I'll shoot some film on the shoot anyway, and then sneak those images into the proof set as well.

  10. March 24th, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    BLOG . JAY FRAM › Is Film Making a Comeback?

    [...] post about the resurgence of film on the Resolve blog, HERE. I don’t know about a “comeback” though. I’d take that with a grain of [...]

  11. March 24th, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Film, the Next Big Thing? « Photo This

    [...] First, from the awesome Resolve, This year in Photography: Film Makes a Comeback: [...]

  12. June 30th, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    Discussion on the resurgence of film in photography | Bradford Smith Photography

    [...] Highly rec­om­mended read­ing if you are weigh­ing up the ben­e­fits of film vs dig­i­tal: This Year in Pho­tog­ra­phy: Film makes a comebac Filed Under: Notes Tagged With: Recommended ViewingAbout BradThis is the personal blog and [...]

  13. November 20th, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Thoughts on the Future of Film / The Photo Jedi

    [...] is a blog post I wrote originally for the Livebooks Resolve Blog on March 4th 2010.  I had started a conversation with Miki Johnson about how so many negative [...]

  14. December 7th, 2010 at 12:12 am

    All things Photography | Goodwill's Thrifting and Green Living Blog

    [...] Taking pictures is as ubiquitous as eating lunch – many people do it every day, whether at family gatherings, events, or for blog posts.  While digital photo taking has revolutionized photography, it has taken away that feeling of anticipation we used to have when we dropped off our photos for developing.  Many photographers still use film photography and it is actually making a bit of a comeback. [...]

  15. December 25th, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Richard Mendales

    I’m not sure why everyone describes film photography as more expensive. While that may be true for some people such as photojournalists, if you’re doing landscape or architectural work, and carefully visualize each shot before you take it, it’s a lot cheaper to use film, especially if you’re trying to get the high quality that MF or LF will give you. If you think of the high cost of good-quality digital equipment, including software and storage, and the frequent need for upgrades, it comes to a lot more than taking a few well-composed shots at a time on film.

  16. January 1st, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Discussion on the resurgence of film in photography | Bradford Smith

    [...] A wonderful read about the resurgence of film in the coming year 2011. Highly recommended reading if you are weighing up the benefits of film vs digital: This Year in Photography: Film makes a comeback [...]

  17. January 5th, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    John Gessner

    That is fantastic! Altough when I moved from NY I quickly found a good lab that runs E6 and C41 everyday so I have had film in my workflow uninterupted. The new Kodak Ektar 100 is amazing. Thanks to Fuji I can still check lighting when shooting 4 x 5.

  18. September 22nd, 2011 at 4:57 am

    wedding photographer manchester

    It’s the aesthetic of film thats missed. There are so many plugins trying to emulate the look and feel of film that its popularity in that respect never went away. For me anyway.

    Pete

  19. September 24th, 2011 at 8:19 am

    New Film Camera | The Blue Pixel

    [...] new indie 35mm digital film camera // Tenniswood BlogSuper 8: Vintage Film Camera For iPhone!This Year in Photography: Film makes a comeback #content-body,x:-moz-any-link{float:left;margin-right:28px;}#content-body, x:-moz-any-link, [...]

  20. January 1st, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Tony

    I shoot 120 film and have all but left digital behind. I am not a professional photographer and have never shot commercially.
    I find amusing to read that film photography has been ‘relegated’ to art.
    I always thought that photography was an art and those that took photographs were, in some way, creating memories for themselves and for us to enjoy.

  21. January 12th, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    les wollam

    i had thought that polaroid instant film had died completely, until in guadalajara mexico, i saw street photographers (not in the sense we use the term – but photographers who wander the plazas offering to sell photos to the tourists) shooting polaroid cameras. i had no idea where they were getting the film, until they showed my their fuji film packs. nice to know about them
    thanks for the article
    Dallas Photographer Les Wollam

  22. February 12th, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    The Anthropology of Technology: Film Photography | alex beaudin.

    […] When I use it, it seems so much less obsolete. It even seems relevant.  That’s why I found this article very interesting. Instead of looking at what had happened in the previous year with film […]

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