Recently, I decided to play with a new camera. New to me at least. In fact the camera is about as old, maybe a little older than me. But old’s relative right? Here are some of my favourites from the first roll of black and white (Kodak 400 TX negative film) I shot. The camera is an Olympus 35 SP, a 42mm F 1.17 fixed lens rangefinder. Other than some cropping and resizing for transmitting in the blogosphere I have not altered the scans in any other way. Looking at the shots it feels like time travel.
What do you think? Do you like film? Do you care whether it’s still used? Does it feel more authentic, or simply nostalgic? Is it like using a typewriter to compose an email? There are more and more people using smart phones to create stunning images, but I have a prejudice — which doesn’t necessarily serve me — against using smart phones, despite the fact that even the National Geographic photographers I admire are using such devices as part of their storytelling kit. Perhaps it’s the fact the fact that I find myself squinting and frowning at screens all too often. Digital media has done more PR for analogue tech than anything else. In any case I enjoyed this little test and am already considering how I put film back to work in my projects more often.
Personally I enjoy the lustre, the grain of film. It has a moody, wistful appeal. I refuse to use words like better as its charms are qualitative rather than quantitative. Philosophically, I don’t believe in either-or situations, especially when we can regard the merits of both. I do think digital can take some photography too far in the direction of megapixel clarity at the expense of feeling. Yet digital workflow is here to stay and it has also improved storytelling capabilities immensely, while there is a mystery and vagueness to film which makes its use appealing especially for art and portraits. Do the good old ways bring back the good old days? All I can say for certain is it’s fun. That alone makes it a worthwhile medium, and introduces some much needed anticipation back to a world of Instagram-gratification. Let’s see what develops.