I ask this question in response to a question often asked of me, why film? Well, why not film? I thought about this today as we drove up into the mountains to do a little shooting, and yes, I was shooting film. I’m working on my Second Amendment project, and I have elected to do this entire project on 2 ¼” square format because I love the symmetry of the square. And, while out and about, I thought about my answer to the question, why film?
I love the process, especially the thought process that I go through. I have to decide what format to shoot, whether I choose 35mm, medium format (and for me, that can range from 645 to 6×9), or 4×5 large format. I have to decide on black and white or color film, or both. Black and white usually wins. I have to decide on the film of choice, and what ISO I need for the type of shooting I’ll be doing. I then think beyond the camera and into the darkroom. What developer do I want to use with this film, and from there, determine my process to the final print stages. It is all very hands on. The word tactile comes to mind often when I describe to others why I like the film process. I also still love some of the simplest things.
I love the feeling I get when I open a brand new roll of film, or box of film, especially when I tear into that foil or paper wrapper on a roll of 120 and load the magazine. I love the sound my camera makes when I click the shutter, and wind the film forward. I love the anticipation I feel when a roll of film is finished and ready for the soup. And, when I don’t immediately get into the darkroom, I love the wait! It’s like a waiting, wrapped present.
I love that feeling of opening a freshly developed tank after the fixer to see the images on the spool, or floating in the tray. I can never wait; I turn the light on just when I know I’ve been in the fixer long enough. To have that level of excitement for images today, that anticipation, seems a little antiquated in and of itself since we are in an era of immediate and instant gratification.
One of my favorite photographers describes it so beautifully. In an interview with Jerry Uelsmann, he describes the following quote from his book, Other Realities.
“I am sympathetic to the current digital revolution and excited by the visual options created by the computer. However, I feel my creative process remains intrinsically linked to the alchemy of the darkroom.”
He says, “I see the incredible options that Photoshop provides. But the bottom line is the technique has to fit with ideas and images. I fell in love with the alchemy of the photographic process and to this day, watching that print come up in the developer is magic for me. I still find it a wonderful, challenging experience. It’s also a kind of personal therapy for me just to engage in that process.”
Magic? Yes! Therapy? Yes! I couldn’t agree more, and I, too, fell in love with the alchemy of the photographic process, and that is probably why I love to teach the history of this medium as much as I love to shoot film.
Here is a look at another Second Amendment image. I’ve added a new portfolio on my website, and I will be loading images over the next couple months. That is, of course, once the film has been through the soup!
“There are no uninteresting things. There are just uninterested people.” – Jerry Uelsmann