Why Film?

I wanted to take some time to write about film, about how I feel about it. Its easy to just say that I like it. Sometimes language doesn't suffice. I want to tell you what is it about film, or analog photography, that makes me enthralled.

Imagine yourself in an empty room. Four walls, two windows on one side. Dark wood panels surround you, three walls painted in an ocher yellow, the floors a red mahogany. Look up in your mind's eye, notice that the ceiling is absent, just wooden trusses and the panels that keep the rooftop. There's a warmth that seems to envelop the space, lit in a haze. You walk toward the window to your left and look out; you see a yellow tree.

You breathe slowly. One. Inhale. Two. Exhale. Vapors cloud before your head. Without a thought, you turn to your right and step outside of the room and look out. The wood creaks beneath your feet. You stop before the four steps that led you away from this lonesome cabin. It is the afternoon, the light passes through the trees. You breathe.

Light Through Trees

This is how I feel when I look at this image. Maybe it takes a certain kind of imagination, but the idea is there.

An image to me is a captured moment; whether it may be a painting or a photograph, these moments have a quality to them. Within every image, intrinsically, there's an idea. A wisp of thought, like smoke. Each image could tell some sort of story, or provoke an emotion. Being able to capture these moments have always been a hope for many. I think of this as I compose a photograph, or as a painter laying paint, that what is happening in my mind is a moment that is faster than the reality where my body resides. As I take a photograph, or gently hold a brush and paint, I'm making an impression of this moment in my mind.

There's a certain quality to these ideas because of meaning. The intentions behind it. I do believe that it is true that one could capture an image, a good image. With the proper tool, the right light.. anyone could capture a good image. But what makes an great image, in my opinion, is the meaning behind it and the thoughts or emotions it inspires within me.

The medium used to render such images is important. The fidelity of the idea counts on it. Film, like other analog technologies is somewhat romantic in this sense. Silver is sensitized through a chemical process and is prepared onto a cotton laden gelatinous sheet in complete darkness; where the next moment it should ever see light is when you've released a shutter and exposed it. The silver reacts to the light and moves in an organic manner. It goes through another process to erode the “tagged” silver, and fix the silver that should remain on the film, forming a negative. A process so similar to its earliest conception. Its a faithful process that has a distinct character to it... and each film is different. Its not even a perfect process, and its become somewhat of a novelty

Film has a quality to the images it's able to capture. There's not just grain, but also some form of dimension to the image. I like to think of a similar relationship between sound and a vinyl record. Vinyl reproduces sound so well (given the appropriate environment and speakers) that it has a warmth and seemingly natural tone to it. When I listen to music on it when I get the chance, I feel as though I'm hearing what the artist meant when he or she strummed that chord, or sang in such a way. When I look at silver gelatin prints, or glass plate positives, or even chromogenic print, I feel the same way. I hear these analog processes whisper an idea in a wisp, like smoke, welcoming me to understand them. Without a medium to be faithful to the image, I feel as though the meaning could be lessened or even lost. The analog process is still the best way to capture an image photographically.

I am not against digital photography at all. I just find that photography doesn't progress in the ease of doing it, but the quality of mind and medium used to bind it.


  1. Great little story you wrote there within the headier stuff :) I like to think that story writing captures a "moment" or "moments" in time in a similar way that photography does how you describe it. Perhaps that is how all art is--a capturing of moments in time, and displayed for all to see the reality for what it is.

    Great post, mate!

  2. That should say, "...and displayed for all to see reality for what it is."


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