“The Reader.” Leica M240. 50mm Noctilux. and “The Ghost of Gjelina.” Leica M240. 50mm Noctilux. March 8, 2015
Film Is Not Dead.
Every day, somewhere, there’s a hashtag, a blog post or it’s just somebody’s screen name. Film is not dead. I listened to a speech the other day from a well-known photographer - he attempted to describe how digital photography loses its subtlety in the bright side of the spectrum. The long shoulder, as they say. I just sat there. Like I do with the passing of every photo I see tagged with #filmisnotdead. Just sit there and wait it out. I don’t even shake my head.
Sure, sometimes I wish the world wasn’t crazy. But it is and I can’t do nothing bout that. I could explain dynamic range but it’s not really what is being discussed. When people talk about film not being dead, what they’re really saying is that they are traditionalists. That they enjoy the analog process of film photography. And that’s great. I have a record player, too. The defensive phrasing of “film is not dead,” though, I’m not for that. It seems to want to paint digital as some kind of harbinger of bad quality. Or worse - a worsening of the art of photography itself. And I reject that. On account of my bladder.
When writers started switching from typewriters to word processors, nobody mentioned in their forwards: Typewriter Ribbon is Not Dead!
See, the thing about these two shots above is that they were taken the same day. In fact, only a few minutes apart. I had just emerged from a walk street, having taken that first shot and I needed a restroom like nobody’s business. I ran into the restaurant and on the way out of the bathroom, I took the second shot.
Have you ever shot film? Have you ever tried to use low ISO film in a dark restaurant? Sure, you can switch it out. But not on a full bladder.
People want to talk about dynamic range, but they don’t want to talk about just plain range. I’m talking about a camera that can move from indoors to outdoors. I’m talking about a camera that can shoot off 5 frames a second in order to get exactly the right body position of the guy crossing the street. Hundreds of shots on one card. Low light capabilities. Maybe an articulated screen so you can shoot real low. Silent shooting. It goes on and on. And I’m not heralding this stuff simply because it’s modern - I’m speaking strictly from a guy who likes to shoot. A lot.
Digital - it’s amazing.
It’s nice to be a traditionalist, but let’s not pretend that doing a three-point turn without power steering was any kind of fun. Advancements are good. You know that deep down in your central-heated soul. These new-fangled gizmos don’t have to take away from the purity of those things we hold dear to us. And neither do we have to hold so tightly to the sanctity of something older that we end up incapable of grasping the benefits of modernity. And words matter.
My grandfather, late in his life, would answer the question, “How are you?” with a definitive, “I’m not dead.”
If you want to honor film, I’m all for it, but perhaps there is a more hopeful phrasing than “film is not dead.”