Why Film is Important to Me

Film. A word I never knew would define so much of who I am.

My life began with film, a picture of me pooping my diaper forever attached to my birth certificate. It was also the first picture of me published, being included with the rest of the newborns’ pictures from August in the Jackson Hole newspaper.

From there it was on to Kodak disposables, my moms’ camera, and eventually my own, which I earned by selling wrapping paper for my school during second grade.

Digital photography really started to take of during my last two years of high school and I ended up with a digital Pentax K100d. My film camera would come out every now and then, but my digital was my tool, my art-creating tool.

Then came my freshman year of college. I was entering a competitive photographic program at MSU-Bozeman. Our freshman year they required us to have 35mm film cameras, much to my chagrin.

I remember that first roll of film I developed. None of the pictures were that amazing, but the experience was unforgettable. Standing in a pitch-black room, unable to see an inch in front of myself, I fumbled with this roll of exposures, doing my best to correctly feed it onto the reel. Dunking my roll in chemicals with ten other students, hoping I was doing everything right. The anticipation was the most vivid part. “What do the pictures look like? Did I expose them correctly? Am I doing this right?”

In the end it all went off without a hitch. My pictures turned out fine and so on and so forth, but it’s that feeling, that curiosity of what I’ve captured on this roll. It’s only relatable to the feeling of a young child on Christmas Eve, dying to see what lies underneath the wrapping paper of all those presents under the tree.

I’ve been developing my film for four years thanks to easy access to chemicals as a student. Unfortunately those days of easy access have come to a close, as I just graduated with my BA in Film & Photography.

That doesn’t mean I’m done with film by any means. I can’t go back to digital. I just can’t. Anyone can pick up a digital camera and blast off a few shots and then throw it on their computer, adding five to ten disgusting filters, and then throw it on the internet, claiming themselves to be a photographer.

I’ve become disenchanted with digital photography. Photos are so heavily edited that nothing’s real anymore and as a documentary photographer, it sickens me. With my film, I do a couple quick color corrections, set my black and white point and I’m done. I know my photo is real and unlike digital photography, I don’t have to revamp the colors because they’re all already gorgeous.

That goes the same for all the black and white work I do. I don’t look through a bunch of photos and go “Hey! This one would look so cool in black and white!” I shoot black and white, period. Editing? Well, I dust them and set the black and white point.

And it’s the same for many other film photographers. Film is just better at capturing light. It really is. It doesn’t need fancy filters or any of that.

I’m not saying digital doesn’t have its purposes, because it does. It can capture images with great detail and has to be used in news due to the fast turnaround time.

But for personal work, or any work that really means something to me, it has to be shot in film.

Digital has just become a tool to me, while film is part of who I am.

Believe In Film.