The binary 0s and 1s of MP3s and JPGs are my currency as a music blogger and photographer. Despite that, recent years have found me discovering the joys of analog technologies, which seem to defy the insistence on faster, smaller, more. Inheriting a 40-year-old viewfinder camera that belonged to my late father (which I never knew he owned) introduced me to film photography, from cheap plastic toys to complex mechanical and optical wonders. Just as younger generations are buying their music on vinyl, it’s not only nostalgic aging photographers who refuse to give up their emulsions. It’s anyone who can appreciate the distinctive and still undigitizable character of the medium.
Frank Yang has been blogging about music for over eight years at chromewaves.net and incessantly photographs bands, cats and foreign places. He also hangs out on eBay buying more film bodies he certainly doesn’t need. Follow him @fyang
Frank’s five links
Explaining the appeal of film quickly leaves the realm of quantitative argument and turns into an exercise in qualitative appeal. And therein lies the appeal–there’s a feel intrinsic to the medium that you can’t necessarily explain, but it is undeniable. San Diego photographer Robert Benson surveyed a number of professional photographers about the appeal of film versus digital and the reality of working with it in today’s marketplace.
Part of the fun of immersing yourself in a niche interest is discovering communities of like-minded folk, either in meatspace or online. In addition to spending too much time in countless film-centric Flickr groups, I’ve recently found the Feeling Negative blog. Based in the UK and dedicated to film photography, it covers all topics–from technical to inspirational–in a conversational tone, and makes you feel less like a Luddite for your interest.
Film fetishism extends beyond the images it creates to the hardware itself. Tokyo Camera Style is a blog that collects pictures of analog photography enthusiasts on the streets of Tokyo, with their picture-making treasures. Where a digital camera can look impossibly dated just a couple of years after manufacture, some of these exemplars of engineering are still making incredible images after decades of use–and looking sexy doing it.
Though film refuses to die–and in some quarters is even making a comeback–there are still casualties. Kodak’s beloved Kodachrome slide film, made famous by Paul Simon and the vivid images it produced, went out of production in 2009 and the last of the developing chemicals ran out at the end of 2010. The Globe & Mail pays tribute to the passing of a photographic icon.
You’d think a program that makes cellphone photos–often of dubious quality under even the best circumstances–look more distressed or otherwise crappy would have limited appeal, but the Hipstamatic app for iPhone has become one of the most popular for the device. And while it’s disappointing that the poignant backstory appears to be just marketing fiction, its success as a gateway drug into the world of analog for digital kids is undeniable.