I’m not a pro working for a newspaper or network with deadlines, so making pictures can be my hobby, and the best part of that is: I can opt for film.
Photo essay and article submission by: Grant Petersen -- This is TheDarkroom.com Series on "Why I Shoot Film" Share why you shoot film. Contact us.
Pros can’t, not anymore. Not with deadlines, no more in-house darkrooms, and impatient clients. There are few exceptions. Roberto Dutesco still shoots it, but the horses don’t care because they never even see the photos. Sad! If you’re in NYC, go to 64 Grand Street and see what Roberto Dutesco + film can do. (Roberto Dutesco is a film photographer of the landscapes, wildlife and horses. His Wild Horses of Sable Island has been on permanent exhibition since 2006 in Soho, New York City)
Everything starts with film, because without film, photographic processes don’t happen; there’s no chemistry, and that means—strictly speaking—it’s not photography.
Think about that. The “cameras” are just camera-shaped computers that use camera lenses. Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, Minolta, Canon, Ricoh, Rollei, Hasselblad, Voigtlander, Mamiya, Bronica, and Zeiss don’t make cameras anymore. Leica makes one or two. Lomography makes some plastic models (good for them!), and doesn’t somebody like 1000 Impossible (name may be wrong) make a Polaroid? But the camera brands of the golden ‘70s are either gone or making camera-shaped computers for fauxtography. That is fine, I’m not saying it’s not a craft and doesn’t require skill. But it’s not as much of a craft, because the gear does too much of the work for you—as did point-and-shoot film cameras in the ‘80s. But at least they were cameras. At least the results were photographs. At least the negatives, with even only barely reasonable storage, will last 200 years.
I don’t hate digital “cameras,” and can’t imagine going back to film for business uses. I just hate what digital “cameras” have done to film cameras, and I can’t forgive them for it. Also, I don’t trust any crisp and sparkling image I see anymore. (Film vs Digital – A Photo Comparison) Remember when Popular Photography magazine used to list the camera settings for every published photo? That was neat and helpful. Hey, I have that film and shutter speed and aperture on my camera! Woo-hoo! But now when I see an image perfecto, I assume there was moderate skill in the shooting and composition, and lots of mousing and clicking. If it’s a snapshot or a shot for a newspaper of refugees on a raft, OK, understood, you had to get the shot right now, digital excused. If it’s a recreational shot–sports, scenery, other—I see cheat. I know that’s bad, I know you’ll hate me for that, but I can’t get over it. Pity me and this personal curse. I don’t hate digital imagery; I just can’t warm up to it AT ALL. I know it’s great; I just cannot dig it. My bad, etc.
I like metal cameras with corners and vulcanite or leatherette, or whatever it is. The black crinkly stuff that sometimes lifts up and freaks out collectors. I have lots of cameras, but I don’t collect.
I really like, actually love, loading and advancing film.
I don’t like electronics doing that for me. I like the feel and sound of the lever. I sound dumb, like I’m trying to poeticize it, but all I mean to say is that I like it. How can I not like getting my hands on and even inside nicely made boxy machines? It’s actually heaven.
I don’t expect you to be able to relate to this, but I like the hassle and failures.
I’ve got enough automation in my life, and I don’t grow my own food. I compensate by using a camera that requires a little practice and skill.
I am totally in love with the results I get, even the lousy, blown ones.
You know, most of the actual photographs (with film!) you see are posted or printed and framed because they’re so perfect. They’re not my models. I’m happy to leave Half Dome to Adams, puddles to Bresson, and spooky Afghani woman eyes to McCurry. I never compare my private photos to theirs, because they were/are just too good.
I have a darkroom. I hate developing film—hate it!— but I love to print, and am only decent at that. Anybody reading this who hasn’t printed but gives it a sincere and conscientious effort will pass my skills on the 20th try. I’m re-doing my darkroom, and in the meantime I send in my film developing to The Darkroom and I always get back scans, which—yes, I know they’re digital—but I don’t shoot film as an homage to the ancients, so there’s no inconsistency there. I don’t feel it, anyway, and it’s my private matter. I shoot film for the process and the hassle, which I’ve already talked about loving, and the results, some of which I have here. \
These are neither my best nor worst photos. I threw out the worst negatives and scans, too depressing. Here’s just a range, with notes.