Film didn't die with Kodak's Chapter 11
Kodak's Chapter 11 filing in 2012 was believed to spell the death of film photography. Only a few manufacturers now make film and much less of it, but celluloid appears to be making a comeback. The FT's Steve Ager investigates the resurgent interest in analogue
Produced, filmed and edited by Steve Ager on a smart phone. Final image courtesy of Matt Stuart.
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SPEAKER 1: There's a lot more emotion with shooting film. There's hope, fear, excitement, enjoyment, being upset because you didn't get the shot. With this [INAUDIBLE], it's very quick. Take it, look at it, got it, put it away. When you shoot a digital image, a lot of photographers look straight away at the back of the camera. They get their hits straight away. They're happy.
With the film and the analogue work, we couldn't wait for it to be exposed, be processed, printed, then you get the results. That's the magic of analogue photography.
SPEAKER 2: Digital's kind of ubiquitous. We all have cameras in our telephones now. They've taken some pictures. You have something new. It's like, well, what can you do with this? How does it work? The mechanical kind of thing.
SPEAKER 3: Not all the images work. In fact, it's fair to say that. Light conditions, or so many factors can cause a photo to bomb, so to speak. But there could be that one image on the roll that just hits a spot and comes out even more magical than you actually saw it with your own eyes.
SPEAKER 4: For me, the big thing is first that you can hold it. You can put it onto fridges. You have something that's in this world. The second thing is with all material alike, not the magic of the chemistry, that it turns out slightly different each time, that the chemistry adds some character to it.
SPEAKER 5: Digital is very useful and easy. It doesn't have the same look as film. And interestingly, all those philtres on Instagram, and apps like Hypstomatic, and other apps like VSCO Cam who also do things for the computer, are all about taking digital images and making them look more like film.
MATT STUART: A lot of younger people have actually started to discard digital now and are finding film photography for the first time. And their enthusiasm for the medium has grown. The digital photography, if you're 20, 30 years old, you've only ever probably known digital photography.
LIANA JOYCE: Now, lots of people have obviously smartphones, and they're using this more than, let's say, traditional cameras. I find that apps such as Hypostomatic and Instagram have actually instilled new interest in film photography, because people want to see how these effects were originally created. For example, the philtres that you're allowed to put on your images that you shoot on your phone, for example. People then are interested to know, hang on. How was this created originally?
And that's where film photography steps in.
STEVEN VALLIS: There's been dramatic changes. At one time, it's just [INAUDIBLE] film processing, you print 12 images for all of 120 or 36. Now, people shoot digital, and mostly digital, and they have one image out of a whole range of images. They picked the best one. So that's what's the hit [INAUDIBLE] industry. Rather than printing everything, you just print a selection of images.
LIANA JOYCE: The UK store subsidiary has been open since 2010. 2009, 2010. We're five years this year. And since then, we've only seen this growth. We've only seen more interest in film actually, which is, I suppose, quite surprising to some.
HEINZ BOESCH: Impossible project started out when our founder heard that Polaroid will be selling or destroying the last film factory which is still in Holland. He heard that they were going to scrap the machines, so he was a big fan, or is a big fan of Polaroid, and he wanted to save his factory and the machines and keep the film alive. So he raised the money to buy this last factory of Polaroid, and that's how their company started. So right now, we're reproducing this classical instant picture.
ALICE ROSENBAUM: Obviously, sales dropped. It's been a slow-- this happened around the time that people started properly getting into digital photography. So when professionals made that decision to put the film cameras aside and buy digital cameras-- but we always deal with colleges, who a lot of them have maintained our [INAUDIBLE]. Some of whom are now building darkrooms, so students want to learn on film.
It's going to equalise, because digital is new. So still, new things come, new things, and the different things, and upgrading, and so forth. But it's going to come into a balance at some point, where not perhaps the limit of digital technology, but this kind of a point where there's not that much innovation. It's incremental. But then the analogue stuff, or analogue technology is going to be not perhaps radically innovating. But it's going to be as an alternative to the digital mainstream.
STEVEN VALLIS: I think it would be very similar to the music industry, that's there's lots of people that enjoy LPs. And I think that will stay the same for analogue photography. I think people enjoy analogue photography. They enjoy the mystique about it. And the funny of it, people [INAUDIBLE] very expensive prints, prefer to buy an analogue print. If you look at the prices that analogue print is selling for, it's normally higher than the digital prints. So I think that they're marketing analogue prints for a long time to come.
LIANA JOYCE: Although, it's fair to say-- I'd be lying if I didn't say that obviously, a lot of people have moved on to digital, because it's possibly more convenient, a lot more cost effective. But [INAUDIBLE] has gone from strength to strength. It's 22 years old now, and we're not going anywhere. We are only releasing more products. Also, bridging the gap between digital and analogue.
We have absolutely nothing against digital obviously. For us, the future is analogue. But however, we have released a few accessories, like a premium lens range, which is the [INAUDIBLE] lens, which is for digital and film SLRs. And we also have things like for example, the film scanner, which allows you to scan your negatives straight onto your smartphone. So again, hand in hand, it's all about using both mediums to get the best result.
And I feel like we have a long way to go here.
SPEAKER 1: I think film will continue to be used. I don't ever see it being phased out. I think whether it's like us, producing their own film, or Fuji continuing to only make one film, I can't ever see black and white film being phased out, and I can't ever see a roll of colour film being phased out. I think they will always be there. They would get scarcer and scarcer. They will cost more and more, but they'll still be there.
I don't ever see it going.