One of my favorite encounters, when out in the world taking pictures, is to hand a 1980s film camera to a stranger and ask them to photograph me. At first, they’re quite obliging. But then confusion sets in when they can’t find an LCD screen or button to tap.
“The shutter release is on the top,” I remark, “and you can look through the viewfinder just to the left of it.”
There’s a puzzled expression for a moment, then success. The first picture is recorded.
“Can you take one more, just to be sure?” I ask.
They confidently push the shutter button again, but this time no click. The bewilderment returns.
“You have to advance the film first,” I add. “Use that lever with your right thumb.”
Snap! A second frame is captured. Usually what happens next is the camera is handed back to me and the good samaritan hurries away. It will be days before I know how the pictures turned out.
You’d think, by my telling this story, that I am some kind of throwback to the analog days when rotary phones roamed the earth and televisions magically pulled transmissions from thin air with rabbit ear antennas.
But I’m not that unique.
In fact, there are thousands of active film photographers all over the world, and their numbers are anything but decreasing. They buy film fresh from the factory, carry 35mm cameras designed decades ago, and can send their exposed rolls to commercial labs for processing, or do it themselves at home.
There’s an entire industry built around this craft.
I know this because I interact with these artists on a daily basis through an online film camera shop that I run.
These folks are not old codgers trying to recapture the glory of their youth. Quite the opposite, they are often young adult women and men truly excited about the prospects of owning a restored vintage camera and creating unique images with it.
“Why bother?” you might ask. “Analog photography is difficult and unpredictable.”
To appreciate the attraction to analog, you need to understand the reaction to digital. Smartphone photography…