I’ve been actually wondering just how long the current analog photography trend keeps going. And yes, I think it’s somewhat of a trend at the moment (but please read on). There will always be dedicated film shooters too (the nuts like us) just as there are always people doing whatever niche thing, but it still very much feels like the current state of film photography has a vibe of a passing trend.*
The common misconception is that film photography is just as easy as digital photography — or at least marginally different in terms of difficulty. The film look is cool and highly desirable. Maybe people are getting a bit bored of Instagram filters and now want the real thing, hence trying out film. Film photography is how ever far away from adding just a filter. As a photographic practise, it takes so much commitment and patience, which is something most people don’t seem to have in this day and age. The current era seem to plagued with impatience and the craving of instant gratification. These values and film photography doesn’t mix very well and I think it’s ultimately going to kill film photography as a trend, as we now know it. (Edit: Just to be a bit more clear what I mean, I’m not claiming that film photography itself is a fad, but there’s a fad revolving around it.)
The telltale signs
Let me explain why I feel this way. What are the telltale signs of an era coming to an end? Old SLR’s seemed to be the shit couple of years ago. Especially anything like Canon AE-1’s and alike. They still are, but a clear shift has started to emerge. Now point-and-shoots seem to be the shit. To be honest, I can hardly understand the appeal of a plastic 90’s point-and-shoot camera. For me it’s still mechanical all the way. Olympus MJU II has been the hottest camera in second hand markets for about a year. Following it, there’s all sorts of grandma cameras coming behind it. Why this is? What does it tell us about? I have a hypothesis. People are starting to realise how much harder film photography is and are shifting towards easier cameras that have auto-focus, auto-exposure and all the other features, that a photographer who can’t be bothered to learn manual shooting could want. I see this as a transitional phase. People return to digital after an X amount of frustration over film sweats.
It is always exciting to start out a new hobby and get enthused about something. But the honeymoon phase always goes away at some point. Now that the world has gone through it’s AE-1 phase once again, it seems like the green film shooters are drifting towards cameras that doesn’t put so much responsibility and pressure on their shoulders. After the MJU II phase, I honestly think the majority of the last remaining film newbies, has mainly gone back to digital.
I recently subscribed to a YouTube channel called Map Hopping Mac, which is (was) a film oriented channel by a guy who started film photography three months ago. In this video he explains why he is now quitting and to be completely honest, it was a disappointing to hear his arguments against film photography. It’s even more disappointing to hear someone doing such a dramatic U-turn after just few months. I don’t agree with all of his points, but what he says are of course totally legit reasons and just illustrates why film photography isn’t suitable for everybody. I think many film shooter shares his frustration. How ever, I can’t understand why there must always be such a competition between the two formats. Why it must be either this or that? I personally shoot film and digital and it has never been an all or nothing thing. But for many people it seems to be.
At the very same time there’s of course an increasing amount of enthusiasm towards film photography, which is nice, but generally it seems like the initial hype is starting to settle a bit. After that, videos just like this are surely to pop out more often. YouTube photographers love to make videos about why they switched from this to that and I’d be surprised if “why I switched from film to digital” -type of videos wouldn’t start appearing more and more often.
I hope I’m not being too negative here and I still highly recommend to shoot film. For me personally film is timeless and it’s my ultimate fantasy that film would reclaim it’s status as a mainstream photographic medium, alongside with digital.
Post script: some additional notes added to the article to make it a bit more clear that I’m not actually trying to claim that film photography itself would be a fad. Like I mentioned, I think film photography is timeless. I expressed my progress of thought maybe a bit unclearly. I was trying to express that (based on purely subjective observation) there seems to be a distinct fad revolving around the current state of film photography, that doesn’t have the mental sustainability to keep the greener shooters involved. Which is different of course than saying that the entire medium is a fad.