Going Old School with Film in a Digital World

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I admit it, we live in a totally digital world. Students today have likely never seen a roll of film. There are people that I will walk by, on my way to lunch today, that have never set up a movie projector, and closed all the curtains to watch a movie, or put together a physical photo book with all the photos from a trip to the Grand Canyon. There are people reading this right now that don’t remember our phone numbers having letters and numbers. And some of you have never picked up the phone only to realize that a neighbor a mile down the road was talking, and you would have to wait until they were done to make your call. It was less expensive because shared a physical phone line with your neighbors. It was called a party line.

So why in the world would anyone want to go back to such a non-digital time? Well, maybe, it would do us all some good to slow our lives down a bit. Maybe it’s not a bad thing, from time to time, to wait. Maybe taking photos and not seeing them instantly isn’t a bad thing.

And besides the idea of slowing down our lives, so many people (me included) are building a life that depends upon a phone and/or computer. I, personally, think we’re too dependent on technology.

What would happen someday, just hypothetically, if the internet were gone? What would happen if our cell phone networks didn’t work? What would happen if you couldn’t get to all your photos and other stuff stored in the cloud? Well, hopefully that never happens because if it does we’ve likely got much larger problems than not being able to see our photos.

I was at a local photo club meeting last week, and I was surprised by the reaction from other photographers when I mentioned that I shoot film, not exclusively, but sometimes. When I mentioned it, I heard comments like, “We had someone last year come to talk about film photography”. It makes me feel a little different – but that’s OK… I like to be different.

I guess I’m recalling, from college, as an art major (another story for another day) and I was required to take art history classes, to learn about things like the history of photography. Maybe I’m “old school” but I think it’s good for an artist to understand the history of their craft. I know people don’t have time, and it’s expensive to buy film, and get it developed. It doesn’t take much to expose yourself to film though. To buy a film camera doesn’t have to be a huge expense. Many people have old film cameras in a box someplace, or know friends that do.

So, take some time to learn some of the older technologies. Things that our parents and grandparents did are fun to learn about, and experience. My dad gave me a hand-powered meat grinder – to make sausage. No electricity required! I’m anxious to make some good Italian sausage like my grandfather did!

Back on topic… I was talking about film. If you have access to an old film camera, or run across one someday, don’t be afraid to be nostalgic and give it a go. You can still buy film. There are still places to get it developed. I can’t wait to see some of your photos. And, as a bonus, when the internet goes down, you might have a small album of real photos to show people by the light of your kerosene lamp.

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