Originally written for Ilford Imaging by Henry Woodley (Link to original article)
Photography for me has been a largely digital affair, as a millennial growing up in a digital environment.
Throughout my childhood, I had always been around cameras and enjoyed taking digital photographs as it was a meditative process, although I may not have realised this at the time.
One of my first cameras put into my hands was my GameBoy colour camera, my dad and I would take photographs of silly, trivial things and that was enough for me
Now as I have grown older my needs have changed and I now need to deliver work within set timeframes and also in the knowledge that they are ready to be shipped anywhere in the world at the blink of an eye. So why after years of rigorous training and tens of thousands of photographs have I changed my process of taking photographs, why have I slowed down and ‘stopped to smell the roses’ as the old idiom goes?
Well to simplify my response it is because I am bored of taking digital photographs, it is too safe, too controlled and too easy. I am fed up of looking down the lens of a DSLR (even mirrorless) and simply pressing a button, anyone can take a good photograph these days. You don’t even need to know how to expose a photograph properly with the help of RAW file formats. Also who needs to even focus a lens these days? Just press another button and that is done for you too. What I am getting at is that the over-simplification of photography has taken away (for me at least) the beauty in the art of creation. As such I have found myself turning to film photography more and more over the past year and finding myself falling in love with photography once again.
So why have I decided to pack away the digital workhorse that has become my third eye? Well after much deliberation here are some of the reasons that truly make me appreciate film as a photographic medium. Although I am sure there is an endless list, I have been able to come up with 4 responses and they are as follows:
1) Being able to hold a tangible negative and see its nuances.
(There is no better feeling than taking the reel out of a developing tank to see your own creation staring back at you in all its beautiful black and white glory.)
2) With its physicality comes a sense of permanence that eludes electrical error and loss of data
(Who else worries about an electrical apocalypse where all of their lives work suddenly disappears? Well with negatives and the physical imprint they leave behind I rest a little easier at night; my negatives safely tucked away in my archival folders.)
3) Creating an imperfect but at the same time perfect image. You took the shot and captured life, not as a perfect image, but flawed. Much like reality.
(A lot of photography is learnt through trial and error, never more so than working with film. But I can tell you that sometimes those shots that may have been deleted had they been digital, are kept and cherished because of the real life that they capture. They are literally light caught in a single frame, something unrepeatable; even unfathomable.)
(In regards to this, it’s probably best that you discover it for yourself. Somethings are best left for you to discover yourself.)
So next time you go to take a photograph whether it’s a family moment or a holiday snap, pick up some black and white fil and discover the magic in creation and the art that comes with it. Don’t just fall into the monotonous, reliable trap that is digital photography; instead become your own master and shoot film!
All images ©Henry Woodley