Editorial Notebook

Snapshots of the past: the resurgence of film photography

Kodak, Fujifilm, and Ilford were the giants of the analog film industry. Making billions of dollars in revenue and producing film stocks by the crate, it seemed like nothing could curb these photography dynasties. Unfortunately, even giants can be slain. With the creation of the digital camera, film was quickly left in the dust, and brands scrambled to keep up with the newfound changes. By the late 2010’s, several brands were filing for bankruptcy and on the verge of collapse. But with vintage becoming the mainstream, is the industry going to be saved?

Originally, the film industry’s target market was made up of what I would consider “nostalgic hobbyists,” with the occasional professional. Since digital cameras could produce images instantly (compared to film's long process of developing with chemicals), film seems like an impractical option for the fast paced work environments of photography. So why use it? For the same reasons people choose vinyl over CDs or streaming—the aesthetic it provides. With the rise of admiration for vintage aesthetics, the film market has grown exponentially. People of all ages are starting to get into analog film, including using it for more professional reasons, such as weddings and magazine shoots. With this growth, production companies have begun to thrive once again. Kodak, who filed for bankruptcy in 2012, has leaned fully into this development through the re-release of previously discontinued films. They have also introduced new film stocks like Kodak Gold 200 in a larger format, which previously had not been considered until the newer generation of photographers demanded it. Even production companies have started to use their film for TV and movies, such as the popular HBO show Euphoria, where the second season was filmed entirely with Kodak products. This return of film has been met with much praise, and customers of all ages have banded together to protect their beloved photography medium.

One would think with this revival that the industry faces nothing but a good future, but that is not quite the case. Because the compound of film is made with raw materials, there is a lot of potential to run out of film. This has already happened with Fujifilm, where they had to discontinue one of their most popular film stock lines due to the dwindling supply of a unique material. Alongside these material losses, prices are skyrocketing. Kodak plans to raise their film prices by an average of 17% worldwide, and they do not seem anywhere close to stopping. These prices can make it hard to keep up with film, as one also needs to consider the prices of developing and buying cameras, which have also risen exponentially compared to previous years. Since most companies have stopped producing film cameras, few quality working models exist, so finding an affordable camera is quite the feat. Prices have reached over hundreds of dollars for mostly every camera, dissuading anyone interested in getting into film due to the steep investment it demands. These prices, if they should continue to rise, will shut out a large demographic and could eventually lead to these companies losing their customers, causing a fall in demand in business they may not be able to come back from this time.

As a film enthusiast myself, I personally recommend keeping the art alive for as long as possible. While the investment is a large monetary commitment, it is worthwhile in the long run, both for developing photographic skills, and developing a love for the art of photography. Shooting on film encourages photographers to slow down, be more deliberate with their shots, and think more carefully. Unlike the instant gratification of digital photos, film only has so many shots in a roll, so one must consider the composition, lighting, and exposure before pressing the shutter. Additionally, analog film photography offers a unique aesthetic that is difficult to replicate with digital technology. Film grain, color saturation, and dynamic range are just a few of the qualities that make film photography stand out amongst the constant stream of digital content. Shooting on film allows photographers to create images with a more organic, timeless feel that cannot be replicated by computers. So if you’re looking for a new hobby, join the revival and choose film.