Pages

2016/11/11

Why Can't We Let Film Die?

In the early 00s there was no question that film was still a better option for quality than shooting digital.  But that was more than a decade ago. Digital has better resolution and can shoot in virtual darkness to capture things that were impossible to get with film.

Kodak gave up and quit making film. There is no place on the planet to get a roll of Kodachrome developed (Sorry Neil Simon, but they did take your Kodachrome away)(**Edit - there are now rumors that Kodak is looking into the possibility of bringing Kodachrome back)

One hour film processing is very hard to find.

So why isn't film dead already?  Worse yet, why is it making a "comeback"?

What is the upside for shooting film?  There are many downsides, but the only upside I hear is "because it is cool."  The worst thing is that people who are wanting to go back to using film are also likely the same ones who are concerned about protecting the environment. You know, stopping climate change (aka Global Warming).  How can you be about protecting the environment if you shoot film these days?

Manufacturing a film camera uses almost as many resources as a digital camera - metal, plastic, batteries, glass and so on.  But when the digital camera comes out of the factory it's impact is nearly done.  With a film camera you are just getting started.

Have you thought about what exactly this film is that you want to use?  People complain about the plastics from K-Cups and water bottles, and their manufacturing. Film is plastic. In metal containers. With plastic spindles and felt liners for the opening.  It is also a host of chemicals - like silver halide crystal- added to it.

Once the film is made using all of those things it needs to get shipped to the store or delivered via Amazon or other web store.  That's fossil fuels used to deliver it.

Then once it has been shot we start another whole chemical waste process.  I worked in film labs, both color and black & white. There need to be companies out there manufacturing the chemicals that develop that film. These are some pretty dangerous chemicals, and of course they need to be shipped to the processing lab.  You have developer, bleach, fixer, and lots of water. We don't have enough drinking water in California, but we are going to waste gallons and gallons of it processing film? 

There are waste disposal issues with the chemicals. Usually the chemicals go right down the municipal sewer and into the groundwater. Some labs use silver recovery units to try to pull the silver out of the water before it contaminates anything, but I have also been in labs (like in college) where things are just dumped straight down the drain.

Once the film is developed people will want prints, or a DVD of the images. Anymore I know of almost no photographers putting the bulk of their images onto DVDs - but for the sake of argument lets say that they do and say that both types of photography use DVDs.  Prints are another matter.  Very few people are making prints of all of their digital files.  I know that I only print less than 1% of my own photos. With film there is a lot of printing.  Every picture gets a print. So we are talking about paper manufacturing - more plastics because unless you are doing fiber based prints your paper has plastics in it. You are talking about more chemicals to process those prints. These chemicals are dangerous.  For black and white they stain your fingers brown if you process with your fingers instead of tongs.  For color chemicals they can cause allergic reaction. One of my co-workers in the print lab I worked at in Minneapolis used to stick his hands into the chemical tanks to clear paper jams, and after months of doing this developed a serious and permanent allergy that ended with him having to quit his job.

Film also requires storage of the negatives.  Some shops will slap all of the negatives together into a single paper envelop, but that is far from archival. When I worked at Ritz camera each roll was cut into strips of 4 and then placed into individual sleeves. More plastics.  Or you can buy the archival 3-ring binder pages (also plastic, just higher quality).

Meanwhile I have taken the same memory card that I have had for more than 9 years now and reused it again, saving the images to a single hard drive and deleting the ones that were not worth keeping.

If you really want the look of film get a Lightroom or Photoshop preset, like from VSCO, and stop polluting more than is needed to make your pictures.  Somethings are best left in the past. I don't see people clamoring for the return of VHS and 8-track tapes. Digital is better. So why do it for film?