Film + Digital = Pictures Pictures Pictures; My Thoughts

Recently I was looking through a few of the film photography blogs I follow and/or film photography based tweets I see and it made me stop for a moment and ponder a bit about why I still use film?

a paper developing screw up

Not that I’m a photographer by trade or anything fancy like that but I wondered anyway, do most of these photos really need to be made using film or could I get a similar finish using digital tools?

I was also wondering how many folk use film because it’s kinda ‘cool’ or ‘hip’ right now but not because you can do lots of neat things with it afterwards; other than scan it and post it on Instagram or fudgebook – not that there’s anything wrong with that of course unless it’s just as a ‘status’ thing.

I was chatting with a couple of photo friends about the internet show ‘Framed’ who frequently boast about being heavily film focussed.

Amidst our discussion I was alerted to the possibility that the whole show could easily be digital focussed as it wouldn’t change the show much …

There appeared to be very little stuff about the film medium other than all the “I prefer to use film because…” or “I like this film because of the grain” testimonials but, I have a disclaimer …

… I actually had to bail out of the show quite early from both series or seasons of the show because there was way too much back-slapping and talking endlessly about what seemed to be nothing.

Maybe it’s just an American TV thing to talk for so long like that but I’m sure there was ‘content’ in there and some folks got something out of it.

Film Testis-Moanial
So here goes my testimonial, “I like film because …”

I don’t think I can start like that …

“I like trying to make pictures …” here we go “… and I like to feel like I’m actually making them” – well that doesn’t sound that great either, a little wanky, so I’ll try to draw a parallel with painting for a bit.

Painting Pictures

When I was at art school I loved life drawing and could easily see myself knock out about 5 sketches/drawings per class before I ran out of steam.

Every line was sculpted every curve or angle was carved out of lead or graphite, I’ve even made a few paint sketches.

To me (disclaimer) seeing the subject in a view finder ground glass or digital screen isn’t all that different from seeing a figure in life drawing class or visualising a subject in my minds eye if it’s an abstraction.

When using a camera I often find that it’s not until I get the image back home that I can start to see where it could go or not.

To me (another disclaimer) this process is not unlike standing back from a crazy painting the day after I was up all night working on it.

I’ve no idea how many times I’ve looked at the painting and thought, this really meant something to me last night but now I just can’t see it.

This one was about the screaming girl next door who was obviously having a nightmare or something. It was like she was running around screaming in our bedroom.

It’s quite like having a wild dream but all you can remember from it is a profound feeling but nothing tangible or describable to another human being.

Sometimes it could’ve been that I was drunk but still, within those moments, there was something burning in me that meant something more.

Another way of saying it: you take the picture thinking ‘%this%’ then look at it later and feel ‘%that%’. I believe this is the beauty of any visual medium because if you, the creator, have managed to alter your perception or meaning from the piece then imagine what’s going on in someone else’s mind.

I don’t have many photos that make me feel like that though.


Happy Accidents (there’s a point coming, honest)
In photographic pictures, like in painting, you can have many many happy accidents; bits where you flicked your paintbrush in a certain way and managed to make an amazingly suggestive mark that looks remarkably like the thing you wanted but better.

Take the boy in the above photo. I knew something was going to happen, the boy would move quickly, but not that the boy would dash like that and put his hands like he did mid stride with the three other heads looking down. That’s a happy accident.

Add to that ‘happy accident’ idea the randomness of a medium like film and paper. I think film and digital only really differ when it comes to levels of control and how much time you want to put into pretending you have it.

There are millions of quotes ‘out there’ in the internet bushes that beautifully and eloquently describe the creative process, I just don’t know any of them.

With regards to quotes, I’d recently tweeted that if anyone ever repeated to me Capa’s famous quote “if your photos aren’t good enough you’re not close enough” that I’d decapitate them with my bare hand.

Then James Pearson promptly reminded me that in order to get a good chop I’d need to be pretty close; touché! I’m not good with quotes.

I’m in no position to offer any but here’s some advice if anyone is ever looking for some. Find what makes you happy and run with it for as long as you can (and it doesn’t have to be just one thing no matter how many times a dumb troll tells you).
Like I’ve said on some other posts, I hope this doesn’t come across as too arty and wanky.
Le finito


3 thoughts on “Film + Digital = Pictures Pictures Pictures; My Thoughts

  1. Excellent post, it’s always fascinating to read the insights into your creative process and discover why you do the things you do. You’re always doing things for the right reasons and I really respect that. I love your paintings too and the way you translate that vision into your photography. Film is great because there are so many possibilities and all of these possibilities are tangibly different from one another – you have to physically do something different to achieve a different result. Not just click the mouse again. That’s one of many reasons why I love film! :-)


    1. That’s a well crafted reason James. I think that as humans the urge to build something with our hands is still very strong and a few mouse clicks doesn’t satisfy that for me.

      I don’t know if I’ll ever get back into painting, I just don’t have the free personal brain-time to let it totally absorb me.

      Film for film! or Film for paper!


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