I developed my first roll of black and white film a little over a month ago in early April 2018, and what follows is the subsequent order of what are my impressions 12 rolls later.
Craftsmanship in image making. As I continue progressing with the digital camera, I realized the number of shots I was putting in my SD card was becoming quite excessive; I was aware that shooting with photo film would help me regain control over the quality of shots I was producing. So, in the fall of 2016, and nearly ten years later after taking a break from film photography, I began to shoot with film yet once again.
What drew me to film photography is the realization that with film, I get a sense of craftsmanship that’s very difficult to retain when working in digital media. Digital photography is very prone to mimics, and most of those mimics attempt to reprise an analog quality by the use of presets. I’ve always avoided using presets; to me; a preset does not make my life easier. Instead, it cuts my vision short, so I don’t see the point of using them.
Tactile Experience The tactile experience of processing film is also something that I have enjoyed a lot. Loading the film in the developing tank using a changing bag forces me to slow down and concentrate. Preparing the chemicals and tracking their temperature also keeps me on edge and even something so simple as agitating my developing tank is something that needs careful attention because different agitating style can produce different results!
Film is Liberating An area of photography that frustrates me most is gear, in part is because I cannot afford the latest and greatest in cameras and lenses. I would not go as far as to say that gear does not matter, because it certainly does, especially if photography is managed as a business and there's a demand for consistency. So, for me, shooting with a film camera simplifies my shooting style, as I only have to pay attention to composition, focusing and exposure settings and not so much about pixel quantity, chromatic aberration or dynamic range.
Learning a New Way to See Something else that I'm learning from shooting and developing rolls of black and white is that I now embrace contrast regardless of subject matter. Such things like elongated shadows, scale or distance are now incredibly interesting to me.
Organic Aesthetic All I have left to say is that developing my first dozen rolls of black and white film have made me realize how much I get thrilled by the soft edges and its organic aesthetic. Although digital photography is convenient and just as fun, film photography, (and in this case shot with black and white film), projects a certain quality that I haven’t yet been able to replicate with a digital camera or post-processing techniques. I suppose that the interaction of my hand with the film while loading it on the camera spool and then processing it, may very well have something magical to do with it.
In conclusion, I came to film photography longing to reclaim a sense of craftsmanship that I felt I was loosing, and in that process, I found that it was time for learning how to develop film. Unfortunately, not every roll gave me positive results, but even if getting three blank rolls out of 12 have been valuable.