Perhaps it’s a tad hyperbolic to say that there is a “magic” to film, but…sometimes, there is. I love little accidents like this, and while one can attempt to recreate things with “faux analog” or “faux vintage” with various digital filters for your camera phone, it’s not the same. It’s fake.
Of course, I love film for much more than that.
I’ve been stopped and asked about my MP, which I carry just about everywhere with me, three times this week. People ask me if it’s a Leica, and I say yes. The next question is always: “is it digital?” They are almost always shocked when I say it’s an MP, and I shoot film with it. Then they ask me how old it is, and I say less than 10 years (made in 2004)–and they are really shocked. I show them the film advance lever and the back of the camera (holy crap, no screen!) and they are pleased.
One older guy told me why he abandoned film for digital. He explained that he enjoys the ease of digital and the number of shots he can take, saying that he had shot 1200+ images at a play he photographed the previous week, and was able to quickly put 250 of them on his website. I did not debate the merits of uploading 250 shots of an event, or why in the world one would need to do so, but that’s not my business. If it works for some people, then great.
Another guy stopped me to ask about my camera and then inquired why I would be wandering around Saint Paul with a Leica. When I explained that I take me camera everywhere and that I take photographs of things I see that interest me on the streets. I simply document things around me with a camera. He didn’t seem to understand, but mentioned that he had always wanted a Leica. Although he also mentioned that he doesn’t really make any photographs. The camera as a collector’s item; the Leica as a luxury accessory.
So, the camera as a conversation-starter?
Is that all part of the magic of film? Would the reactions and conversations have been different if it had been a digital Leica? Or if I had had just another DSLR around my neck? Or if I had been shooting with my cell phone? I think the latter two would not have even warranted a second look, let alone a driven a stranger to approach me and ask me about what I was carrying. The film M is unique enough to start a conversation–but it’s also a luxury fetish object, let’s be honest. But that is a train of thought for another article entirely.
For now, I think there is enough love left for film out there. It drives people to download silly digital filters with which to ruin their digital images in search of creating something more. Film is about a visual aesthetic. But it’s also about creating something that has more to it. The IMPOSSIBLE Project has shown that there is a lust for film. Companies like Ilford are alive and well, despite Kodak’s troubles (and their apparent attempt to kill their own products) and Fuji’s disinterest in analog photography (they are in the business of selling their digital offerings, after all). Analog cameras are seeing a bit of a renaissance, and so is film. The lomography thing is going strong as well!
But nothing keeps film alive like going out and buying a brick of it. If you’re worried about the health of film, go out and buy a bunch. Shoot the hell out of it and then buy more.
And if you see me out with my MP, say hello.