Why I am a film photographer.
Is the concept of being a contemporary film photographer an oxymoron? How can you be a contemporary artist using an old medium of expression such as film? What does it mean to be a contemporary film photographer? I would argue that it is not the tool being used that makes a piece of art contemporary; it is the image that is contemporary or not contemporary. Indeed, the medium in not the message, or is it? Was Marshal McLuhan right, “the medium is the message”? Does a digital photo carry the same authenticity as film? We have learned to distrust the digital image, we have been duped by the digital image, “fake” digital content. When you include the sprocket holes or the edges of you medium format film you are making a statement, “this is an analogue image”. This is one reason for choosing film over digital, authenticity.
For me using film makes the most sense when I am using it to do things a digital sensor can’t. For example When I use an 8”x10” piece of photo paper in a pinhole camera I know there is no digital sensor that is as large and bendable as that negative. When I take a candle to a piece of film and the viewer sees those sprocket holes, this is an authentic distortion to the film itself; the process becomes an important aspect of that final image. The medium starts to take on a role in the narrative.
Film itself is not contemporary; the content of the image is what will be viewed as “contemporary art”. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to create contemporary art on the aesthetic alone. This takes us back to the concept of the “message”. Some would argue that conceptual photography is where contemporary art is at right now. The “Vancouver School” of Photo-Conceptualism including Jeff Wall, Rodney Graham, Stan Douglas, Ian Baxter… these artists could be considered on the leading edge of contemporary art. What’s the next big thing, what will contemporary art look like tomorrow? Of course I don’t know however, however it is something worth looking for when one points a camera and pushes the shutter release. I have been a “Lomographer” for just over a year now, I am pleased with the images I have produced and keep moving forward as an artist. The invention of photography did not kill the painting, and I believe the digital sensor will not kill film photography.