Contemporary Film Photography – A year of shooting Film


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.

Credits: akula

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.

Credits: akula

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.

written by akula on 2014-06-15


  1. rooftophoto
    rooftophoto ·

    very nice post =) Thanks

  2. sirio174
    sirio174 ·

    Surely contemporary film photography is not Street Photography. And this is a pity. The famous "social" French school seem extinct (who are the young photographer that continue the tradition made by Lartigue, Doisneau, Boubat, Izis, Cartier Bresson and Ronis?). I don't know any living French photographer that continues this tradition, why? Same for the "Robert Frank" school (The Americans, From the bus, etc.), or for the straight photography of Walker Evans. Most of the illustrated magazines hosts almost exclusively fashion photography or war reportages. No more interest in social life, in candid photography. However, this is a very important part of this art. We need to return on the street to document ordinary life (preferably continuing the tradition of using b/w film with normal cameras - without pictorialists effects). A normal SLR, or a rangefinder, few lens (28, 50, 135mm) and many b/w films... this kind of photography is timeless!

  3. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    Excellent blog entry!! I think my next project will be photos in UVA. I have an uncoated quartz lens and a #403 filter. Do you have any suggestions for blue+ sensitive films? I have some Cinestill tungsten and some Tri-X...

  4. akula
    akula ·

    @herbert-4 Thanks for liking my blog. Your #403 filter is an odd one, I have no experience with, are you doing some forensics work? It will be interesting to see what kind of images you get from it.

  5. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    I'm planning to photograph flowers for the bee landing instructions for pollen and nectar, people and things for UV absorbtion and reflection. The #403 filter is really black and passes only 320-380nm UVA. The lens coating on lenses from 1950's on blocks UV for better contrast. The fused quartz lens has no coating and no metal bearing glass, so passes everything at about 80-85% and focuses beyond infinity for UV.

  6. akula
    akula ·

    @sirio174 you comment on my June 15th blog sparked a new blog. I too miss traditional street photography. I also admire photographers such as yourself that can approach people, chat with them and take their picture. However the courts in Canada, and in other countries as well, have killed traditional street photography.

  7. sirio174
    sirio174 ·

    @akula If you observe the photos of Cartier Bresson, people are almost always of being photographed. And the great Italian photographer Berengo Gardin took candid images, always making sure to be seen, and then asking permission to publish the photos. In my opinion the problem is not the law, but the fragmentation of society, and the lack of empathy between the photographer and people.

  8. sirio174
    sirio174 ·

    ... almost always aware of being photographed (errata corrige) ;)