Film is not dead. For analogue photographers, this is an obvious statement, but with the emergence of smartphones that double as cameras, there seems to be a need for this declaration. On social media, a photo taken with a film camera isn’t complete without special hashtags: #filmisnotdead #staybrokeshootfilm #35mm #istillshootfilm. On Instagram, there are countless accounts dedicated to photos taken with film cameras. Mirror selfies with SLR cameras and point-and-shoots have become trendy as well (and yes, there's also a dedicated Instagram account for that).
For photography purists, this may be seen as a passing trend for the younger generation. After all, most people nowadays just can’t keep still — technology has made us impatient and dependent on push-button convenience. To date, there are 12.4 million posts tagged #filmphotography on Instagram. Is it still safe to say that this is just merely a fad?
For film photographer Timothy Lim, social media definitely helped revive the interest in analogue photography:
"I think film photography would be much less popular if there wasn’t the medium of social media for people to share the photos they take. Something else I've noticed is that celebrities are starting to use film cameras more (e.g. Frank Ocean shooting the Met Gala on a Contax T3) and sharing their own film photos on social media, which is helping to make film even more trendy."
What a shame it would be if all the time, money, and effort spent on a good photograph is only viewed on a small screen. Just how many of these film photos on social media make it to a tangible print? Some film shooters don't, and for understandable reasons.
"Usually I don't (print them) because it gets pricey. I prefer to keep them in digital format, but do intend to publish a book somewhere in the future." - Henrique Alves
If you manage to sift through all the analogue-tagged posts, you would see that there are many artists who use social media as a way to sell tangible prints, self-published books, and photo zines. Not only do they post their best work, but they offer a glimpse of their processes. We get a sneak peek of their creative journey, from taking photos to curating their prints. We feel the excitement as their projects gradually come to life. It makes it more personal and sincere.
"It feels a bit wasteful to print every photo when you can just store the scans digitally. I’ve started to make prints of my nicest photos to give to people though!" - Timothy Lim
With so many dedicated apps aiming to replicate the look of film, it can be quite challenging for film photographers to promote their work and proudly say that it’s authentically analogue. Anyone can slap on a filter and tweak the settings, but only a true-blue film photographer will know the incomparable feeling of thoughtfully shooting a roll of film and spending time in the darkroom to create their masterpiece. For Cécile André, a film photographer and photo retoucher, darkroom printing is a way to make unique, limited-edition art prints. "I make silver prints of my photos because I appreciate the manual and experimental side." Because the process is tedious and would require a lot of care, effort, and patience from taking the photo, to developing the negative, until scanning or printing the final photograph, it’s understandable that film photography enthusiasts who post their work on social media would include all the relevant hashtags as a not-so-subtle declaration of their efforts.
It’s undeniable that posting on social media is a convenient way to promote one’s work, particularly photographs. A simple click of a hashtag easily takes you to a stream of images taken from all over the world. It also increases the chances of being featured, as most photo magazines and curated photo accounts are on social media now. However, not everyone relies on using hashtags. In our interview with up-and-coming photographer Joshua Aronson, he equates its excessive use as bait for “likes”: “I enjoy hashtags and know many artists who use them ironically much to my delight. I am only advocating for the shift in focus amongst photographers from reblogs, retweets, and hashtags to form, color, arrangement, or context. Stop trying to make work that will go viral.”
Aircraft mechanic and film enthusiast CJ Méndez offers another standpoint. "For me, one of the biggest advantages is connecting with people all over the world and appreciating a photographic medium that has existed for almost two centuries. It sorta makes you connect with everyone before you that has used a film camera at one point or the other. It also helps maintain awareness that film is still alive and that we appreciate the look and methodology of said medium."
Social media fame comes with a price—literally. Not discounting the cost of actually purchasing rolls of film and having them developed and scanned in a lab or the financial upkeep you need in order to maintain your own darkroom, this year, celebrities like Kendall Jenner, Frank Ocean, and Aziz Anzari have been spotted with their compact analogue point-and-shooters (Contax T-series), causing the prices to soar. Try not to get caught up in the hype, there are plenty of affordable camera alternatives available!
The characteristics unique to film photography has inspired many app developers to mimic analogue effects: light leaks, grain, scratches, and color shifts. Hopefully, this sparks curiosity among mobile photographers and lead them to discover what it’s like to create these effects on film. However, no amount of digital filters and applications could beat the experience of shooting with the real deal. "The anticipation of seeing your photos after developing is what I like best about film photography," says Ria Silva, an analogue hobbyist.
On Instagram alone, there are 4.7 million posts using this hashtag. It has become a badge of honor among film shooters; after all, it’s so easy to take the digital route, but they opt to spend a little more time on film. And yet, there is an increasing amount of photographers who prefer to shoot with film even for their professional work.
"One of the disadvantages (of posting film photos on social media) is that it is such a fast medium that people can’t fully appreciate the pictures. You are scrolling through literally millions of frames and watching them in a tiny phone screen, which in turn will make the picture lose a lot of the details and perhaps not be as striking or thought-provoking as it would be otherwise." - CJ Méndez
Along with the commonly-used hashtags mentioned in this article, a lot of artists and photographers come up with unique hashtags, to make it easier for their followers to appreciate their work. For example, Ria Silva claimed these tags as her own: #prettyvacantscene #whenthesunhitsscene #greggirardfeelsscene. Unless, of course, someone decides to use them for their work.
Technology is constantly evolving and change is inevitable, but it’s always important to slow down and enjoy genuine analogue experiences. So go ahead and capture your life on film, make beautiful prints, and even share them online. "I don't think it should be perceived as something negative as it helps keep the film industry alive." says Montreal-based photographer Gabriel del Canto.
Despite modern advancements, we hope that this won't hinder you from creating prints out of your masterpieces. Seeing and holding an actual photograph that you captured is a feeling that can't be beaten. The key is to understand the balance of enjoying film photography and using technology to your advantage.
Contribute to our ever-growing archive of analogue photographs. Upload your favorite film snaps on your LomoHome and social media accounts. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #heylomography! Stay tuned for the second part of this feature, as we dig deeper into the insights of social media-savvy film photographers.