Film manufactures have finally stopped making film. Madeline is a professional photographer who laments the loss of film photography and what that will mean.
She opened her eyes. Moonlight poured through Madeline’s bedroom window and rested on her feet. She peered over to the digital clock resting on the nightstand. Twelve-thirty in the A.M. This was the last day the stores would be selling film.
Madeline sighed softly and turned to face the window. How could this happen? Digital photography had completely taken over and it wasn’t fair. Now people wanted fast results; they wanted clear, clean results. With digital photography anyone could take a crisp photo, anyone could edit their own photos. It was as easy as “click, buzz, whir, please insert the SD card, now paint, airbrush, touch-up, oops, my eyes are naturally green, let’s make them blue…” People didn’t care about what was real. They didn’t want to take the time to.
And so film cameras were forgotten. Not by everyone, of course, but the public wanted everything to go digital. If you couldn’t preview it on your camera and edit it easily on the computer it was a nuisance. So this year, film manufactures finally made the announcement. Not enough people were buying film to make a profit. So they would stop making film.
Madeline rose out of bed and turned on her computer. Online, news articles raged about this film update. Not that the majority of the public cared. But any analogue photographer did.
Madeline went to Lomography.com. This is where it all began. She’d been seventeen, searching for photography ideas. She had loved taking pictures even then, but somehow her digital point-and-shoot didn’t seem exciting anymore. Then she found the website. And soon after that she bought her Diana Deluxe Kit and Instant Back. It all seemed a waste now.
Even Madeline had gotten caught up in the digital world. You had to if you wanted to be a professional photographer. No one would take you seriously if you used film. Sure, she still used her Diana when she could. But when Madeline couldn’t find 120 mm film or instant film anywhere, she just shrugged her shoulders and moved onto 35 mm film. It wasn’t as interesting, but she could still take pictures.
This year she put her Diana up in the closet though. Madeline’s career had really kicked off and now she was constantly traveling with her digital. There was no time for her analogue camera.
Madeline looked on her billboard. All those beautiful photos had come from her Diana. She swallowed. Her throat hurt. Her eyes felt heavy, almost… No, she wouldn’t cry. That would be stupid. Why would she cry about film? And yet… As Madeline stared at the moonlight coming through the window, her finger started to get that itch. Her chest pounded. She picked up the digital camera and it suddenly felt foreign and heavy to her. She smiled. Diana was calling her.
Click. The overhead light to her closet flooded her eyes with harsh light. Fluorescent. Soft lighting was never around these days. Madeline took the stool from the corner of her room, climbed onto it, reached around on the shelf for the box. She found it and took it down.
Inside was her camera bag. Resting beside it were Diana’s instant back, the cable release collar and cable. There was one roll of film left, Madeline was relieved to see. It expired in two months. 35 mm color film. But her finger still itched. Diana still wanted her. Madeline unzipped one compartment. All the lenses. Another; the flash. And finally Diana.
As soon as the Diana was in her hands everything felt at peace. Madeline held her old friend gently and couldn’t help but whisper softly to it “I’m sorry.” The soft moonlight accented the vintage blue top of the camera. Her silver lens gleamed. The black blended with the shadows. Diana seemed to whisper to Madeline I’m ok, see?
And Madeline’s hand started itching again. Without even thinking she loaded the last film; well, it was for her. Tomorrow it would be impossible to find film left on the shelves. Film photographers would stock up on it as soon as the store doors opened.
Madeline threw on some jeans, buttoned up her winter coat, pulled her Ariat boots onto her feet, grabbed the camera, grabbed the bag and walked out the door. It was very cold, but Madeline and Diana walked through the house, out the gate, now down the sidewalk. Madeline kept walking and walking, where was she going, she didn’t know, keep going Diana whispered… And then… She found it. Her heart pounded. This was the playground that she took her first picture with the Diana. Her friends, yes, they were over there climbing on the jungle-gym to pose together. Click. And then she was walking again.
Over here, yes the library. That sign seemed so interesting to her at the time. Click. The street sign marking Kirby Ave. The pet store where she took pictures of the snakes using the fish-eye lens, the willow tree where she took a picture of her boyfriend reading, then the willow tree again, no one below it, it was lonely like her, her old house, the fire station, the river where she took nude pictures with her now-fiancé, the park, the swings, the grocery store, the church, the old train tracks, the stadium, click, click, click. All the places Diana had taken her, all the places they had memories together.
Madeline peered down at the counter. One photo left. And then her heart started pounding. Diana was saying: You and I. You and I, take one of us. Madeline peered into the fountain she was sitting by. The water was crystal clear, not yet frozen from the winter cold. The moonlight created the perfect reflection. She raised Diana near her face. Click. Diana felt limp now. It was done. Tomorrow she would get this film developed. The last film.
Or maybe she wouldn’t. Maybe she would keep Diana alive, waiting for what was captured to be revealed. Yes, that was best. Madeline rolled the film back, put it in the camera bag with Diana. She would get it the film developed someday. Just not today. For Diana was speaking to her Preserve me. I will Diana. I will.
I wrote this story while shopping for film for my own Diana camera. While doing so, I realized that unless you buy film online, it’s hard to find easy access to lots of different film types. The most you can find is 35 mm color film, maybe some instant if you’re at the right place.
It got me thinking: what will happen when film is extinct? Madeline’s character instantly came to me and this little short story was born.
To me, photography is about documenting your life. While digital photography has no doubt made wonderful leaps for us, I feel it’s too perfect. Nothing is real when you can edit it, and the cameras themselves leave little room for mistakes. And I feel that’s very sad.
Analogue photography, however, is about taking those mistakes and making them beautiful. Photos created from film are very real. You can’t edit them easily and therefore you’re left with the real image of a person, place, or memory.
So, what will happen when film is gone? I think we’re going to lose ourselves in the process.