Film photography a retro reminder to slow down from the digital world

The younger generation seeks hobbies that exist outside the digital world

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By Laisa Conde

Analogue film photography is making a comeback as young people are seeking a more thoughtful way to take photos.

Film photography a reminder of the past

Nicole Langdon-Davies, head of the film department at the Fairview camera store Beau Photo, said the younger generation is the reason behind the rise of film photography, particularly due to the nostalgic feeling of the medium.

“They grew up with digital, so it only stands to reason they be fascinated with things that are older,” she said. “The younger people that come into the store, they tell me they like the old look of photos.”

Film photography uses vintage cameras with rolls of film that must developed through a chemical process. Until the advent of digital photography, it was the dominant method of image-taking.

Langdon-Davies said it is harder to maintain older cameras from early 1990s to early 2000s because those electronics are either unfixable or not worth fixing. However, cameras from before the ‘90s are easier to fix when compared to newer ones thanks to their engineering.

“It’s mostly mechanical, so you can find a part. Or hopefully use another part or make a part. 3D printing has opened up a world of making parts for things,” she said.

Dmitri Tcherbadji, a New Westminster web developer who runs the film photography blog Analog.Cafe, said one reason film photography is trending is that people are seeking alternative hobbies and lifestyles that don’t involve the digital world.

“The digital life is kind of overtaking a lot of our personal space, you know? If you have a phone on you, it probably records every single step that you make,” he said. “The film camera doesn’t do it. In fact, you don’t actually even have to have your photos ever entered the digital space, and some people appreciate that.”

Tcherbadji said during the pandemic, the photography community reinvented itself with cameras made of paper and photographers developing their own film.

Severn Bowen, a photography student at Langara College, said her interest in film photography started after her father gave her first analogue camera when she was 14. She said shooting photos with film cameras makes people slow down and be more thoughtful about the moment they want to capture.

“It just kind of changes the whole way that you approach taking photos in and of itself. And that can be pretty cool as well,” Bowen said. “Especially when we’re so used to just snapping photos kind of almost mindlessly film, you kind of have to really think about it.”

High price per photo doesn’t negate the joy of the analogue process

Bowen said that while she enjoys shooting film, the high price is a barrier. Rolls of colour film cost on average $10–$15 and include 24–36 exposures.

“When [my freelance photography work] started to pick up, I was like, I can’t keep shooting film because I can’t really continue to afford this,” she said.

Even though digital photography is more accessible due to phone cameras, Bowen said the process of developing film, from shooting to seeing the photos, is special and more personal.

“I can review photos that I’ve taken on my phone easily, I can show you all of them, and I can flip through them,” she said. “But with film, you can’t really do that until you go through this process, which I think is cool and it’s almost ritualistic.”

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