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Five Reasons Why We Need to Keep Medium and Large Format Instant Film Alive

by Chris Gampat on 08/20/2012

I’ve been experimenting this past week since it was #roidweek: I was playing around with my Polaroid 210 Land Camera and Fujfilm 100C and 3000B Instant film. On a whim, I took photos of friends, co-workers, people I just met at a bar, and landscapes during the rain. And with each pull of the 3 x 4 inch film through the rollers and enduring the waiting process of anywhere from 15 seconds to 2 minutes followed by the final reveal, I saw faces light up in people who were never even into the arts.

And though digital photography does give us something essential, we need to understand that photography is also about falling in love and that sentimentality coupled with acceptance of all formats and others needs to come first. After this past week, I feel that we need to keep parts of us as a photographic community as a whole alive.

Here are five reasons why we need to save Medium Format and Large Format Instant film.

Editor’s Note: Thanks for the Twitter and Email feedback. B&H Photo stocks this film by Fujifilm in both Color (ISO 100) and Black and White (ISO 3000). Let’s keep it alive.

Sentimentality

When you stand there and hold a Polaroid of yourself, different things happen. I’ve observed people being either not happy with their tangible photo, people loving it to death, people not being able to forget you the next morning, and people wanting to do more Polaroid shooting with you for the pure fun of it. That fun is what makes photography exciting for some of us.

On any given month, all staffers of The Phoblographer have a new camera going in and out of their hands. We all have our own gear for sure, but for those of us on staff that shoot film, we all agree: there is something about it that makes it truly ours.

I’m probably the most adamant about Instant Film of any photographer I know with others being more partial to Tri-X, Velvia, Portra and others; but that magic just doesn’t always happen for me with Negative and Chrome film.

You Become a More Deliberate Photographer

I saw this video below recently about Bex Finch, a photographer who shoots an iPhone images and with her Medium Format Mamiya 7 II rangefinder. When you’re done with this article, put your notions of hipsterism aside and listen to her: film is deliberate. You sit there and make sure everything is perfect because you’re terrified it won’t be.

You even think the same way about large and medium format instant film because there is still so much at risk. Not only is there the expense (which forces you to become better) but at a given aperture, much less will be in focus. For example, f8 on my Polaroid 210 is almost like f4 on a 35mm camera. But then I need to use the rangefinder focusing and ensure that my subject is properly in focus and composed. Focusing and recomposing isn’t an option here because so much can be thrown off the plane of focus.

It Kills You Inside When You Don’t Get it Right, and Then You Learn and Recoup

Take the photo and then look at if. Did you get it the way you wanted to? If you didn’t, you can either leave it and be angry at yourself, or learn from it. Was it totally and sharply in focus? Is the exposure what you wanted?

It Teaches You to Appreciate Autofocus and Modern Editing Software Because You Need to Get it Right in Camera

Autofocus has made things easy and in a way makes us careless at times. But once you sit there and deliberately focus on a certain subject carefully, you realize that you’re putting a ton more thought into the image you’re about to snap. Combine this with the high pressure to get it right in camera because the exposure can’t be pushed or pulled except if you over/under develop it, and you’ve got yourself into a whole new way of thinking.

It’s Beautiful

Lastly, why kill something so beautiful as an art medium. Take a visit to a gallery and take a look at these photos in the largest format possible. You can’t duplicate that quality in digital.

 

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