At a time where photography has evolved in leaps and bounds in digital advancements, why do some people still choose to shoot with film? Why does this obsolete technology persist? There are a hundred reasons a film photographer today will tell you, but Ian Wong of Digital Darkroom has a rather interesting view to it: film photography matters because black and white still matters.
Ian dropped this thought against the equally interesting shopping scene of Tokyo’s Ginza and Akihabara districts in the latest episode of Digital Darkroom. To document his explorations, he loaded his Contax T3 with two special rolls of black and white films: Kodak Tri-X 400 and JCH Street Pan 400. He shared many other thoughts that analog lovers can definitely relate to, so I’ll let you hear them from him straight in this video.
Anyone who shoots film today will definitely agree with his statements and can most likely attest to the passion for other analog things Ian talks about. The same passion is felt by anyone who reads physical books, collects toys, listens to vinyl records, or prefers to write their thoughts down in journals.
He mentions the element of feeling in all of these “old” things, which I believe is especially strong in photography today. We’re all photographers now with the prevalence of smartphones and affordable digital cameras. I’d like to think we all have one thing in mind: to capture a fleeting moment with all the feelings in it, in every photograph. With film, as Ian mentioned, nothing comes close to the feelings evoked by the process itself alone.
Now, going back to his thoughts on black and white film photography, Ian offers an interesting perspective into how digital photography has affected this medium specifically. “By going digital we’ve removed a large part of the photographer’s own input into the black and white emotions and tonality,” he muses on one of the reasons why the selection of black and white films has dwindled in the last decade or so. What he means is much of the experimentation that used to go into black and white photography is no longer there for photographers. You can argue for or against this idea, and it is certainly something worth thinking about.
On a final note, for Ian, film photography matters because black and white still matters. Color photography has evolved greatly in digital, and many have mastered crafting the right tones to match the right image by digital means. For black and white photography, however, Ian has found that film still has the upper-hand in evoking that “something that simply couldn’t exist in color.”
Follow Ian Wong and his photography adventures in this Digital Darkroom YouTube playlist.
Screenshot taken from the video