There has been a lot of negativity (pun partially intended) around film lately. Prophets of doom have been heralding the end saying film is on the decline and we all need to stock up before we can’t get it anymore. But it seems to me there are some positives going on and I thought we would focus on them for a while to cheer us all up a little in these dark days.
Firstly yes, Fuji have discontinued Velvia 50 in a few formats and now Kodak have just discontinued TMAX 3200 but to be honest I don’t shoot large format so the Velvia discontinuance doesn’t affect me (for now anyway) and I don’t like TMAX 3200 anyway. Now I know some of you reading this may use these films and i'm not saying i’m glad they are gone or anything – just saying I don’t use them. The TMAX cancellation I can understand – it wasn’t selling well so they cut it because it was becoming too costly, fair enough. The Velvia is a little strange however because most of us will know that Velvia 50 is pretty much legendary – there is nothing like it out there. Since Fuji announced the discontinuance there has been no end of petitions to stop it from occurring – let’s hope the people in charge at Fuji listen. But let’s just think about why films get cancelled. When it comes down to it photography companies are still companies. They make a product and sell it, when it doesn’t sell well enough they stop making it. Maybe we as consumers are partly to blame – with the rise of EBay it is so easy to just buy second-hand and out-dated films on the cheap; but if we aren’t buying new films from stores then the companies making films are going to suffer. Just a thought to bear in mind.
Anyway, I promised positivity didn’t I! Well, first of all amid all the ambiguity of what’s going on with Kodak I recently saw a message on a forum from Ilford who simply said their films are selling strong, there is plenty of stock and they are going to keep making emulsions. I must confess it was so refreshing to hear a company come out and simply state exactly what was happening. I’m a huge fan of Ilford films and papers so to me this was great news.
More positive news came to me this morning when I received an email from AG Photographic. They are a UK – based company that (in my opinion) consistently offer very competitive prices on all their products and offer superb customer service. The email I received stated that they have just opened an on-site lab offering a range of services including C41, E6 and black & white development and wet printing. Now we hear of labs shutting all the time and large stores like Asda and Boots slowly stopping their film development so this news is most welcome. It’s great to see that those of us who still shoot film are putting back into the industry and supporting stores like AG and companies like Ilford. If we keep doing that I don’t see any reason why film production should cease for a long time.
Also think about companies like Lomography. Although not everyone’s favourite you have to agree that they are promoting film usage to a younger generation and getting them started. Speaking personally my first camera was a Lomography Diana F+ camera and I still use it even now. That camera got me into film in a big way and even though I use a medium format SLR most of the time now and do all my own darkroom work I will never forget that it was down to the Lomo movement that I first got into film.
Another positive that shows there is still a dedicated user-base of analgoue materials are such internet forums as www.apug.org and www.fadu.org. These are forums dedicated to film/paper/darkroom work and there are thousand of subscribers putting up hundreds of new posts every day. Even photo sharing sites such as Flickr have film photography groups brimming over with enthusiastic contributors. There is a strong analogue photography community and it is reassuring to know that there are so many who continue to support the industry by shooting film.
So even though there is some bad stuff going on in the industry these days try to remember the good – new labs are opening, companies like Ilford are still going strong and “new blood” is taking up film photography with every passing day.
I know i'll always shoot film. For me digital processing will never top standing in a darkroom and watching your image appear on a print.