Film Photography: A dying medium?


By Mylene M. Manogan

“How did the painter feel when the first camera came out? Was the painter threatened? Yes, but still painting persists at present, with its own set of cultural values attached to it. As far as the future of film photography is concerned, I see it that way.” –Io Jularbal, faculty member Department Language, Literature and the Arts (DLLA), UPB.

            Rumors began to spread in early 2012 that Kodak Company is reaching near bankruptcy. The suspension of production of color reversal films, closure of some of its photo studios, and the astonishing drop of company stocks were enough to validate the rumor. People were already calling this as the “death of film,” given that more and more are shifting to digital photography.

            Photography was introduced in the Cordilleras and became widespread during the time of the American missionaries. They missionaries occupied in documenting a “strange” land and people as much as wanting to gain control over it. During the 70s and 80s, Jularbal remembers that there was a multitude of photo studios in Baguio City. Was it because photography is widely lived by the community? No, he says. It is because Baguio City is the Summer Capital of the Philippines, and photography is a popular profession to those who can afford the cost of photographic equipment.

            Roland Rabang, faculty member in the DLLA and a practicing photojournalist, explains that the people of Baguio back saw film as expensive and usually a roll of 24 shots would stay in the camera for a long time, and used only during special occasions. 

“People did not waste film. You have to get your money’s worth for 36 shots,” Jularbal said. But in the today’s generation, 12 shots is for a minute use only.

            Until now, the debate over which medium—analog or digital—is better is ongoing. However, Rabang says that there is no better or inferior medium among the two. The output, or photos taken, are dependent not on the camera but on the skill of the photographer. Yet the difference is seen on the operation of each camera and the value of the shots taken.

            Some film photographers, frown upon the digital approach. As Jularbal puts it, “As a photographer based on film maybe I would, I would say what my father felt. Well, he felt that these were toys. They ruin the art, they ruin the craft, I have to understand they made things easy, but take note, photographers at that time became photographers not because they like photography but majority of them became photographers because of the exclusivity offered.”

            Kim Komenich, who took more than 20,000 pictures during the 1986 People Power Revolution and won a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner for Spot News Photography, said in an article for “For a photographer, that’s the moment you’re looking for. It’s that split second. That’s the crescendo moment.” The deal with film photography is knowing the “decisive moment” where you have to be wise and wait patiently until the perfect action happens and then all you have to do is to press the shutter button. Every shot in a roll of film is precious and this is what makes a real photographer. “It’s what made photography in the first place. That moment of sitting there, waiting and waiting and waiting, just to capture that right moment with a single shot and not a multitude,” Jularbal explains.

            Ccompared to digital, film’s advantage is in authenticity and aesthetics. The negative provided by film is unique and cannot be plagiarized. Moreover, photographers who learned through film have a more creative perspective and output. They calculate everything before they take a shot. Mike Myers, in his article “The Future of Film,” asserts that digital users practice “lazy photography” or fix-it-later mentality since you can edit pictures now in the computer. Digital photography is not computer artistry, rather it is computer artistry, Myers says.

            Is digital the death of film? For Io Jularbal, who does film photography as a hobby, says that film will become more and more expensive until it will eventually die out. But for Roland Rabang, a photojournalist, believes the contrary. For him, film is still thriving and will live to the future.

            Last 2013, Lomography and Kodak Alaris vowed to keep the film industry alive, as opposed to the rumors that film manufacturers are on the verge of closing down. They have released a LomoChrome Purple XR 100-400, a film that revives the classic Kodak Aerochrome look. Lomography has also opened up its online film subscription page and they said in a press release that they are expanding their photo laboratories. Kodak, together with and other partners, released a documentary entitled “Long Live Film” last November 2013.


Note: I wrote this article for our class Journ 104: Newspaper Management.

One thought on “Film Photography: A dying medium?

  1. As a film shooter, I’d say it could go either way at the moment, but it looks like film sales hit bottom and are on the rise again: the reports I’ve read say that sales are up from where they were a year or two ago. Kodak’s still in business, Fuji too (they’re even making film cameras still), and there are plenty of smaller brands out there as well. The Ferrania plant in Italy has reopened and is ramping up their manufacturing. For shooting black & white, there have never been more choices than there are now. And you mentioned the Lomography movement, that’s taking off as well!

    It was a bit rocky there for a while, but personally, I think we’re at the beginning of a major renaissance for chemical image technology.

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