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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Film Is Dead


The Online Photographer
is relieved to report that film continues to go downhill. Soon it will be widely unavailable, and everyone will be shooting digital, as they should. Film is inconvenient and, what's worse, old-fashioned.

We all should get with the fashions!

Printed books are going downhill, too. Many texts can now be found online, and there will be less and less need for bulky paper versions. Some libraries are "guillotining" rare old books—chopping off the spine, scanning the pages, and then throwing the pages away. No longer needed. Sounds modern. Good for them.

No one likes tube audio amplifiers any more, either. Transistors are much more efficient, and they measure better! Less distortion, more power. Everyone likes that.

Of course, CDs replaced vinyl years ago, and now CDs themselves are in steep decline. (Did you know? It's true.) Why? Well, do you know how many MP3's you can store on an iPod?

Back to photography, few people want to trouble themselves with platinum/palladium prints, dye transfer, or other alternative processes. If people were still doing such work then the rest of us might have to look at it. No, that's all gone the way of the Dodo, not to mention the way of copperplate etching, stone lithography, woodcut, and other obsolete, antiquated methods of image reproduction. Good riddance.

Wooden boats are dead too. Nobody likes wooden boats, and no wonder, when you can have boats made of shiny, gleaming Fiberglas. Resin molds are where it's at. Wooden boats take so much longer to make and require (ugh!) maintenance.

And on that topic, who could want a boat that's powered by wind? How primitive.

(Why do they think God made diesels, anyway?)

Of course, view cameras are a thing of the past. That's natural. You can perform the equivalent of view camera movements in Photoshop, with less hassle. And why else would someone use a view camera? Am I right?

Natural fibers are no longer valued for clothing. We can now do just as well with petroleum-derived synthetics, can we not? You have to iron cotton. Silk. Linen. Wool. Bah.

People used to have to make pottery and ceramics by hand. You gotta be putting us on.

Furniture can now be made by CNC machines, using dimensionally stable composites, veneers, and plastic varnishes. Much of it can be cleverly designed to be flat-packed, too, making it easy to ship. There is no longer much call for skilled craftspeople making furniture out of solid wood by hand, the only real advantage of which is beauty.

Food technology has also greatly improved in recent years. We can now make an astonishing variety of foods almost completely out of corn. For instance: orange drink mix, which can be 100% corn-derived—even the citric acid in orange drink is made from corn. Cool, huh? With chemical flavorings, it's no longer necessary to worry about the quality of raw ingredients in cooking.

Believe it or not, cars used to have manual transmissions. That is, you had to shift gears using a hand lever, coordinating the motion with a foot-pedal clutch. Whew. (Some such cars only had two seats, if you can believe that. And no cup-holders.) Someone please explain the appeal. Now we drive proper modern vehicles that are as tall as a full-grown man, are built on nice strong truck frames, use lots and lots of fuel (which is important, as fuel is plentiful) and can transport a whole Little League team at once. As a result, driving is more fun than ever.

And while we're on the topic, let's thank our lucky stars that no one has to ride horses any more. Transportation should not require exercise, and it should certainly not have a personality. Horses are going downhill, too, just like film. Maybe they'll soon go the way of the dodo.

Let's hope humankind continues to improve convenience and eliminate the need for craft. Most of all, it's important to limit choice. We wouldn't want to support alternatives, especially alternatives that are old-fashioned and require care and effort. If we don't practice them ourselves, it's important that no one else practice them either.

And anyway, some film doesn't even record color.

The prosecution rests.


*Satire Alert


Blogger Ann said...

Wool is back in, you know. In the last few years, outdoor clothing companies have started turning over more and more of their lines to wool, in recognition of the fiber's performance while wet. You can now find improbable garments like Merino wool tank tops. Not that i can afford these fancy new woolens....

But back to photography.

I'd hazard that digital has been good for alternative processes. It's hard to obtain litho film nowadays, but inkjet transparencies make a good substitute. With a computer to do the color separation, full-color gum bichromate work becomes practical, if not easy.

Of course, I've heard people talking about silver black-and-white as the next alt process.

11:30 AM  
Blogger Impasse Lebouis said...

Some 2-3 years ago a local photography outlet underwent a complete renovation to make place for digital. Out the door went darkroom equipment and film cameras along with the old salestaff.

They re-opened under a new banner with every digital and a much younger salestaff. I ventured in asking for FP4+ in 120 size. The salesperson looked at me in dismay: he didn't know what I was taking about!

But the internet will be keeping film alive. I can buy everything I need and it's just one click away.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Witek said...

>And anyway, some film doesn't even record color.

Just, wow!

1:08 PM  
Blogger Dr Hiding Pup said...

Primes are out, zooms are in.


Still photography itself is obsolete because we have digital camcorders now.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Terence Hogben said...

I feel that having shot film personally and professionally for many years it has established disciplines that i am so grateful for today as i continue today working in the digital medium.

I must admit i do not miss spending many hours trying to get the perfect print then realize that the dry
down has made your perfect print a little too dark, and while you are mixing the potassium feracyanide the sun starts coming up.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

uImagine digital came first to be succeeded by film.
Think of the long list of reasons marketing people would give to promote the new medium:

No more: batteries,cables,computers, harddisks, monitors, calibrationproblems, missing files, corrupt files, software updates etc.

What a wonderfull world that would be

2:27 PM  
Blogger Joel said...

Fantastic posting. Thanks for the good laugh.

3:32 PM  
Blogger Paul Leidl said...

ahhh.. are so right. Out with the old!
It is way past time to dump my twenty year old two seater manual shift CRX. The little beast has over 300.000 Km.on her and -by current standards- is an antique! And while I am at it, where are those ancient Nikon bodies with viewfinders you can actually see through! Won't do...

3:39 PM  
Blogger J.George said...

Swords, too. The invention of gunpowder and muskets put a lot of talented people out of business. And don't get me started about the wheel! What was the matter with a good old drag? Salvage what you can and enjoy the ride. Just be glad you don't have to tan leather the old-fashioned way.

3:43 PM  
Blogger Marshall said...

I just thought this post and it happened. Input devices that require physical interactivity are so yesterday.

4:31 PM  
Blogger phule said...


The really sad thing is that none of the sarcasm you've used here is new. It's the same old re-hashing of boring sarcasm used for years now.

Come on, Mike. The world of sarcasm is overflowing with re-used works. Throw something new in the mix for a change! It'll do everyone some good.

11:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whenever I venture in the local camera shops and see the good old film cameras sit quitely at the most unconspicuous corner, I feel sorry for them. They are just like some octogenarians in a hospice waiting to be taken away. No one give them a damn look. No one care about them. I know more folks then not who have kept changing to the most advanced digital cameras but actually rarely turn the knot away from the big P sign on the gadget . The photography thing has almost gone. Welcome to the technography era!

11:25 PM  
Blogger Dierk Haasis said...

Today I happened upon the first real loss with film going the way of the mammoth [tired of the Dodo cliché], and it wasn't about photography as such but language:

We do not have a ringing equivalent to 'banning it on film' - a phrase often used in German ['auf Film bannen'] and English. You cannot really say 'ban on the sensor' or 'to hard drive [insert any storage medium]', it just does not work.

That's sad, or reason to be happy since film will probably live on in such expressions as the one above or 'working in films'*, 'the film unreels', and the German 'Filmriss' [literally: torn film; a blackout].

*BTW, ever more movies are filmed digitally, on HD.

3:28 AM  
Blogger willfurniss said...

The great thing about digital is that it lets me take loads and loads of pictures all of which are great! Harry Callahan reckoned he took about a dozen images a year that really spoke to his soul. Imagine how much better off he would have been with a digicam!

But seriously....

The other day I shot a job for a client in a very shiny surfaced tungsten lit store. The fact that the walls had a lot of lighting fixtures on them to show off the luxe goods didn't help either. The shots were typical people party pictures. I spent a good five hours tweaking 400+ pictures. I never signed up for this! In the past I shot my lovely Fuji NPH, my lab technician made great prints that I charged the client for and everyone was happy. Now the lab guy is out of a job and I spend a hell of a lot of time tweeking photos I am not 100% happy with. All with mad deadlines invoked by clients who know that really all that is required is that I burn them a cd!

I would love to follow in Harry's footsteps and live off 12 killer shots per year but that is a tough nut to crack!

Electric pictures are not always the answer, financially they make a lot of sense and the little screen on the back of the camera is awesomely cool. But if you are only looking for a few really great winners film is just as good, and maybe more fun.

Did life get faster because of the tech or did the tech appear to save us time? I am really not sure who planned digital, heaven or hell. The upside is the internet and blogs like this.The written word has returned with avengence. Perhaps Lightroom can solve my photography woes!

8:15 AM  
Blogger Arcady said...

While we are at it, the viewfinders are out of fashion, too!

1:47 PM  
Blogger knarf said...

I like to shoot TriX with my Leica CL, while riding my fixed gear (no brake, no gears) bicycle.

3:56 PM  
Blogger Ladyexpat said...

Librarians who destroy books??? rare books??? please! Librarians are preservers not destroyers.

4:09 PM  
Blogger Gilbert said...

I like quality goods, fine wood furniture, automobiles, wool clothing, wool blankets, finely made tools, and equipment. Precision cameras that last a lifetime and more.

I follow my own path and avoid trends brought about by wall street, Hollywood, and tech centers. Frankly, with computerogrphy you can create an image without the camera for many subjects, just make it on the computer.

I don't care which choice others make, but I sure wonder why they want to prevent me from having a choice, by killing film.

The market is driven to digital and will continue as young people are not offered the choice of film when they first enter a store, in most cases if the asked, they would be dissuaded, for one reason or another.

Very few people want to put anytime or effort into learning a craft and mastering the skills required.

For the most part photo software is necessary to correct bad captures, not improving the craft!

When digital can produce the same long lasting, quality image as I do with ONE click of the shutter, using slide film I might change. For now it just cannot do it.


5:20 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"Librarians are preservers not destroyers."

Not really. The function of a library is not to preserve books, but to make them available. Most "ex-library" (i.e., deaccessioned) books are worth much less than unmarked copies of the same book, and in many cases the market value of rare books are greatly reduced by library marks, stamps, cards, and hole punches.

I once worked at a University library, and found a first edition of Isaac Newton's Optics. At that time, the value of the book was about $10,000. But some earnest librarian, using a hole-puncher that spelled out the University's name in small holes, had defaced the title page. Worth of the book so marked? About $2,000. When I mentioned this to the Head Librarian, she decided that policy had to be followed even if it reduced the value of the collection, reasoning that it would never matter because the book would never be sold.

Perhaps. But so much for preservation.

For more on this, see Nicholson Baker, "Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper," which was also excerpted in The New Yorker.


9:32 PM  
Blogger mike said...

20+ years ago I bought myself a Linhof Technika V in its case with 4 lenses and other goodies. I visited the Linhof Werke in Munich, attended a workshop there, and had the camera checked and fitted with a new bellows. The camera was built sometime in the early 1970s.

I've just come back from Munich where I'd taken the camera for its first checkup in all this time. It needed a new bellows and a shutter wasn't working quite right.

Today the Linhof Werke looks run-down, there are 55 workers now where there used to be over 300. You are buzzed in — the front door is permanently locked. The reception is empty — you call a number on the phoneset in the entry hall. The windows haven't been cleaned in a while. The wooden floors are not waxed and shiny, but dull. There are other firms sharing the premises.

Linhof no longer make their own bellows which are outsourced to a firm in the UK.

This was a premier camera manufacturer for many years, not unlike Leica (which also has had its problems).

They just slipped by bankruptcy a few years ago. Many of the fine products they used to make are no longer being manufactured. Some remainders on the shelves and then that's it for the lovely 6x9 Technikas (there are problems getting lenses that fit — Schneider and Rodenstock make their lenses too big for the small cameras these days)and the Aero cameras.

They've done some fine - looking work getting into the digital stream — adapters for the middle and large format scanbacks. I hope this helps. I was told that they have lots to do (50 workers will have a lot more to do than 300+)and that the order books are filled for the next 5 years.

I don't think it's just the film/digital thing that's depressing. It's creeping lack of appreciation for fine mechanical tools and processes that take time.

It's the "let's just replace it" rather than "let's repair it" attitude and its attendant devaluation of all we produce — including the "art" we make that is so disheartening. When I read of people taking thousands of pictures at a "go" I wonder what the value of each image is.

Oh, well, life seems to be accelerating — just where we're all headed — who knows?

5:52 AM  
Blogger Bill Smith said...

Thank you for the swiftian argument that film is dead. I am an analog photographer with a wet darkroom and I am having a ball.

5:22 AM  
Blogger Axel Rietschin said...

*Almost* got me :-)

4:12 PM  

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