THE RESURGENCE OF FILM
Vinyl records, bell bottoms, polaroid cameras—they all have one thing in common. They’re making a comeback, and very soon you’ll see film added to that list.
With the recent surge of celebs and social media influencers making the grainy photos and oversaturated colours trendy on Instagram, it’s no wonder young people are ditching digital technology and turning towards disposable cameras and SLRs.
But what really sparked this popularity in film again? For Talia Ricci the answer is simple, film never really left.
As a CBC reporter and self-taught photographer, Ricci’s world revolves around telling stories and more often than not she does this through capturing moments in still photos.
Digital cameras are quick and handy, especially for her work as a journalist. In her personal photography, however, Ricci finds herself being drawn to film cameras, whether that be SLRs or single-use.
She explains that she’s much more inclined to reach for one of her many film cameras over her DSLR when hanging with friends, out on a hike with her boyfriend or walking along a beach by herself.
Ricci specifically credits the rise of digital technology in smartphones for igniting her recent switch to film.
“The identity of being a photographer really changed with smartphones and for me, film was almost a way of rebelling against that,” she says.
Over the years she’s collected quite a few film cameras, including an Olympus SLR, a Minolta she picked up from a garage sale and a Lomography point and shoot camera.
These cameras are among the many that changed the course of photography and paved the path for the technology that would follow. Check out some of the most monumental cameras below.
Not only does being a photographer mesh with her work as a journalist, Ricci’s knowledge in photography also comes in handy for her vegan food and wellness blog Wild Bella. Explore some of her work below.
While she uses her DSLR to take photos for her blog, Ricci says that shooting on film helped improve her photography.
“You’re so present when you’re shooting film,” she explains. “You spend like 30 seconds just thinking about the shot, which I think has made me a better photographer.”
Getting a great shot isn’t the only reason for this need to be present while shooting film. It also comes down to the fact that there’s an expense involved with this style of photography.
Processing photos and then having them printed has become much more expensive than in the past, explains photographer Antonia Mancuso.
Her photography studio, Blue Monkey Pictures, was one of the few remaining studios that continued to shoot film for clients in the digital age. The only reason she eventually stopped was because of the hefty cost involved.
“It just wasn’t financially feasible,” she says.
Mancuso recalls once paying $5 for the processing of a professional roll of film. Whereas now, it can be anywhere between $15 to $20. But that’s only developing the photos. It would be an additional cost to then have them printed.
Many of the places that once developed film, like Walmart and Costco, have long stopped offering the service. But there are still a few shops around the GTA that develop both black and white and colour film.
Annex Photo is one such shop that still processes film in house. Located in the heart of the Annex, near Bloor Street West and Spadina Avenue, Annex photo is an immersive photography shop conceptualized by Fujifilm. Aimed at bringing about a “Photo Renaissance,” the retail store is the first of its kind in Canada.
From the street view, the store is seemingly just another cute little shop along Bloor Street. But once inside, it’s not hard to see why it’s often called a photo wonder shop. Instax cameras line one wall of the store. Next to that is a crafting station where customers can print out their photos and decorate them.
FUJIFILM PHOTO WONDER SHOP
But what about film?
Open Monday to Sunday, Annex Photo offers same day colour and black and white film processing. However, the black and white service isn’t available on weekends. This is because the shop processes black and white film by hand, explains George Wilson, retail brand ambassador with Fujifilm.
Since the recent resurgence of film, Wilson says the store has seen a spike in customers purchasing and processing film.
“In August we actually had the most film developed we’ve ever done in the store and we’ve been here over 20 years,” he explains.
The shop specializes in Fujifilm products and accessories, and among these are disposable and single-use cameras, which Wilson says have become really popular. He sees a constant flow of people purchasing disposables and then bringing them back in to be developed.
He credits the popularity of film cameras to the fact that if you don’t get a good picture you remember it.
“With digital you can just take the photo again, but [with film] you’re actually learning,” he says. “It’s a good cycle.”
For Alyssa Mancuso, Mancuso’s 14-year-old niece who assists the photographer on various shoots, using film requires a good amount of technical skill in not only capturing the photo, but also in knowing how the camera operates.
“If you’re actually interested it takes some work,” she says.
The most rewarding part of shooting film for the high school student is the surprise of seeing her work come to life.
Both Mancuso and her niece have been developing their own black and white film for years. The photographer shared her seemingly foolproof process, which you can watch below.
HOW TO DEVELOP BLACK AND WHITE FILM
THE CHEMISTRY NEEDED FOR FILM PROCESSING
From developer to fixer, hover over each chemical to learn more about its role in developing film.
Film Developer is used to develop the film. It essentailly makes the images appear on the roll.
Stop Bath is used to stop the developing process.
Film fixer permanetly sets the images to the roll. “It’s like hairspray for film.”-Anotnia Mancuso
If you’re new to film and worry about potentially messing up the development process—have no fear. There are plenty of shops across the GTA that you can have your film developed at.
While Mancuso compares the rebirth of film to the revival of vinyl, she says that she’s not sure if film will ever be as successful. This is because you can walk into a record store and buy a used album for $5 or $10, and play it over and over again. But you can’t go out and buy used film.
None-the-less, she concludes that while film is popular mainly in the art community and among the younger generation, the resurgence seems to suggest that “everything that was old becomes new again.”