Let’s face it. Film photography is having a bit of a moment, and the growth in popularity is exponential. The question is: is it a fad or is it going to be around for a while?
As you may recall from my last article, 2019 has been a great year for film photography. Nearly 10 new film stocks have been released around the world, and Kodak is expanding their manufacturing capacity after months of backorders or "out of stock" signs for a lot of their film at most retailers. Used departments at camera stores that had previously seen a more limited interest in film cameras have started to see more turnaround in their stock. The question, though, for this article is whether or not this increased interest in film will be short-lived or will remain for the foreseeable future.
What Is a Fad?
I would define a “fad” to be something of widely observed enthusiasm that is short-lived. Whether or not you would define it that way could affect the concordance of my argument and your thoughts, so let’s just use that definition for now.
In a previous article, I argued that film still has its rightful place in the world, and I firmly believe that. More and more people are recognizing this, moving away from film emulations in the digital world and pursing a more tangible and intentional representation of their work. Not everyone that has tried film loved it, felt it made their work any different or better by comparison. On the hand, however, there are those that have tried shooting film having grown into photography in the digital age and never looked back. And of course, there are people who started their photography endeavors with film, and that’s a different animal entirely.
With that said, I believe that while the interest in film will wax and wane, it is not going anywhere anytime soon — for better or worse. Its recent newfound popularity is not a rejection of digital photography, and thus, not susceptible to fainting interest once the benefits of digital are missed. Instead, I would argue, that the uptick in film’s popularity is the photography world correcting itself after people moved to digital in a rejection of film and what was then seen as a slow and archaic medium in comparison to today’s technology. As such, I believe that once its popularity stabilizes, we will have found the new norm.
The dominance of film in culture will almost certainly never return to its glory days. The mark that digital cameras and phones have left on the world has permanently altered the landscape. Instead, those of us that moved towards digital out of convenience and then moved back to film have instead found that photography was never about convenience or technological advances. As such, me and others like me will continue to shoot film, and many of us will utilize digital as well.
The fact remains, however, that film has never died away for good, and the current upward trend indicates that it is far from dying soon. Whether it is a fad or not is something that cannot be addressed on the population level, but rather on the individual level. Different people have different reasons for giving film a go, and even more, different people have different reasons for sticking with it or moving on from it.