Shooting film for the next generation

Posted on by Bellamy


Shooting film for the next generation
An event in my life recently made me realize the importance of teaching the future generations about not only the history of photography, but the origin of a number of things that we use in our daily lives. It is all to easy for us to just pass this chance by and let the future generation only have the digital outlets for their creativity and lifestyles, but I feel that it is important to show them the legacy of what has gone before and to give them the choices that we have been afforded.

Recently I was out with a friend of mine and his young son have a nice walk through the park. I had a camera with me, as usual (a Ricoh Gr1s) and was happily snapping away at my friends kid. Now my friends son is familiar with me shooting and when he saw that I was, he asked if he could take some pictures too. I happily passed him the camera (fully aware that I would be cleaning the lens for the next several hours, but that is besides the point) and let him get on with it. He took one shot and immediately looked at the back of the camera to see where the image was. He asked me why there was no picture and I told him that it is a film camera and there is no image until later. He gave me a look of complete bewilderment, what is this thing and why can I not see it? He asked me very simply “what is film?”. I was stumped, I had not heard this question before.
So, I asked his father to explain to him what film was, and he told me that he was unsure that he could, as his son has never seen film of any kind.
This is when it struck me, this child, or 6 years, has never seen film, negatives, a video or cassette tape, a record or a tube television. This is not his fault, society, development of new technologies and materialistic needs have made us crave to have ever newer and ever greater instruments of desire. I myself and not immune to this, but I have the ability to choose what I want and I know what came before it. My friends son does not.

And this is really what it becomes with this modern generation. The need for instant gratification, and the lack of patience that follows with this need that is all too often fulfilled. We want our pictures now, our food now and our news on the go. This has given us shortened attention spans. It is common knowledge that if a webpage cannot open in under 3 seconds then chances are the person will open a different page. 3 seconds!
This is not really about film vs. digital or any of that. I am not claiming that the old ways are the best ways. But I feel like I did benefit as a person from seeing the evolution of the technology that we use on an everyday basis. I am not about to go back to cassettes, but I am glad that I had the chance to make mix tapes when I was young.

This is what I am trying to get at. The next generation has no concept of this feeling and of the idea of patience, and it worries me that they are not going to know how to deal with things that take time, and how to savour that feeling. I already saw it when I was teaching small children a few years back. I wanted to do drawing and colouring with them and they could not understand why we had to do it so slowly when we could just do it on the computer. It was this lack of understanding of taking ones time and enjoying the creative process that worried me the most.

I have already decided that I will have film cameras for my future children. They will also have the opportunity to use digital, I am not Amish and I will not deny them what is available. But I will make sure that I educate them on film and on what has gone before (this includes records and much more). Oh and crayons, lots and lots of crayons.

Teaching others about film and photography is a wonderful opportunity to teach them about visual history. Photographic film was one of the inventions that changed the world, it gave us images that we had only been able to draw or put into words in the past. It changed how we perceive the world and this is something that we, as photographers, have a responsibility to share with the next generation. They will see digital, the immediacy of it all, but I feel that they need to see the images that shaped the 20th century too. This will give them a better understanding of what has gone before, which is always important.

So this is how we create a lasting market for film and for a new market for the future of film photography. Education. If you have kids then share you passion with them. I have met a few photographers in Japan (and outside too) who have already jammed a film camera into the sticky mitts of their 6 year olds, and taught them how to see. They have shared the joy of either developing together or waiting to see what comes back from the dev shop. It teaches patience and hopefully visual literacy too.

If you don’t have kids (or don’t want them) then you can still share your passion with others. Start a film photography or darkroom group or club (or join one). Join up with your local rental darkroom (if there is one), or share your darkroom with others. Startup a film photography photowalk and invite beginners to come and play with one of your cameras, social media is good for a few things. I always carry a spare camera when I am going to meet someone to shoot, just in case they want to try it out.

We are a community and we should share our resources and knowledge while it is available. You don’t have to be a film evangelist, but teaching others about what has gone before and how we can still use it to create is a wonderful thing to do.

So lets band together and try to teach the next generation on how they can be actively involved with something that teaches creativity, understanding and awareness of our surroundings, history and patience all rolled into one. I am sure that I am not the only person that has noticed this and feels this way, but if we can work together we can make a few more people enjoy the pleasure of shooting film.

Your thoughts and comments on this would be greatly appreciated. I really would like to hear what you think.

Many thanks
Japancamerahunter

35 Responses to Shooting film for the next generation

kinoz April 14, 2013 at 3:20 pm

This is the same with every industry all over the world. Interesting read. :)

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    kenneth August 16, 2014 at 7:57 am

    I believe film to be superior to any other form for transferring a latent image. The main issue surrounding digital imagery to me is that the sensor on a digital camera has no mass or depth unlike film which has and depth within it’s emulsion. The measurable mass and depth may be minuscule but it is that finite amount that makes the difference and gives photographs produced by the film method a luminosity and depth that digital can never hope to achieve.

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Carlos April 14, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Don’t sound like an ol dog.
give the kids the material and knowledge how to work with the material. Don’t rule them with the crappy hipster streetphotography rules bullshit.
Let them come up with a totally new way of mixing it into their live. It’ll be devil’s action whatever, you’ll hate what they’ll do with film, but this, is the only way film will survive.
Vinyl wasn’t made for DJ scratching or was it? It’s material to be used. Nothing else. As long as it’s there.

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Jackson Kuebler April 14, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Great Post!
I have to admit that I shoot solely digital. But when I first got into photography everyone I talked to said to shoot film and get in a darkroom because it makes you understand light.
I have a sad collection of broken Rangefinders (olympus and canon mostly) that I keep in a cabinet and just WISH I could fix and give them new life.
What I would like to know is where I could go to learn how to fix them so that they could be used? There a few forums online but I am too nervous to try myself.
But you make a great point! Keep it up!

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    George Dilks April 14, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    Just go for it pal,
    I have demolished so many of the old zenit SLR doing so but apart from losing £5/10/15 you know what to do next time!
    In all honesty buy a broken Olympus Trip 35 because is is a Mecca of the simplest mechanical cameras, when it was developed they made the whole thug very simple and so when fixing it everything is very simple.

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nick April 14, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Great post. The kid’s reaction you described happened to me, too, but in my case it was an adult who couldn’t believe I was using film. I wonder if the generation of people who were first exposed to film cameras were also skeptical of film as a new medium?

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George Dilks April 14, 2013 at 4:42 pm

I would say I am a good case for this story as my grandma pushed her (then) rather expensive olympus mju into my sticky football crazed hands and gave me a roll of superdrug film! All she got back was some blurred shots of Leicester City playing or maybe my football on the lawn but it set something off! Next Christmas I got a digital and much to the dis-belief of my parents I still used the mju.
At 14 grandma saw the whole lomo thing was blowing up so bought me a holga and gave me her olympus trip. She then went around the photographers in Leicester asking if she could have any of they expired rolls of 120, I then had a holga and enough rolls to last me the year (17 she acquired). The next year she and my parents went halfs on my 1100D to help me progress my relation to the medium of photography. She is now searching for a Leica M3 as that’s what grandpa bought (probably stole from the armed forces) for her and set her photographic mind in its way.
So is this what you are asking this generation to do to the next as I believe without my grandma I probably wouldn’t be into photography at all.
George (16)

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Tom April 14, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Great article Bellamy I complete agree
Just curious which camera that red one is with the fold out panels over the lens?
Cheers
Tom

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Farhan April 14, 2013 at 6:13 pm

I don’t think we should resign ourselves to ‘evolution’- that’s the point of this article.

Teaching yourself and others how to see and develop the idea of a photo through the medium of film is something that is tried and tested. Film has a positive part to play and is as relevant as it has always been, and Bellamy has mentioned the psychologically positive aspects film can teach us, such as patience. Many people misunderstand anyone who sees the benefit of something that has seemingly been superceded by a ‘better’ technology, as harking back or being old-fashioned when it’s still in active use by so many around the world.

Children should be encouraged to step away from their screens and monitors as often as possible and to rely on their senses more often rather than technology and software. When there is so much debate about the impact of social media, internet and digitisation on our individual lives and society, film photography can still teach us all that life isn’t meant to be lived in 3 second blocks!

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Robert April 15, 2013 at 12:20 am

I would say that the boy will be privy to other technical evolutions. Same as our generations knows film but has little to no experience about photography before film. The new generation will find their own creativity with the tools of their time. And actually the creative potential of digital post-processing is much higher of anything we had in our youth.

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Tadeo April 15, 2013 at 12:43 am

When i sarted in photography, i used a digital p&s. i was lucky that the camera had manual mode. i became curious about the way exposure works and the so-called instant gratification allowed me to watch results and i started understanding how settings work. then i wanted a serious camera but i wasn´t unable to afford a DSLR. what i bought was a really cheap well working Canonet QL 17 GIII with a somewhat dirty viewfinder. i just started sanpping using the cheapest film available (kodak proimage 100 and Fuji proplus II) and get wonderfull results. after some time i looked back to the family archives and realized how important were for the family (or at leas for me) all these snapshots, that there were so many formats (square kodak 127 film, 35mm, 110 and some unknown to me) and in some way a camera was present at hte moment to record part of my family history.
nowadays i shoot film regularly mostly at my kids and t first my son asked me where can he see the picture, i explained him and now he seems to understand well.
Film is not dead, it´s just less known and less used. my two cents on this: the pace of technology an consuming are making us think that what we need is to buy new cameras, everytime there will be a new-faster-better one to buy but we are loosing sight on the importance of imagery as part of our history. what we show to our grandchildren is not how many cameras we bought each year but the pictures we took on important moments of our lives. cameras were revered as history makers and sometimes kept as part of family history, now we just re-sell them, buy the next one and store thousands of pictures no one ever wil see. digital pictures are watched for a second and, if good sent online, if not, burried on a HD forever. pictures are not printed and thus not considered as valuable objects anymore.

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Cody Priebe April 15, 2013 at 12:53 am

Hey Bellamy,

Great article and thoughts! I am doing this with my 4 yr old son and he loves film. He also asks to play records and loves the process pulling a record out and placing it on the table, cleaning with a static brush, and dropping a needle. I am trying to impress on him that there is a process and the process is as important as the result. I think with digital and the every media on demand that they have to be taught patience in the process. He loves his Yaschica T4. Now I sometimes catch him walking around the house with an old canon T70 just focusing a lens and framing things, no film in the camera. Whether or not this sticks or helps develop him I guess we will see :)

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Libby April 15, 2013 at 2:05 am

My own feeling is that digital is fleeting and things can go Poof in an instant. Film is your permanent record.

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    Tim Gasper August 14, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    I can see good aspects on both sides of this. I few things I will say though is that, being a photographer for over 45 years, ALL of the companies I shoot for prefer slide images to digital, and I shoot for several. Most in medium format, but also in 35mm. Their reason id that they can scan the images onto discs and then do with them what they want/need. The most advantageous point about film is that once you have recorded the image, it lasts for hundreds of years. Digital isn’t like this, and after so long you are stuck with having to upgrade your digital with the new technologies. With film, just shoot, scan to disc at the time of processing and you can ‘manipulate’ it all you want afterwards, AND the slide/film will last much, much longer. Another thing I DON’T like about ditization is that one can take an image and ‘create’ something entirely different from it. Is that why one took the original photo? To change it? Ie., images of before/after – mostly of women with spots, etc, and their faces, then altered through software to make someone look very beautiful. This isn’t real in my view. When I take a landscape photo, I want it to look like what I saw. Sure, I can enhance it with filters and maybe a bit of toush up on the computer, but nothing so drastic that it looks surreal. I want it to be dynamic and yet still hold true to what I not only saw, but what I want the viewer to feel. Using a film camera is SO importantto learning how to use light, understand it and how to make it work for the best image you can take. Digital only lets you take as many photos as you want, delete the bad ones (much more than you really needed) and then manipulate them to what you feel looks good, many times altered so much that it wasn’t even what you saw and/or really wanted to ‘say’ in the first place. Want to KNOW photography? Start by learning how to use light – WITH and film camera. But then, I have seen so many beautiful images from digital from photographers who kept true to the original image they saw. Their alterations were subtle and yet so profound. SO, I can see good uses for both. I will always use film as long as it is still being made and I also keep my digital handy for other purposes. Have a wonderful and safe journey in all your shootings.
    Tim Gasper
    f8 Photo/Cine

    Reply
      Tim Gasper August 14, 2014 at 10:39 pm

      Oops, sorry about so many typos. I am not the best typist. Another note – I also understand that many times one WANTS to create surreal images – I myself have done so at time and even have plans on making more. So, sorry for not mentioning that the firdt time. But I still feel that it would very advantageous for anyone who wants to know how to use light, to start with a film camera. After all, that is where this medium first started from. The progression now has evolved into what software one has and how they can use an electronic device (computer) to manipulate images. I personally want to stick to what I see and at times delve into surreal, futuristic creations.

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willd April 15, 2013 at 6:42 am

Totally agree Bellamy,

My two sons have always grown up with me using film cameras (as well as digital) so they have been used to not getting instant gratification from an LCD screen. However, they have been just as interested in the more ‘technical’ cameras: such as my old Hassleblad 500C/M – being able to look down through the camera and see the image in the screen and then hear and feel the solid ‘flip, flop’ is hugely alluring for them (and more than makes up for not being able to see the image instantly).

My advice, for getting a kid engaged is to move away from the point and shoot film cameras that look like digital point and shoots (but with no LCD!), and go back in time a little further. The more mechanical, the more mystical and magical!

Will

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Dai April 15, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Well, my daughter has just told me she has an interest in photography and she only uses iPod Touch 4th generation and occasionally use Canon IXY digital camera and also she uses Sony handycam camcorder to record her hobby which is to make miniature food by clay and other material that can put in oven and what not. Mmm I shall get film camera when we go trip to Tokyo this summer and let her use it and compare which camera she will like whether digital or film.

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Hans April 15, 2013 at 7:16 pm

Great article Bellamy,
I sometimes get the same reactions, when I’m using my NPC 195 or other Polaroid camera. Kids just can’t believe I’m getting actual pictures out of these strange looking boxes. It mostly ends, with me taking their picture ( with or without parents) for them to have.

But I agree that it’s important to teach young kids this kind of history ( not only photography ). But, give them enough room too discover for themselves if and how they want to use it.
Think how cool it could be, to show a class of young kids the camera obscura ( like Abelardo Morell does ).

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Ralph Hightower April 16, 2013 at 4:38 am

A number of weeks ago, I was out on the local dam to photograph Comet Pan-STARRS. I shot a few frames of where it should be. On the way back to my car, I spotted a group of guys with cameras and tripods. I asked if they got photos of the comet and they had. One asked me “Did you get it?” I said “I hope so.” My response took him by surprise, but since he was slightly older than me, he said “Oh, you’re shooting film!”. I had Kodak Portra loaded in my 30+ year old Canon A-1. Sadly, I didn’t photograph Pan-STARRS.
But I joined the local camera club last year; probably 2% of the members shoot film. After all, the exposure triangle of ISO, aperture, and shutter speed, still apply, as well as composition. But I don’t have to worry about white balance; only slide film now has tungsten or daylight temps.

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Charlie April 16, 2013 at 8:56 am

In this same line of thought, I went out today to get 5 rolls of point and shoot film developed… It was nothing important and was low end film, so I went to three generic places and none of them had 1 hour labs anymore. The best offer I got was that it would be sent out, take 7 days of waiting, would cost $7 per roll, and that I WOULD NOT GET MY NEGATIVES BACK. I would get a CD back in the mail, undoubtedly with horrible lo-res, over-sharpened, over contrasty scans good for no more than 4×6 prints. Coming from someone who has had his computer crash and lost many digital files and scans, negatives and something archival and something I am able to revisit, requiring patience and attention, is so important in the world today.

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Joe Elario April 19, 2013 at 5:00 am

I am a full time photographer ( last 32+ yrs.) & yes all our work of course is digital & aside from my normal camera Nikon I also shoot the Leica M9 .
Recently I have been shooting my M6 & the Hasselblad 500CM (in studio) , as well as my Nikon F5 , gotta tell ya , I’m getting a real kick out of it .
Yes, unfortunately there is a whole generation who have simply missed out .
However . . I do refuse to ever again enter a darkroom !
Enjoyed reading your piece.

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Sheep April 21, 2013 at 2:48 pm

I’m a 15-year old currently living in a fairly cosmopolitan Asian city. I started photography when I was 4 years old, taking blurry photos with crap composition on my grandfather’s Olympus SLR. (He still uses the same camera with film to capture landscape shots of the beautiful Nagano region in Japan, where he lives today).

I think I was extremely lucky to start my photographic journey at that early age, and with film, as those two factors have taught me how to read the light, and more importantly to remain patient and never waste shots.

But now film is basically extinct where I live. The lab where I used to hand over my rolls of 36-shot film with trembling hands has become a bubble-tea shop, catering to the growing population of thirsty teenagers. Familiar names like Tri-X and HP5+ now sit like ancient relics in a few shops, commanding almost obscene prices.

Nowadays I shoot exclusively with my (digital) Fuji X100, albeit with the LCD permanently turned off. Though most of my photographer friends in the same age group carry bulky DSLRs and spray everything around them with dozens of shots per shutter-press, I somehow seem to subconsciously slow down, think, compose, and shoot less than 36 shots per outing. I don’t know why, but the ‘film mentality’ seems to have sunk into me, and I’m really grateful for that.

I can’t shoot film too much nowadays because of the lack of infrastructure, as well as my student budget. My dream since a few years back, however, has always been to shoot with just a Leica M6 TTL (made in the same year I was born, 1998) and 35 Summicron, with a spare roll of TX400 or HP5+ in my pocket. It’s impossible for me now, but I really hope the film situation here improves by the time I manage to save up enough for this dream setup :)

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Jim Turner April 22, 2013 at 9:48 am

I teach a beginning photo class in a small liberal arts class. We use 35mm film cameras, manually adjustable. Once the students begin to understand the process and start coming up with interesting silver prints they are hooked. At least the majority of them are. We tried to integrate some digital into the tail end of the semester but the students rebelled. All they wanted was to shoot and print their negs in the wet darkroom. I have spoken with art teachers that teach in schools that have given up the wet darkroom and they tell me that the students want it back. I have interest from adults who want me to teach them photography and darkroom skills. And so it goes…..

I love my b&w film. For portraits I love my color neg film but no longer use it. digital has taken over the commercial side of my photography and I really do not want to go back to color film. But I would rather shoot with my 5×7 view and some sheet film than with my D4 or D800.

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Paige April 28, 2013 at 7:20 am

I found this post interesting as I came of age when society was switching from film to digital. My first two years of high school are chronicled in a photo album via disposable cameras, and the last two are chronicled on Facebook via digital point & shoots (…obviously my interest in photography didn’t come until later). I witnessed the changeover but wasn’t really aware of it at the time.
I became interested in film photography fairly recently thanks to photographer friends and a father who managed over the years to hang on to all of his and his dad’s immaculately kept old film cameras. But, as a child of the millennium who also happens to be hopelessly pragmatic, I really struggled with idea of spending time and money on something that was (as I saw it) outdated and essentially defunct. For instance, I think rotary telephones can look beautifully vintage and appreciate their place in our history, but I would be a fool to rely on one when I can afford an iPhone. However, when I did some research, I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that as a medium film has certain undeniable advantages over digital. I would never argue that everyone should shoot film only, but it is really gratifying to know there are things you can accomplish with film that cannot be recreated with digital cameras. And, honestly, that is what made the difference for me and something that I think should be stressed when introducing film to a younger generation.

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Sue April 28, 2013 at 10:14 am

Film is not dead. It’s just less accessible, especially in South East Asia (but it’s slowly catching up). I’m from Malaysia by the way. I started shooting film about 3 years ago when I finally took out the M6 my dad got me when I was in college (film cameras were still a tool in our photography class). Truth be told, I thought it was a waste of money when he got it for me 9 years ago, when digital cameras at that time were starting to make a hit in the photography scene. Until one day (about 3 years ago), my art director and I started a movement in our office – shoot with film for one whole month. So I took my M6 out of the drybox and fell in love when I fired my first shot, it was an amazing feeling. Ever since then, I was hooked.

I bought a few film cameras. Stocked up on rolls and rolls of film whenever I can get the best deal on eBay. And now, there are film photography workshops, darkroom services here in Malaysia. I guess they kind of know of the film trends making a comeback. People here still shoot lomo while B&W is catching up. More and more youngsters and people in their late 20s / early 30s are delving into B&W photography here :)

I, myself, am one of them. And I’m actually building my own darkroom (well more like turning my bedroom into a makeshift one, whenever I need to print my negs). Managed to get a secondhand enlarger from a friend who’s disposing hers. And for film processing, I use Caffenol :) The results are good.

I guess film is coming back. Just like fashion, certain styles come back after 20 – 30 years (like platform shoes and big floral print dresses). It’s a cycle, waiting for its turn to come again :) That’s how I see it.

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Jim May 14, 2013 at 10:28 am

I’m concerned that there are almost zero 35mm cameras being manufactured today. I think, but not certain, that the Leica MP, Voigtlander Bessa R models, the Nikon F6, and some basic Lomo models are the only ones that you can purchase new. I’m just getting interested in film after not using it for the last 12 years. It’s sad that your options are limited if you want something brand new. And frankly the expensive Leica MP seems like the best choice if you want a good chance of getting any needed repairs several years from now. Too bad it’s probably way too much money for most folks budget.

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Grace Hughes May 18, 2013 at 11:48 am

I competely agree. My husband and I have a 4 and 7 year old. They have been around our film cameras since birth, so from handling cameras – instant to a tlr, they are aware there’s no back screen. We do have a digital camera too which they have seen the back on but they are much more familiar with our film cameras that we use most of the time. We teach what we can to their understanding at this age, and it isn’t until we meet THEIR friends in the same age group that react to our film cameras, and our 7 year old son would casually explain the difference of film like it’s normal which it should be!

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Myles August 15, 2014 at 9:21 am

This is a great article. It’s always funny to me when people first realize the “fake” shutter sound on mobile phone cameras they’ve been using for years, never before thinking that the sound simulates a shutter release (sounds of yesteryear). I really loved growing up with film and linear video editing. Just understanding dodging and burning in the darkroom, I think gives me much deeper insight when I’m creating and editing digital images today.

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April August 15, 2014 at 10:22 am

Agree. Thank you for writing this. I share the same sentiment, and finally someone said it. It’s NOT even about film vs. digital. I often receive the same question when using film. My parents still ask me now on why I’m still using film. I cannot give a straight answer because it can turn into a long discussion :D

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