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.