My first camera was a Canon SLR, long before digital became a thing. I've recently realised that I have been taking photos for 25 years.
In school, I did work experience at a small local Photo studio. It was family owned, and the son had taken over from his dad.
They did headshots for passports, studio portraits, and developed all their own film. In the window, they still had some handcoloured black and white prints.
On my first day, I was given a camera and some film and sent off. I got on my bicycle and rode out of town, to take photos of cows and fences. Nothing of great value was on that roll of film. Upon my return, the film was developed for me, and then I was left to experiment in the darkroom to enlarge my prints of cows and fences. It was the smell that got me most. I loved it.
And then the world turned digital, and film was proclaimed dead. Except that it never died. It was there, in the shadows, co-existed quietly next to the digital noise all this time. And now people are starting to realise that it cannot be replaced. At least, it hasn't yet. Still.
There is something in the quality of film, that still can't be captured in digital, no matter how many film emulation filters and presets you use. The colours and the depth of film are unique. So many photographers are returning to film. Some, I suppose, have never left.
I'm realising now, that the sharpness and the sometimes almost clinical features of digital images, are not actually something I want in my photography. I want emotion and light, shadow and grain. I want depth and not the flatness of digital.
Apart from the end result, it's also the process of taking analogue photos that I love. It makes you slow down and be more intentional with your work. Everybody says it, and it's true.
Film is ridiculously expensive. If you're shooting on professional film, and getting your film developed and scanned by a professional lab, a roll of film (35mm or 120), will cost you around 40 AUD. If shot on medium format (where you get between 10 and 15 frames per roll, depending on what camera is used), that's between $2.7 and $4 per frame. It adds up! Even cheaper "consumer" film stock and home developing will still cost you actual money.
So, we think twice before we press that shutter. We compose the frame carefully, and take our time measuring the right exposure settings, so that we get it right.
It doesn't cost anything to mindlessly shoot 1000 photos on digital, except who wants to spend hours in front of the computer to sort through them all?
In a world of instant gratification, film teaches you to be patient. You take the photos. You send them to the lab. Then you wait. Or perhaps you do your own developing, in which case you likely wait until you have a few rolls to develop at the same time, because the mixed chemicals have a short shelf life. Delayed gratification is a good thing to try.
Shooting film makes you a better photographer. You have to actually know what you are doing. You have to trust your own ability, because you don't have the monitor to check what you have just done.
I feel that nowadays, very few people actually know what they are doing. We kind of do a bit of everything, and muddle ourselves through life, but who is actually still knowledgeable and competent? Kids don't learn how to spell properly at school, doctors blindly prescribe either antibiotics or steroids (whichever they deem more appropriate in the given circumstance), without knowing what the actual problem is. Very few people know about ancient herbal medicines these days. Knowledge that has been passed down through many generations of humans has suddenly been lost and forgotten in a matter of a few decades. People don't even know how to eat properly (I recently found out that an Intuitive Eating Coach is and actual thing and it's what some people do for a living, because we have forgotten how to eat!), let alone cook!
Being good at something is really nice. It's also extremely satisfying to put in the work, time and practice to gain that knowledge and skill, without taking shortcuts. I want to be better at photography.
In a world full of visual pollution and meaningless imagery, I like to think that analogue photographs stand out a little. Maybe as a relic of the past, maybe as a vision of the future we should be aiming for.