Film

Kodak re-introduces film… and us to our inner fears. Meanwhile Audry Hepburn eats chocolate from beyond the grave.

 

We’ve always known that what’s out of fashion today will be rediscovered tomorrow. Home baking, vinyl records, UK holidays and heavy eyebrows until recently had all had their day, only to return like Montezuma’s revenge after a partial course of anti-biotics. Stronger, bigger and more emboldened than ever.

If we needed any more proof that life is cyclical look no further than today’s announcement by Kodak – film is back. Yeah…film! Remember that mysterious stuff that you shot by the mile, paid a fortune to have processed then left in a drawer for your kids to throw away when you’re dead?

So why would Kodak breathe new life into a grainy, expensive and always slightly pink dinosaur especially now we’re all co-joined to our digital cameras? The answer is interesting and tells us more about our inner doubts than the mere economics of shooting everything and everybody for free.

While digital is quick, cheap and hugely forgiving, images do have one fatal flaw…they look…well…digital and that includes video. As cold and impersonal as a two day old dog turd and exactly the reason why Adobe made zillions from Photoshop. For anything serious you really can’t use the images straight from a camera, you just have to do something with them. It’s called digital manipulation.

A few miles from where I live is a company that transfer old 8mm movies onto DVD. Day after day they project hours of jumpy grainy pink tinged nostalgia from the sixties and seventies for one last time. The interesting thing is that it’s almost impossible to pass the transfer room without stopping to watch. It’s captivating viewing, almost impossible to tear yourself away from. Much loved middle-aged people now long dead enjoying the novelty of an early package holiday in the sun. Small children now with grandchildren of their own paddle in a grainy flickering sea. And why is this non-digital version of life so fascinating – because like life itself it’s not perfect and therefore, to fallible mortals like us, it’s more real – more believable and thereby more trustworthy. It’s raw nostalgia for a more innocent time. In forty years time will we all be watching our 4k home video productions in exactly the same…I think not.

The truth is we’re sick and tired of deception, of things that turn out to be not what we’d expected. From bankers to politicians to perfect celebrities living perfect lives dating perfect models with perfectly Photoshoped figures’. ‘Photography is a brothel without walls,’ said Vance Packard with stunning prescience back in the late fifties when seeing Audry Hepburn eating Galaxy chocolate on TV was about as likely as flying to the moon…that is of course if they actually did.

Right now we’re grossed out by our digitally enhanced remastered 4K ready brothel of a world and seeking something more genuine to put our faith in. No-one does God anymore and our second religion of children has been exposed as the false idol it always was. That really only leaves nostalgia, but as someone once said and I hope it was me, ’nostalgia is merely adversity viewed from the perspective of comfort.

Finally

Since the onset of digital I’ve been on the brink of dumping tens of thousands of pounds of beautifully made film cameras into the skip. Fortunately I could never quite bring myself to do it and now it seems that even with their individual quirks they may live to work another day.

All of which leaves me along with many younger photographers with one very worrying problem…just how do you thread film into Photoshop?

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