Why I Use Black & White Film Photography

Why I Use Film Cameras In A Digital Age

My real interest in photography started just as the digital cameras were starting to flood the market. At the time, the most obvious choice was to embrace this new technology so I purchased a Nikon DSLR camera and two additional lenses.

This was the foundation to me becoming familiar with what still photography was all about. It wasn't long before I realised that putting the camera into automatic mode was just not producing the photographs which I has visioned at the time of pressing the shutter button.

After several years, I started to become a little bored with all this technology. I am quite a technical person and it was as though the camera and its built in computer was taking over and doing a lot of the decision making for me. Some may not see this as a big deal, in fact, some may embrace the thought of this.

Mainly Black and White

We see and live in a world of colour. That’s how we’ve evolved, and it’s the world that we know. Naturally, people seem to gravitate to colour photography. I think black and white is timeless, but more than that, it transcends reality and transforms an image into a realm that isn’t abstraction, but isn’t reality either.

Moving To A large Format Film Camera

To re kindle the flame, I made a decision to put the digital camera to one side and embark on a new journey, only this time using a large format wooden film camera which uses 5x4 inch film.

I have now been using this camera for over 2 years and although the process is a long way from the digital camera, I thoroughly enjoy the way in which it slows me down all the way from making the exposure to developing the film in the darkroom.

Pinhole Photography

In 2016, I purchased a small wooden Pinhole camera which was hand made. The craftsmanship in such a small box is beautiful. The camera has no lens (just a tiny pinhole in the front) no viewing screen and takes a single roll of film.

Pinhole photography to me is a basic as it can get. The image quality has a certain look, some say they look blurry but I feel thats the wrong terminology. The level of focus is the same from the front of the picture to the back of the picture and the images have this soft low contrast feel to them. I think because we are so used to seeing razor sharp images everywhere, our brain takes a little time to digest the appearance of what a pinhole camera produces.

I appreciate not everyone will get the same feeling when looking at a photograph made with a pinhole camera but to me, the simplicity of the camera and the different look of the photographs produced makes it a very exciting experience.

More of my Pinhole Black and White photographs can be seen in the Pinhole Gallery

Is Film Superior To Digital

With the high specification digital cameras today, there are many talks and debates as to whether film is superior to digital or visa versa, you only have so type "film verses digital" into google and you will overwhelmed with all the reading material.

I have never been one to go down this rat hole debate simply because it's not always about mega pixels the camera has. Some call me old fashioned, but to me its more about the whole process of the photographic journey, so whether you enjoy the digital side or where you enjoy having to measure the light, working out how to develop the film is not important. What is is important is that you end up with a photograph which closely matches what you pre visualised at the time of capture.

Developing The Film At Home

There are still a few places online where you can get film developed but for me, this was never going to be an option. Just like my printing, I wanted to be in control right to the end.

I have a small make shift darkroom where I do all the film developing and processing. I use a variety of film developers but the goto developer is called PyroCat HD which is a staining developer and produces very clean results with very fine grain.

Printing The Photographs

Apart from my Paper Negatives which I contact print under a 7w light source, all my negatives are scanned and then printed on an Epson 17" printer. I only use archival photographic paper which is either matt or lustre based depending upon the photograph to be printed.

Final Thoughts

Photography is an excellent way of not only capturing memories but it can also be used for expression. I sometimes describe my own personal work as Fine Art Black and White but I use the word loosely as I am not really sure if there is a real definition of the word. I like to make photographs which resemble more in the way of what I saw in my minds rather than what the camera actually saw.

Ian Barber: ©2018