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  • Writer's pictureSey Rosen

The Analog Renaissance is Here

Sey Rosen writes about Photography’s Analog Renaissance (Image: Alax Matias)

Analog lovers are once again smiling with the growing demand for their photographic films, papers, and with the advent of Digital Photography in the early 1990ies there was a great decline of the Analog Photographic industry as all the major players entered into ‘The Great Digital race’.

Photographers, both amateur and professional, were spurred on by the hype and spin of the ‘big boys’. A number of well-known Analog film camera makers simply disappeared and even Kodak declared bankruptcy, ironically after developing the first professional Digital camera. The Digital industry became more and more sophisticated as successful companies spent more and more billions on research & development to introduce newer models to keep ahead of the competition and the gullible public kept upgrading. Nikon, Canon, and relatively newcomer Sony now bring us one, if not more, new models every year.

Digital cameras, including cell phones, are in fact, tiny hand-held computers. The same Canon and Nikon in their Analog days would only give us a new model every few years. Analog cameras, in comparison to Digital, were very simple mechanical machines and they worked! There was no need to upgrade every year.

Analog Photography Renaissance is here. Youngster checking developed film camera-roll laid on a lit table.

image: Anushka Ahuja

BUT, times are changing. Over the past decade the younger millennials who have grown up in the Digital age, having no knowledge of Analog Photography, have become curious, wondering what old septuagenarians, like yours truly, are always blabbering about. Art Schools have re-introduced Analog Photography courses after years of offering Digital Photography only. Public Labs offering well-equipped Darkrooms for rental by the hour 24/7 for those who wish to process their own images are springing up worldwide. The film is once again becoming widely available. Kodak has re-opened the Rochester factory to produce Analog film. Ilford has struggled through the difficult times but never left the scene, producing film, paper, and chemicals. Fuji, the third giant, is showing strength whilst a whole new batch of independent film brands has sprung up.

Flim Camera getting exposed and developed in a Red Dark Room

image: Ron Lach

The reasons for this renaissance are actually quite simple. Being a creative person, I love the tangible hands-on feeling of creating an image. From the beginning of going out to shoot, developing the film, culling the good from the bad, exposing the paper on the enlarger baseboard after doing test strips to ascertain exposure and composition then finally watching the magic of the image appearing on the wet paper in the developing tray. All this takes place in the romantic red-light district with the astringent perfume of the chemicals. I’m not sitting at the computer, pressing the mouse button, and watching it happen on the screen by remote control. The machine is creating the image. Artists, Sculptors, Painters, and Bricklayers, all get down and dirty in their creations, and so do I. I feel great satisfaction knowing that “I just did it.”

It is possible to easily process Black & White film, completely in daylight. The only total darkness needed is when transferring the film from the camera to a daylight-developing tank. Once the film has reached its end, been rewound into its cassette, and removed from the camera, a special lightproof changing bag can be used to load the film into the developing tank and the tank closed, it can be removed, and all the chemicals can, in turn, be poured into and emptied from the tank. I used to load my films in my bedroom cupboard after closing the blinds and curtains and the cupboard door.

For those for whom the ‘hands-on approach’ is less important than the final image, there are photo labs that provide a full service of developing the film, scanning, printing, and returning the negatives/slides, prints, and Digital files on a CD. The photographer can then post-process their chosen images to their vision using their apps.

History of photography timeline. Iceland Tours. image: Sean Ensch

A little information here is necessary for the understanding of the difference between ANALOG and DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY technologies. Both Digital and Analog cameras have the same purpose. To collect and concentrate the light transferred through the lens onto the electronic sensor or film and both need the three essential controls aperture, shutter speed, and iso – the sensitivity of the sensor or film – these are the ONLY physical attributes that the two technologies have in common. Analog photography is the result of the light reacting on the silver halides coating the film followed by the chemical processes in developing that film.

Digital photography is a totally electronic process whereby the light is brought through the lens and falls on the electronic sensor which then analyzes it through the use of mathematical algorithms programmed in by engineers according to their comprehension of the ‘ideal’ image. There are no two models of Digital cameras that give identical results.

It needs to be totally understood that both technologies have their pros and cons (some realistic and objective, some subjective). One is not better than the other. They are just different. It is because of this difference that the HYBRID process is so important in ‘marrying’ the two technologies together and making them compatible with each other.

Film Camera Loading with Ektar 100

image: Athena

In our next episode in this series, we’ll delve into practical details of Analog and Hybrid Street Photography.

I’m leaving you today with a number of links to sites that explain and give access to Analog supplies and equipment. Bear in mind that the film processing equipment is relatively affordable and a one-time investment. The chemicals are reusable and available in liquid dilutions which increase their long usefulness. Be aware that the prices quoted may seem very high but they are for multiple packs of film.

Author – Sey Rosen

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1 Comment

Prasiddhi .R
Prasiddhi .R
Feb 25

Loved this. Very insightful!

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