Photography: Film Dark Room Printing

Relevance of alternative processes in the digital age

The bankruptcy declaration in 2012 by the once gargantuan Eastman Kodak company signaled the end of an era for film as a medium for capturing images. Erosion of business for film by digital photography was such that by 2003, the company had announced that it would stop investing in film. Digital photography is preferred in many quarters owing to its convenience, capacity for manipulation and cheapness over film. Digital cameras have become cheaper, able to capture images at relatively higher resolutions for a given price, manipulation or correction of images is easier in the digital format, and printing is much simpler. As the quality of digital photography improves, it has even been used as a substitute for film in movies, which require images to be captured at very high resolutions. Despite the popularity of digital photography, film retains a following with some people, myself included, working mostly in film as their preferred method for capturing images.

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One of the main reasons for working with film is the feeling that it is the more artistic medium. Photographing using film often requires substantial care given that film is more expensive and it has less leeway in allowing the artist to manipulate the image after taking the picture. In the digital medium, a photographer can take many photographs in the hope of capturing one that will be good while the film photographer is often more limited. Consequently, it is readily apparent that a good photograph on film requires much more care and artistry – hence its preference by some artists. Digital photography often features immediate results, with the photographer able to evaluate the outcome before it is printed. On the other hand, film requires careful execution in all stages including photographing, handling the film stock, treatment of the negatives and printing. The photographer’s development studio becomes the equivalent of the painters studio, with the processes involved being a form of art. Arguably, digital photography has no equivalent process, with images simply being plugged into a computer if manipulation is required.
Another reason why film is preferable to digital photographs is its more natural look. Film is better at capturing images the way our eye does, with highlights having different looks for digital. Film often offers better images in the way it reacts to too much light. The washouts in digital media are often too harsh; they lack a gradual overload to white. Additionally, film offers very high resolutions even for cheaper film stock. While digital film has been catching up with regard to the amount of resolution it delivers, film produces better results in most cases. For those who are used to film images, digital does not offer an equivalent.


In my opinion, film offers more opportunities for demonstrating competence and artistry compared to digital photography. Various forms of film processes, including cyanodykes and Vandyke, offer photographers substantial latitude for showing expertise and skill. I am interested in these photograph development processes especially when compared to the more convenient digital photography. I propose to work with color printing while using prints of size 8*10 or 11*14. I am interested in night photography in color with special interest in landscapes. One of my main inspirations is the work of Gregory Crewdson, who photographs carefully arranged settings in realistic colors. Nonetheless, the lighting, composition, and development of his photographs give them an unreal feeling that generates significance for the narrative of his photos. In my work, I will use his style as the main source of inspiration.

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