An open letter to the film users on Photo.net: Rise up!
“Be militant each in your own way. I incite this meeting to
rebellion.” – Emmeline Pankhurst
“Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an
appeal to the essence of being.” – Albert Camus
“As long as the world shall last there will be wrongs, and if no
man objected and no man rebelled, those wrongs would last forever.” –
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If you use film, love film, miss film, think film photography
shouldn’t die out, enjoy sharing the world of film, or simply have
film on the brain, this is for you.
Photo.net film photographers, let’s move forward. If you’re tired
of the pointless film vs. digital debates, let’s work together on a
solution that celebrates film photography equally. I’ll admit, we
underestimated our film community during the early days of the digital
revolution. For me personally, it wasn’t until I became the site
administrator – the guy that everyone yells at – in 2006 that I really
started to see just how active photo.net’s film photographers
were. And that’s when I started thinking of ways to encourage that
side of our community.
Sure, arguing about how film beats digital or digital beats film is
fun, at least for some people. It must be fun or we wouldn’t have
hundreds of posts every time the topic comes up. But it accomplishes
absolutely nothing. The people you are arguing with don’t care about
film. Most film photographers I know, even those who like to argue,
enjoy digital in some situations. But very few serious digital
photographers seem to shoot film these days. Yes, there are
exceptions. But those exceptions aren’t the photographers you’re
arguing with in those “D5000 kills 35mm” or “Photoshop manipulation is
killing photography” threads. Instead of arguing, let’s do something
together. Let’s share our expertise in film with new
photographers. Let’s carve out a home base for film photography here
on photo.net, something to build upon our existing film-oriented
- B&W – Film
- B&W –
Printing and Finishing
- Film and Processing
- Leica and
- Classic Cameras
- Medium Format
- And many others
A while back, there was thread about starting a film photography
print magazine. While it’s an interesting idea, it isn’t practical
right now. The economy is down, making a new magazine venture too
risky. Even if the economy was healthier, print media is
struggling. Even some photography oriented websites have struggled to
stay afloat. Advertisers aren’t interested in spending money on the
old print media and subscribers are dropping like flies. For better or
worse, the internet has taken its toll on the world of print
media. That isn’t likely to change any time soon.</>
But we don’t need to start a new magazine to create a home base for
film photography. We have one of the web’s largest and most mature
photography websites right here at our fingertips. With our brain
trust, the combined experience of our community, we can create a
database of film photography knowledge that can provide a resource for
the future. A print magazine’s reach is limited to readers who happen
to see a copy. With the power of Google and other search engines an
article on photo.net is seen and read over and over, year after
year. I am consistently surprised at how much traffic older articles
on the site get. To be honest (and a little vain) I get a kick over
the idea that years after I wrote something, it is still of interest
to people. Makes me feel like I accomplished something neat.
I ask you to join me in making that change. I’m doing my part with
article series, and they have become some of the most commented on
articles photo.net has published recently. I’m not going to lie – they
are fun to do as well. It’s been an interesting challenge and the
reason that my own interest in film has been re-ignited. But I’m only
one man. Not only that, I’m the man who has to consider the needs of
the whole site when deciding what he has time to work on. So I’m
looking to you, to the photo.net film community to take up this
challenge and work to keep film photography and the knowledge of film
photographers alive, to help ignite the interest of the next
generation of photographers.
Please, write something for the site. Write a tutorial. Write a
review. Write an easy reading piece about why you enjoy the
traditional darkroom. As long as it is about film photography, has
useful information or an interesting opinion and comes from the heart,
we want to see it. The photo.net newsletter goes out to hundreds of
thousands of people every month and the site itself gets 60 million
page views a month. Your words will have an audience. People will be
interested in what you have to say.
Will you get paid? Sadly no, and I understand if that 86’s the deal
for you. The budget just isn’t there for that sort of thing. I’ll be
happy to give, or extend, a photo.net subscription to anyone who helps
out with writing. And if I’m lucky I might be able to send out a few
rolls of film as a small “thank you”. But in reality this is a labor
of love for all of us, myself included. Sure, it’s my job to run
photo.net. But if I only went by what was essential for the site,
starting a film crusade would be pretty far down on the list of
priorities for the site’s success. That’s why I’m sitting here with a
glass of scotch writing this on a Sunday night when I should be
enjoying the last of my weekend.
What could we write? Here is just a small list of articles and
themes that I came up with off the top of my head:
Informative article ideas
- How to develop black and white film at home without a real
- So you want to set up a home darkroom?
- Black and white at 400 ISO: how to choose film.
- A beginners guide to scanning various film (with tips specifically
to optimize results with C-41 negatives, color slide film and
- Favorite slide films for landscape photography.
- A review of Vuescan and how it helps your scans.
- What to look for when buying a film manual focus camera.
- Where to find copies of instruction manuals.
- How to use that old camera when the instruction manual is
- Best choices in an AF film camera.
- Help! I need a backup film body for my digital SLR, what are my
choices for best compatibility?
- Playing with the big boys: medium format camera options.
- Playing with the really big boys: large format basics.
- Humorous articles and anecdotes.
- Deep thoughts from the darkroom (huffing too much fixer).
- Photoshop is a lie, and lies made George Eastman cry (Striving for
perfection in the camera).
- Even a monkey can shoot digital, aren’t you smarter than a monkey?
(Why I love film photography)
Any of these, anything even close to these, would work
wonderfully. The purpose of this sort of thing, to me, is to educate
and create a community of film photographers. But heck, if you want to
tweak the nose of digital users, that’s fine too, as long as it’s all
done in good fun and in an interestingly written article.
And we don’t need to stop with just writing articles and throwing
them up on the site. I stand ready to create a different “home page”
for this project, call it “film.photo.net” or something like that. It
would look more or less like the existing home page, but everything
would be based around film. All the “daily sample” images would be
film images, and all the articles and active threads would be film
based. The site itself wouldn’t be any different, all the drop down
menus would still be there – the same familiar format. We aren’t
trying to make a new closed community. But this would give a dedicated
starting point for people who are interested in film photography. In a
sense, it would become that film photography “magazine” that we talked
about a while back.
So what if you don’t want to write but still want to help out with
this project? We still need your energy and assistance. The most
important thing you can do is to tag every one of your gallery images
to identify the camera, lens, film emulsion you used AND with the word
“film” (you might also add in “black and white” or “b/w” if it
applies). Image tagging instructions are right here for those of you
who are unfamiliar with how the system works. I can’t overstate how
important this image tagging is. It is the cornerstone to building a
photo.net database of film photos so people can find them when
Equally important is getting the word out to other film
photographers when this thing gets off the ground. Email your film
friends when a new article is published. Post on twitter or your blog
or the bathroom wall at the camera store. Heck, if it’s relevant, post
on other discussion boards about what we are doing here. But be a good
neighbor – I have a lot of respect for other photography forums and
don’t want anyone to spam them any more than I would want them to spam
us. But just as we are happy to have links to useful APUG (for
example) content, I would hope that they wouldn’t mind having useful
links back to us. Don’t step on toes, be respectful of the policies of
other forums, but make sure that all the film photographers out there
know that we’re working on pumping up the film community with this
project on photo.net.
Digital is coming! Digital is here! Digital is hiding in the
closet! Digital short-sheeted my bed! Digital stole the silverware!
Digital ran off with my wife! (my wife actually uses a Canon XSi and
is happily at home)
There’s no way around it, the photography world is a much different
place than it was 10 or even five years ago. But if I’ve learned
anything while running photo.net for the past few years, it’s that not
everyone marches to the beat of the same drum. So instead of worrying
about the death of film or the onslaught of HDR and Draganizing
effects, let’s pull together and celebrate what is great about our
photography. Rather than argue with the fools, let’s educate the
willing. Rather than leave a legacy of bitter posts and “this vs that”
threads, let’s create something that will endure and be a source of
education for those who seek it out. Let’s help them understand why
the medium and the process are as important to us as the end product,
Digital photography has come to stay but, “Katie, bar the door,”
there’s feisty life yet in film. Let’s make sure it stays that
The Viva Film! art at the top of the page was done by
illustrator Andy Davidson. Anyone in need of an illustrator or
graphics guru should stop by his website at andydavidsonart.com. He’s a
great guy, a talented artist, and has been one of my best photo
critics and friends for almost 20 years.