What Makes Film Different?

"At the Break" by Derrick Story - Yashica FX-103 with Zeiss 45mm f/2.8 Tessar. Fujifilm 400.

One of the benefits of the digital age has been a reexamination of film photography. After a decade of shooting primarily with megapixel wonder machines, I uncovered a box of film in the bottom of the fridge and wondered, "How would this look?"

Little did I realize in December 2015 what would follow. In short, emotion has returned to my work.

Like so many other areas of our life, we don't always recognize a void until a drop of hope trickles into it. I can remember saying that I don't need a woman to be happy. Then I fell in love and can't imagine going back.

I feel the same way about analog photography. I know now that I'm going to finish out my career with a digital camera in one hand and a 35mm in the other.

So what does makes film different? I wish I could answer that for you. But it is a bit like trying to describe love itself. One thing I know in both cases, is that you can't emulate it.

I enjoy applying software filters that look like film to my digital images. I think I've created some wonderful shots that way, many of which are very important to me.

Then I look at this image of a black woman during a break at an NBA basketball game, and I know there's no filter that could create this photograph. 

The tonality differences between her beautiful black skin, dark hair, and seemingly bottomless depth of the chair that she's sitting in is exciting to me. Then you have the brightness of the crowd in the background and that distinctive grain pattern.

Software is brilliant. Film is magical.

To understand analog capture, you have to experience it. And at times it's painful. Film will break your heart a dozen times, then rocket you to the heights of ecstasy.

To be honest, this type of photography is more like real life. Maybe that's what makes it different.


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