Ups and Downs

Film photography is different from any other art form in one way. We’re all afraid it’s going to die. It reminds me of a comedian who talked about how hard core surfers are. In no other sport do athletes face the real possibility of being consumed by a wild predator. No other art form is threatened in quite the same way. If film, paper, and chemicals are all things that need to be done in large volumes to be profitable. If the prices go up too much, demand drops off, volumes drop off, products cease production. A severe enough downward cycle could put an end to film photography as we know it in a relatively short period of time. Perhaps a year or so. The hope is that if only a few players exit the field at a time so that the others can pick up the business.

This situation also has film photographers gazing at industry news like it’s some sort of tea leaves. Some of the stuff that’s got me down includes this article about how the Library of Congress no longer offers traditional silver gelatin prints. While it’s sad that they’ve stopped offering the service, what’s truly depressing is the how the contracted printer feels. He’s been printing for 30 years, has recently picked up digital and now feels like silver gelatin is “out of step” with today’s industry. GRrrrrr! Rare, yes, different, yes, niche, YES! But somehow nebulously wrong, no, no , NO. He needs to go to a Photostock and see how alive the film community is!

On the up side is the email I just got an email that Lomography.com is now selling 120 versions of their B&W film. Yay! Except for one thing, we know who all the film mfrs are which means Lomography.com is rebadging someone’s film. Dunno whose though. At least this points to their finding some more demand.

On the downside is Kodak’s financial woes. It looks like they’re headed for bankruptcy. On the plus side, their film and chemical divisions, though shadows of their former selves are profitable.

On the down side my local Rite Aid pharmacy now sends out their film for processing and printing. Meanwhile Walgreen’s just changed their processing policy so that you MUST order two sets of prints to have your film processed. O_o Also Walmart’s E6 and C-41 send out services just jumped to $7/roll. This has me thinking I perhaps over-hoarded Astia and Kodak EPP slide films.

Another interesting positive development is the release of the Lomokino. Essentially a hand crank film/movie camera that uses regular 35mm film to put 144 24mmx8.5mm frames on a roll. Neat, film hungry, stuff!

Also Keh, the largest reseller of film cameras, just did a brief guide to film types supposedly in response to an influx of new-to-film photographers. Hopefully this is a trend that continues or levels off but doesn’t recede. I’m hoping there’s been an actual over correction in the exodus to digital and that this isn’t just a dead cat bounce.