Ten rolls of TMAX 400, the film used in Loveland High School’s film photography course, costs $60. A 100-pack of 8×10 Ilford Black and White photo paper is $70. A functioning film camera will generally range from $30-150. All this, and a photographer is left with only 36 photos of highly unpredictable quality. In contrast, a digital camera can shoot millions of high-quality photographs faster, with more accuracy, and immediate feedback. Also, digital photos are more flexible, cleaner, faster, more convenient and much less expensive. So why, when so few high schools still have a film photography class, does the school continue to offer an analog photo class?
Photo 1, the analog film photography class, is the most expensive course that Loveland currently offers in terms of supplies — easily reaching $250 for the prerequisite. This is in contrast to the nearly free (digital) photo 2 class.
“It’s a big investment up front. I think it’s valuable, but the practicality of it is starting to go away,” explained Loveland photography teacher, Mr. Jim Barrett
The class is also expensive to run, with expensive chemicals, hard to find bulbs, and pricey upkeep.
“Film is photography, and so to teach photography or to be a photographer, it would make sense that film would have to be involved. An important point that I try and raise too, is that film is archival and digital is not. At the very least, film is archival, and it’s tangible; real. To be a photographer one must do photography, and to do photography means to use film. Much like to play guitar one would actually have to play a guitar” said photographer and actor Jason Lee.
Lee is known for his role as Earl in My Name is Earl, Dave in Alvin and the Chipmunks and co-founding/owning Stereo Skateboards. Lee has become a popular photographer known for his unusually large-format polaroid camera and instant film photography.
Above, is one of Lee’s unique Polaroid photographs. Lee kindly offered his opinion and on the importance of analog photography to Loveland Magazine through a direct message interview.
“Photography is not to be made easier, but should be difficult, to make good photos. Nothing that is easy to make is worth much to anyone,” said renowned, professional street photographer, John Free who only shoots black and white analog film– the same kind used in the fading photo 1.
“The film and the darkroom have given me a fine pleasure for fifty years, and I’m still going out to that messy little room I built in my garage so many years ago. A swivel office chair, with the trays of chemicals and my enlarger at the height of a sitting old guy allow me many happy hours to work and play with this magic process of making important images,” continues Free. Analog photography has qualities simply unachievable with digital cameras.
“Film photography, I think, it the most ‘pure’ way to learn about photography. How it works, how it’s supposed to work. How to see light, how to expose. This is as opposed to a digital camera– you don’t even have to think. It does everything for you, you just have to push a button. With photo 1, you have to think ‘I’ve only got this many photos, we talked about this in class so I’m going to work on that when I look through the viewfinder’. Each year, though, it gets less practical” said Mr. Barrett.
Practicality is the driving force behind the end of Photo 1. Loveland is hanging on to its film photography class. Milford and Kings still have darkroom photography, but they are some of the last.
“My stance is probably a bit ‘controversial’ but I’m pretty adamant about film needing to be used. And the more it’s used, the more it helps the economy of the film industry, too” explained Lee. But, ultimately, will film photography die out?
“There’s still people making their own film. There’s still people making their own Daguerreotypes [one of the most primitive photographic techniques], and they’re incredible. Look at Polaroid, they went away, came back and somebody bought the factory. There will always be a niche for film photography,” said Barrett. Loveland will be one of the last schools in the area to lose their film photography program.
Barrett claims that if another facility is offered for photography classes, the classes are likely to merge. The new class will contain a small film photo component and focus on more digital. There may be an advanced photo/multimedia/videography class that would merge with the daily school newscast. Although one of Loveland’s most unique courses will soon be gone, it will leave a window for a new visual arts course.