Sarah Paul looks at a roll of film for printing at Delaware Camera store in Williamsville, N.Y., Friday, May 20, 2011. (AP Photo/David Duprey)
N.Y. (AP) — At Image City Photography Gallery, Gary Thompson delights
in pointing out qualities of light, contrast and clarity in one of his
best-selling prints — a winter-sunset view of Yosemite National Park’s
El Capitan peak shot with a hefty Pentax film camera he bought in 1999
wife, Phyllis, a latecomer to fine-art photography after they retired
from teaching in the 1990s, favors a Hasselblad X-Pan for panoramic
landscapes, such as a time-lapse shot of a harbor in Nova Scotia.
11 partners and resident artists at the private gallery in Rochester —
the western New York city where George Eastman transformed photography
from an arcane hobby into a mass commodity with his $1 Brownie in 1900 —
the Thompsons are the only ones left who haven’t switched to filmless
But that time may be near.
like the color we get in film, the natural light,” says Phyllis
Thompson, 70, who married her high-school sweetheart 50 years ago. “But
digital cameras are getting much better all the time, and there will
come a time when we probably won’t be able to get film anymore. And then
we’ll have to change.”
the turn of the 21st century, American shutterbugs were buying close to
a billion rolls of film per year. This year, they might buy a mere 20
million, plus 31 million single-use cameras — the beach-resort staple
vacationers turn to in a pinch, according to the Photo Marketing
Kodak Co. marketed the world’s first flexible roll film in 1888. By
1999, more than 800 million rolls were sold in the United States alone.
The next year marked the apex for combined U.S. sales of rolls of film
(upward of 786 million) and single-use cameras (162 million).
startling has been the plunge in film camera sales over the last
decade. Domestic purchases have tumbled from 19.7 million cameras in
2000 to 280,000 in 2009 and might dip below 100,000 this year, says
Yukihiko Matsumoto, the Jackson, Mich.-based association’s chief
InfoTrends imaging analyst Ed Lee, film’s fade-out is moving sharply
into focus: “If I extrapolate the trend for film sales and retirements
of film cameras, it looks like film will be mostly gone in the U.S. by
the end of the decade.”
Kodak employee, Earl Blackmon, loads medium format film into a hopper for packaging during a product change in Rochester, N.Y., Thursday, May 26, 2011. With the film market shrinking by more than 20 percent annually, analysts foresee Kodak offloading its still-profitable film division sometime in the next half-dozen years as it battles to complete a long and painful digital transformation. (AP Photo/David Duprey)
Just who are the die-hards, holdouts and hangers-on?
those who still rely on film — at least part of the time — are advanced
amateurs and a smattering of professionals who specialize in nature,
travel, scientific, documentary, museum, fine art and forensic
photography, market surveys show.
Regular point-and-shoot adherents who haven’t made the switch tend be poorer or older — 55 and up.
there’s also a swelling band of new devotees who grew up in the digital
age and may have gotten hooked from spending a magical hour in the
darkroom during a high school or college class.
Others are simply drawn to its strengths over digital and are even venturing into retro-photo careers.
everything from wedding to portrait to commercial photography, young
professionals are finding digital so prevalent that they’re looking for a
sense of differentiation,” says Kayce Baker, a marketing director at
Fujifilm North America. “That artistic look is something their high-end
clients want to see.”
remains the world’s biggest film manufacturer, with Japan’s Fuji right
on its tail. But the consumer and professional films they make have
dwindled to a precious few dozen film stocks in a handful of formats,
becoming one more factor in the mammoth drop-off in film processing.
Photo in Rochester finally switched this year stopped daily processing
of color print film because fewer than one in 20 customers are dropping
off film. A decade ago, “we could process 300 rolls on a good day, and
now we see maybe 8 or 10 rolls on the few days we actually process,”
owner Scott Sims says.
For the hustling masses, there’s no turning back the clock.
so many digital images taken every day, especially with mobile media,
that never will hit a piece of paper,” says Therese Mulligan,
administrative chair of the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences at
Rochester Institute of Technology.
Even at major photography schools, film is an elective specialty.
At the turn of the 21st century, American shutterbugs were buying close to a billion rolls of film per year. This year, they might buy a mere 20 million, plus 31 million single-use cameras _ the beach-resort staple vacationers turn to in a pinch, according to the Photo Marketing Association. (AP Photo/David Duprey)
entire first two years’ curriculum is digital in orientation,” Mulligan
says. “Those that follow a fine-art option are the first to gravitate
toward film. Other genres we teach — photojournalism or advertising or
biomedical — have a stronger digital emphasis because of the industry
a rich irony, film’s newest fans — not unlike music aficionados who
swear by vinyl records — are being drawn together via the rise of the
technology that enabled the demise of film is actually helping to keep
it relevant with specific types of users,” says IDC analyst Chris Chute.
with the film market shrinking by more than 20 percent annually, most
other signs point downhill. Analysts foresee Kodak offloading its
still-profitable film division sometime in the next half-dozen years as
it battles to complete a long and painful digital transformation.
will churn out a variety of films as long as there’s sufficient demand
for each of them, says Scott DiSabato, its marketing manager for
professional film. It has even launched four new types since 2007.
digital has largely closed the image-quality gap, DiSabato says a
top-line film camera using large-format film “is still unsurpassed” in
recording high-resolution images.
beauty with film is a lot of wonderful properties are inherent and
don’t require work afterward” whereas digital can involve heavy computer
manipulation to get the same effect, DiSabato says.
the extreme, they call it ‘stomped on,'” he said. “But a lot of
photographers want to be photographers, not computer technicians. And
some prized film capabilities — grain, color hues, skin-tone
reproduction — can’t quite be duplicated no matter how much stomping
Thompson, who’s been exhibiting his best photos for 32 years, captured
his Yosemite picture on medium-format slide film — which is 4 1/2 times
bigger than 35 mm film — during one of many weeks-long photo jaunts with
the digitally scanned, 24-by-30-inch print, the shadow from a dipping
sun has climbed halfway up El Capitan. The wooded, black-and-white
foreground with its lacy snow patterns stands in stark contrast to the
golden glow on the granite cliff face under a blue sky.
don’t know if I could have gotten this print that large with that kind
of detail” using a digital camera without “shooting several images and
blending them together in Photoshop,” he says. “What attracts me to
shoot in almost all instances is the quality of light and there’s
something about film and working with it and the way it records that I
Thompson feels acutely that he’s reaching the end of an era.
people’s film cameras break down, rather than purchasing another one,
they move to digital,” he says. “Eventually, we’ll probably be doing
that. There’s a certain nostalgia involved, particularly when I’m
working with one of my big husky cameras. That will be sad. But hey,
when it happens, I’ll adjust.”
SOURCE: The Associated Press