Written by Jordan Michael Lockhart
My name is Jordan Michael Lockhart, I am a fine art film photographer from Los Angeles. In 2014 I moved to New York City and acclimated myself with the local analog scene and global camera market. When I wasn’t shooting or working I was traveling by bus to pick up cameras I had scoured from live auctions. In early 2017 I amped up my buying and selling and sold off another 27 cameras from my personal collection. Then with my Ricoh GR1, Lomo LC-Wide, Voigtlander R4M, and an 18 liter backpack, I headed off to Germany with no intention of ever returning. 10 months and 9 countries later, I’ve found my cameras are the only thing I need to feel “at home”. Today I work with Cameraventures to help understand the global state of analog photography and do my best to experience it first hand along the way. So what have we discovered? Well, let’s get into it…
Voigtländer Bessa R4M – Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Analog Photography in 2017
Over this last half of December we’ve shared with you 12 different articles and resources looking back on the Analog Photography Scene of 2017 for our “12 Days of Film” New Year countdown. There you will find many ‘Top 10’ articles that show you the most popular and prominent analog photography communities and news across the web.
The film Gods – though mysterious in their ways – have looked kindly upon the film industry in 2017, shining light of progression rather than a cast of doubt. We were blessed with announcements of several new and resurrected film stocks. Kickstarter saw some successes with new cameras from Reflex and Lomography. And Bellamy Hunt brought an announcement of a premium compact analog camera that could be in our hands by late 2019.
While many of the developments of 2017 won’t fit into everyone’s shooting style it’s an undeniable step forward for the industry as a whole. As we have said before they key to the longevity of film is to ensure a growing user base to continually grow demand for a supporting infrastructure. This means more cameras, more repairs, and more developing labs – and all at a competitive cost without a monopoly in any given corner of the market.
20 years ago when everybody and their grandma was shooting film (literally), it was not the obligation of the artist to support the industry. Today we are at a unique time in history where our desire for film vastly outweighs its necessity. Now, ‘artists’ and ‘purists’ are the only foundation for film and the task is upon each of us to hold our own weight or help support those with a larger foundation.
A group of cameras from a community Film Camera Meet-up Event in Brooklyn 2017
Analog Photography in 2018 & Beyond
I may be late in my sentiment but I feel for the first time this century film is no longer recessing towards a slow and inevitable doom. Ask any of those in harmony with the industry today and they will probably tell you as will I that – there is something in the air. With so many of the former big name companies now extinct or focused on digital, film feels like the Wild Wild West of photography. But this lawlessness and disarray has its advantages. Without rules and order we have the opportunity to shape the future of film.
So let’s not stop there let’s look for some real answers. It is a mystery where the exact future of film will lead, and like any good mystery there are a lot of questions. Who will make new cameras? What will we do about broken cameras? Where where we develop our film? Why won’t more big companies take action? How can I help?
As we addressed earlier making new cameras is something that’s already happening. The demand is there it’s just a matter of the manufacturers attaining financial and industrial resources and getting the right support from the film community. This is slowly heading in a positive direction.
‘Rollei 35 LED’ Circuitry
Fixing cameras is tricky as many are deemed ‘unfixable’ due to their designs, and most technicians with first hand repair knowledge from the glory days of film are retiring or retired. For many the most viable remedy for a broken camera is toss it in the bin and buy a new one. This is not a healthy contribution to analog camera longevity. Cameraventures is opening a 600 square meter camera rescue center in Finland to help keep cameras in the hands of photographers and not garbage men. So far we have rescued over 35,000 cameras from Finland alone, and plan to reach out to the rest of the world and save 100,000 analog cameras by 2020. (camerarescue.org)
Camera Rescue Center in Tampere, Finland
The answer to where we will develop our film varies greatly based on region. Nation Photo in Paris, is developing 100,000 rolls per year alone, while many less populous countries may have only one lab within all of their borders. To have more processing labs we need more demand to make running them financially feasible as we addressed earlier. We will be working in 2018 to provide more resources on this subject.
Why won’t more big companies take action? We all dream of a Canon comeback or Ricoh resurgence but sadly these companies have left film in the dust. But what does taking action mean, what do we want from a ‘big’ company? Cameras? Film? We have that already with Leica, Lomography; Ilford, Kodak and many others. I guess we want more right? Me too. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.
Juho Leppänen of Cameraventures Looking Over His Negatives
And lastly how can you help? Well that’s up to you. Will you get your friends into film photography? Learn how to repair cameras? Start a blog, youtube, or club? I think the best thing you can do is be aware that with a community a fraction of the size it once was every person counts and can make a difference if they so choose to. And don’t forget to support your fellow photographers and those actively working to make a difference. Donate to your favorite analog blog, buy their products, click their links and help keep them alive. You never know what they have up their sleeve and a little extra support may help bring their solutions to fruition. As Juho says “The key is for all of us to work together globally.”
If you want to read more on this subject check out a recent piece by Stephen Dowling of Kosmo Foto titled Where Does Film Photography go from Here? It’s an insightful look ahead with interviews from several prominent members of the film community and reflections on the developments of 2017.