“The machine-gun approach to photography—by which many negatives are made with the hope that one will be good—is fatal to serious results.”
– Ansel Adams
Decades ago, master photographer and industry influencer Ansel Adams may have used a special lens to catch a glimpse of the future when he made this statement about film photography. But could he have ever predicted just how far his art would come in the Digital Age? It’s hard to imagine, but I think he nailed it. And would he have embraced today’s high-tech gadgets? Perhaps…
At the time of Adams’ passing in 1984, digital photography was just emerging and with it, a new era in photographic technology began. Gone were the days of limited frames, deliberate planning to get just the right shot, agonizing wait times for photo development, and the joy of flipping through stacks and stacks of memories on paper.
Instead, we entered a world driven by convenience, portability, and most importantly, instant gratification (not to say that this is all bad!). As difficult as it may be to believe, the first digital camera hit the market over four decades ago. Now, just a few generations later, our cell phone cameras rarely leave our hands. Photography as we once knew it was forever changed.
But if Adams were to fast-forward to present day, he would see that things are shifting. Amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life, there is a global movement to slow down the shutter speed (so to speak) and return to the old days and the old ways.
Film photography is making a comeback, and while some manufacturers stopped producing film years ago, several are back at it. It has become a niche, which only makes this community stronger and more passionate about its art.
On the forefront of this revival is “a vibrant collective” of 10,000-15,000 photographers—professionals and amateurs alike—who have come together for the love of the art, thanks in large part to a website that came on the scene just 2 ½ years ago. Though many members of this group may have grown up “digital,” the founder of Emulsive.org is challenging photographers to leave their comfort zone and once again embrace film photography. To do this, they host a global gift exchange focusing on gifts for film photographers.
Emulsive: Encouraging Artists to Embrace Film Photography
According to Emulsive founder EM—who prefers to be referred to as this anonymous entity so as not to allow others to judge based on name, gender or place of birth—the website started “as an evolution of an idea to share my work and peer input.” The site also serves as a soapbox for photographers, as they can post reviews of equipment and share educational and technical articles.
As EM put it, “The project was born from equal parts frustration and love—frustration with the lack of current, reliable examples and reference material for film stocks and film cameras; and love because we really do love the medium.”
Here’s how the Emulsive site describes its mission:
Emulsive is a space for film photographers of all ages and backgrounds to share their knowledge, experience and thoughts about everything related to film photography.
We review film stocks and film cameras, publish essays and photo stories; and are the home of the EMULSIVE Interview, a series of interviews with film photographers the world over.
“You can probably best describe us as reasonable advocates of film.” Although EM will also clarify that film photography is “an individual choice and absolutely 100% not suitable for each and every photographic endeavour.”
Exchanging Gifts For Film Photographers
This holiday season, Emulsive will once again host the world’s largest annual film photography gift exchange, bringing the global community together in an epic exchange for over 460 participants (and counting), spanning 43 countries. EM admits organizing this large exchange is a true labor of love. There are challenges in taking on the role of Santa with “no sleigh, no cookies, and no milk,” but those are outweighed by the joy of the “knowledge transfer” that takes place within the community.
Since film is often hard to come by these days, the gifts for film photographers in this Secret Santa exchange range from weird and hard-to-find rolls of film to exhibition prints and maybe a few extra goodies. EM expects presents to be wrapped nicely and encourages participants to “Get Creative!” And with a suggested budget of at least $10, it’s all about encouraging one another and spreading the word in this artistic community.
And speaking of blowing the budget…EM shared the story of one of the most remarkable and generous gifts perhaps ever exchanged on Elfster.
In last year’s exchange, one very generous elf gifted participant Amanda Gordon a 1963 Leica (a legendary camera) worth over $1,400! As a grad student in the UK, she realized how lucky she was and was blown away by the generous gift. Her secret elf knew she was just starting out and hoped to encourage her love of photography. Not only that, but he included a pair of snazzy camera-themed socks, as she had also just injured her knee and was a bit out of commission. All that from “a stranger from somewhere on the other side of the world!”
Bringing Together the Film Community
Not only do these gift exchanges bring together the photographers, but it also unites the industry side with the community side. Every year, EM seeks sponsorships from the film industry to provide a few bonus gifts for participants.
This year, there are 12 sponsors for the gift exchange, who will each provide three goodie bags that will be sent to random participants. Details are kept secret until closer to the draw, but this year’s sponsors are Carmencita Lab, Dubble, Eastman Kodak Company, FILM Ferrania, ILFORD photo, Japan Camera Hunter, Kosmo Foto, Parallax Coop, Silberra Film, Shoot Film Co, Solarcan, and Ultrafine.
So as EM encourages participants, “Get. In. The. Spirit!”
I guess this is proof that the film industry is again alive and well, and even gaining momentum, for those looking to slow down and explore life through the camera’s eye
Would you love to become part of this exciting community? EM would love to have you! Feel free to stop by the website…
EMULSIVE NEEDS YOU. The driving force behind EMULSIVE is knowledge transfer, specifically engendering more of it in the film photography community. You can help by contributing your thoughts, work and ideas.
Help drive an open, collaborative community–all you need do is drop us a line and we’ll work something out.
Looking for a great way to spread a little generosity in your own community? Organize a free, online Secret Santa-style gift exchange with Elfster. It just takes minutes! Want to connect with the elves at Elfster? You can reach us via Facebook, tweet us @Elfster, or catch us on Instagram at @Elfstergram.