Why We Still Love Film: Embracing Analog Photography in the Digital Age

NBC documentary unit Left Field has created an interesting deep dive on the renaissance of film photography in the digital age. In the short doc, the Left Field team try to figure out why the analog process—so time consuming and expensive—has seen such a strong resurgence in recent years.

The doc was shot and edited by producer Carlos P Beltran—an avid film photographer himself—and features several faces that should be familiar to the readers of PetaPixel. YouTubers like Willem Verbeeck feature prominently, as do executives from companies like Kodak and camera store owners who have seen their film and SLR sales boom.

One of the themes of the doc is that the demographic for these videos and cameras seems to be quite young, with the biggest percentage coming from 18 to 24 year olds, followed by 24 to 35. The natural question is: why? Film photographer Nick Carver thinks he knows.

“There must be a pretty big burn out on just how intangible their world is,” says Carver. “I think everyone kind of wrote [the younger generation] off as ‘they want everything now and they want everything easy,’ but they’ve really embraced film photography much more than I expected.”

This resurgence in interest is then linked back to the market response—Kodak resurrecting film stocks, and camera stores raising prices on cameras they used to try and give away—before finally asking the question on every photographer’s mind:

“Will it last?

Given the environmental impact of shooting and developing film—to say nothing of the limited supply of film cameras and the expense of the process itself—will the renaissance be short lived? Can the allure of slowing down—of taking life one frame at a time—be enough to sustain the film industry’s growth for many years to come? Or will the “fad” die and sale plummet once again?

Kodak believes “the future looks bright” for film photography, the YouTubers seem to believe that the process will remain a niche, and some, like the International Center of Photography’s Wesley Ham, believes that film will eventually go away. We’ll leave you to come up with your own answer to that question.

Editor’s Note: Sadly, this fascinating and timely short doc is also Left Field’s “bittersweet goodbye” to their viewers. After 3 years of visual journalism, PetaPixel has learned that the Left Field documentary unit will be shutting.

If you have a moment, head over to their YouTube channel and show the Left Field team some love.