Rebirth of Film

The

BY FRANZ LOPEZ

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Dive into the history of photography with​ stories about its

downfall and how it came back to life as PhotoNation

and Born in Film founder Franz Lopez takes us through

what keeps analog alive today.

 

The golden age of

Analog Photography

I grew up in a less saturated world where life was simple. This is probably one of the reasons why the Analog appeal attracted me. I was 10 years old, a Millennial, and back then, the only cameras I had were those disposable ones sold at 711 for trips when we go out of town. My dad was a professional photographer and most of his gear was off-limits to me —I never understood why until I had one of my own. 

Analog Photography had seen better days. Its golden age was a time when Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube didn’t even exist —Imagine a world without social media, smartphones, and A.I.; Back then, having one device for one task was normal.

People were more physical. We read books, encyclopedias, newspapers, and wrote handwritten notes. We even had photo albums where family events and childhood memories are preserved and kept –this was our Instagram then.

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This was me when I was 10. Back then the only camera I could buy or save up for was those disposable film cameras from Kodak sold at 711.

 

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In 1990, Sir Tim Burners-Lee invented the world wide web linking hypertext documents into an information system accessible from any node on the network —this revolutionized the way we connect with one another and became a precursor for things to come. It was a technical marvel that jumpstarted a cultural revolution as people took notice.

 

By the end of the 90s, people had cellular phones, pagers, laptops, and personal computers. Life as we knew it had changed forever. Everything became faster, more practical, easier, and cheaper.

Steve Sasson

Is the inventor of the first prototype digital camera in 1973 using components he got from components of Kodak’s Super 8 movie cameras

 

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But what about Photography?

Let’s backtrack a bit, enter Steve Sasson —an American electrical engineer. The year was 1975 and inventors were all over, with new tech, people wanted to make things more practical.

 

Steve Sasson who worked for Eastman Kodak invented the very first digital camera using parts from Kodak’s Super 8 camera and custom circuit boards. It was a prototype, weighed 8lbs, and shot 0.01MP per photo. 

 

Steve saw great potential in his invention and he knew that this device would revolutionize photography forever. It was a stepping stone.

 

Unfortunately, the people who led Kodak —the biggest company that held 90% of the film market at that time, found it as something that would potentially rival their own industry. They were very hesitant to push through with the project.

 

Eventually, as computers and microchips became accessible in the 90s, other companies were able to keep up with Sasson’s idea and took the technology a notch higher by making things more compact.

Kodak has been a leader for more than a hundred years. Founded by George Eastman — who, like Sasson, developed the first consumer camera, the Kodak Brownie. His mission then was to introduce photography to the masses.

 

Eastman’s story isn’t as special as we think, even if he was one of the richest men then, he too had personal issues to deal with. He committed suicide in 1932 and left a note:

 

“My dear friends, my work is done. Why wait?” and left the company to its stakeholders. He was 77.

Fast-forward to the 90s, almost 60 years after George Eastman’s death, Kodak had to keep up with the growing demand for digital gadgets and had to restructure its business model.

Due to the growing digital market, and more than 80% of their business model focused solely on film, Kodak, the world’s oldest and biggest producer of film filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

 

At this point, some people would argue that Film died, hence the response: “Film is Not dead”, and true enough, yes, it never did die. People picked up the torch and kept things going for the better or worse.

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George Eastman

Was the founder of Kodak trying out one of the first versions of the movie camera which Kodak was also known for.

THE RISE OF LOMOGRAPHY

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Enter ©LOMOGRAPHY, currently with over 1 million creative members — "Lomography is a license to let loose; an invitation to ignite your inspiration, and a platform to catapult your shots around the globe". Lomography is as simple as its own photography culture.

 

It all began with the Lomographic Society as a camera enthusiast group that turned into a camera manufacturer founded by Austrians Wolfgang Stranziger, Matthias Fiegl along with their other friends in 1991. The uniqueness of its output evolved into its own style of photography, culture, and lifestyle. Its easy-to-use features and artistic appeal attracted most of the youth and art buffs in the early 2000s.

 

The key is with the cameras. They began with  General Igor Petrowitsch Kornitzky and his comrade, Michail Panfilowitsch Panfiloff. Panfiloff, was the Director of the LOMO Russian Arms and Optical factory. In 1984, the LOMO LC-A began mass-production, with 1200 people working on the camera. Starting at 1100 units per month for the Russian market, the camera’s popularity soon spread to then Communist countries such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Cuba. 

With its simple features and its own distinct appeal and look to it, people soon took notice and inspired a global phenomenon.

By the end of the 90s, people couldn't let go of this medium primarily because it's something that they can personally connect to. It's part of their human identity, being there in one piece, frozen in time through printed pictures and negatives

WE 

WERE

REBELS

Film enthusiasts, we like rebels. It was a fight for survival. Around 2004, DSLRs started popping out and my dad being a photographer that he is, he had to adapt to this new camera to pursue his career. I remember him telling me, "gone with the old, and in with the new". 

Film enthusiasts, we like rebels. It was a fight for survival. Around 2004, DSLRs started popping out and my dad being a photographer that he is, he had to adapt to this new camera to pursue his career. I remember him telling me, "gone with the old, and in with the new". 

 

At this time, he handed over his Mamiya RZ67, a medium format camera capable of shooting big negatives —often used in studios, and a Canon 1N, a 35mm SLR camera seen on the hit 2004 Thai horror film “Shutter”.

 

In 2007 I was shooting both Film and Digital, I met my first photography friends from this new online social playform called 'Multiply'. i joined photowalks, EB(eyeball)s, forums and clubs even if I was the only one with a film camera.

 

From forums, we shifted to this new social network built by Harvard dropout Mark Zuckerberg. It instantly changed the way we connected and interacted online.

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FIRST SHOOT –This was my very first photography shoot / meetup with fellow photographers I met on Multiply: Daphne Oliveros, Lalie Odal, and MJ Cachero.

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In 2007, 10 years after returning to Apple, Steve Jobs dropped the bomb; Along came the iPhone. A mobile phone that had everything you could dream of from an organizer, music player, to a compact camera.

 

This gave birth to the era of smartphones.

STEVE JOBS

He built Apple with his friend Steve Wozniak. He introduced the very first iPhone in January 2007.

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5 years after Facebook was open to the public, Instagram rose to stardom. Like the other kids, I wanted to be one of the first users of this photo-sharing app because of its cool retro film filters.

 

Smartphones improved, with camera quality almost as good or even better than DSLRs were. Like a snap from the gauntlet, photography as we knew it, changed yet again.

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THE RISE OF

THE iPHONE

The iPhone was one of the first Smartphones that captured the growing demand for mobile photography –a growing market with the urge to capture more photos having a camera in your pocket.

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Action cameras also took the spotlight in 2014 with the release of GoPro Hero —a small versatile camera that’s waterproof and can be attached to almost anything.

 

In a way, the love for DSLRs shifted to these new cool gadgets. At this time, most people chose action cams, and smartphones over DSLRs.

ACTION CAM

MADNESS

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13 years after I started with disposable cameras, I can’t say that I’ve seen it all. I wasn’t born during Eastman’s time (wish I was), but I feel that there’s more to it than meets the eye.

 

Like I always say, “you can’t classify photography into different mediums”, in itself, it’s its own thing. The only difference is the process and discipline that you choose and follow. Photography is more social now than it was then. You develop skills, and at the same time, meet new friends.

 

Having childhood memories developed and stored inside photo albums gives you that unique experience, different from that of Facebook’s galleries nor Instagram’s. 

 

Looking back, I ask myself why I do what I do —why do I believe in promoting the love for film photography, and it always hits me: “do it for the next generation”.

PARIS –This was my first time visiting Europe and France –the birthplace of photography. It's very memorable knowing the fact that some of the first photographers walk on the same streets I walked on.

WHY IS 

ANALOG

BACK?

I guess the main reason why analog is back is that people were drowned with so many options, complicated mechanisms, and everyone doing the same thing over and over again.

 

When you think about it, you’ll always go back and say “I wish everything was like the old days, where everything was simple”.

 

As human beings, we act and feel through our emotions and senses, influencing the way we think.

 

Analog is back because we lost that connection to reality where life as we know it, is now almost fully virtual, where we do everything online.

 

We created a virtual world where somehow we’re connected but at the same time, we’re not.

 

We as humans want to feel that authentic connection to what we say or do. Analog is a process where do we things by hand, utilizing our full sensory.

 

Photography has had a very long journey beginning from the discovery of the camera obscura by Al Hazen between 945-1040 AD. Through it all, the process of how we do things may have changed, but still, recording light is still and should be its main thing.

 

Analog is back and we should all take advantage of it. If you have the chance to try it, go grab it, because we will never know when it will be gone forever.

Analog photography dominated the art form and developed its own culture. I won’t say it died because it never did, but it has seen better days than 20 years ago.

 

Photography groups like PhotoNation and Born in Film will be here to see to it that the Phoenix will rise through its ashes.

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The Rebirth of film is an ongoing article by Franz Lopez that is released monthly in PhotoNation magazine. Stay tuned for the next episode where we will talk about Polaroid and how the company bounced back.