It's funny to think back to the days in college when I said I'd never own a digital camera until I could get 5 megapixels that could fit in my pocket. The idea is laughable now since my phone fits that criteria. I knew that as things were changing I'd most likely end up shooting digital, but the idea that I'd be working completely digital by choice never entered my mind. However, today it is all I shoot. That is not to say that I don't miss some things about shooting film.
As with all students attending Northeastern University, I was required to do what is known as the Middler Year Writing Requirement. Since most students attend for five years instead of four, the third year is known as the Middler Year. It is in this year that most students would end up taking the class in which they would spend an entire quarter (yes, we were still on quarters) working on what was in many ways a thesis paper. If I'm not mistaken, I ended up taking this class in the Spring of 1999. As an aspiring photographer, and being in a program that was ahead of the game, I was experiencing first-hand the digital revolution. Due to all the changes going on in photography, it was a no-brainer to write my paper on where digital and analog photography were going to go.
Years later I can say most certainly that the paper I wrote, although probably not written well, was extremely accurate in predicting where analog and digital would go. My prediction, simply put, was that digital would take over in all, if not most, commercial applications; analog, on the other hand, would not completely die off, but would be relegated to fine art and personal work. As of 2016, I couldn't have been more correct.
I've noticed over time, though, that the nostalgia of film can really influence people's way of thinking. I have had many conversations where I'm told that digital just can't match the feel of film. One of my favorites is the people I hear that long for film grain. Never did I ever seriously consider film grain something to be desired. Don't be mistaken, there is something I like about looking at a photograph and knowing that it was film, but that is purely the pull of nostalgia. Even when I was shooting film 100% of the time, I would rather shoot with a low ISO and, if possible, a larger film format. All of this was to try and get the smoothest, clear image possible. If I had to use a film that was a higher ISO, it was with the reluctance that I was going to see grain as I printed larger.
I had a recent show of black and white images shot over a one year period. All of them were shot digitally and printed through a commercial lab. During the opening I had a gentleman ask me if I printed my own work. I told him I did not, that I didn't currently have a digital printer I was happy with. He immediately scoffed that he didn't consider digital photography "real" photography and had quit shooting once he couldn't develop and print his own work. Obviously he wasn't trying too hard, but also he didn't realize initially that the prints and images were digital.
This proved a point I've tried to make for a few years now. Although we don't spend time in darkrooms anymore, we still can do most, if not all, of what we could do with analog photography in the digital realm. Don't get me wrong, there are processes in both digital and analog that the other can never reproduce, but most of these things are gimmicky and not something to be taken seriously and a conversation of which one is better than the other.
On a final note, I do have my own hangovers from using film that creep into my digital shooting. To this day I still don't look at how many images I shot in a day without thinking of how many rolls of 36 exposure film I shot. It just goes to show that old habits are hard to break, because of that, I'm sure this is a topic that will come up again in the future.