I love film because it looks better.  There’s a depth and soul to film that borders on the mystical for me.  It can’t be quite defined or explained, only felt.  For get science, this is alchemy.
I love the look so much that I don’t mind the process or the workflow.  I didn’t get into this because it was easy; just the mere fact that I have to work at it makes it more meaningful to me.
The limitations of the process become an asset.  You can’t take many shortcuts using film.  There is real cost to each shot I take, which makes me more patient and deliberate.  There is that “decisive moment” as Cartier-Bresson wrote, and one has to be ready for it when it comes, not looking down at an LCD screen at what they just took.
What I’m trying to accomplish in my work might not even be attainable for me, but the fact that I keep on striving makes me a better photographer.  There’s actually an element of the Islamic concept of Jihad inherent in that.  Not that I’ve never actually seen myself as waging a holy war, but digital does have the lion’s share of the market so I do militantly support film any way I can, because the film manufacturing industry needs to meet a certain bottom line to survive, because it’s my medium of choice and I want to be able to use it, because it should be an available creative choice for photographers and filmmakers not just today, but in the future as well.  I want to die knowing that processes like film (and magnetic tape as well) are not only being used, but being used so much that there is still an industry supported by these people, supplying artists with the creative tools needed to make amazing work.
-Film is archival.  Black & white film is projected to last nearly a millennium, color film, depending on type, anywhere from 150-300 years.  That’s damn good if you ask me.  Hard drives, on the other hand, last an average of 10 years with a failure rate around 15% being considered acceptable.  One has to keep continuously migrating data and changing file formats to be able to read digital files years after the fact, but with film, as long as it’s in a dry, cool, and dark place, the rule is Store & Ignore.

I used digital cameras occasionally but I didn’t officially become a photographer until I started using film, and let me elaborate on that, because I don’t think that about people in a general sense (it’s just that digital images rarely do anything for me).  Before film, I wasn’t a photographer because I hardly ever took pictures, I didn’t study or analyze what I was doing (or try to improve it), I just captured snapshots of things that I didn’t want to forget on my phone, I was never consciously or deliberately making a decision to create anything, and I never ever went anywhere with the express purpose of taking pictures.  I started out not seeing myself as a photographer but a film-user, and that didn’t change for a long time, because I didn’t do it consciously to make images, but to learn how to use a film camera.

I was born in 1985 so I remember using film growing up, but then digital came around and it was new and exciting.  When I was younger I used to think that anything modern was good and newer was better, just like most people my age.  Why would anyone want to use an old camera?  Why would anyone want to use film?  I never saw the point, but 5.5 years ago now, I was rummaging around my grandparents house and found one of my grandpa’s old cameras (a TKC Kalimar).  I decided to take it home and use it, because I’d kept hearing that film looked better than digital (it’s true) and I wanted to see for myself again, as I hadn’t used film since about 2002/2003 at that point.  I can’t say any of my images were all that stellar, but I just fell in love with the process.

I started finding other better cameras at garage sales and thrift stores for super cheap, with which I was able to do a lot more.  From 2009 through 2012 I just documented my life the way people were doing it just 10 years before: on film.  Spring 2013 I got asked to do some portrait sessions for a small private school and that took me to the next level.  In preparation, I bought a few pro films to shoot the sessions with, Kodak Ektar 100, BW400CN, and Fuji Pro400H, but the results I got weren’t satisfying to me.  I spent the next day or two just reading all I could on the internet about film and different film stocks and concluded that a portrait session for clients (even friends) was not the best time to try out three new film stocks, so I did a reshoot using what I already knew: Fuji Superia 400 and Fujicolor 200 (those two films and a lot of post-processing got me through the commission successfully).  This was also the first time I gave my business to a local brick & mortar camera store, a business that I still use and a place where everyone knows my name.

Then that Fall I took a photography class at college, that brought my work to another level.  Shooting color negative for the previous four years certainly gave me an edge over my classmates, but I still learned plenty about how to achieve the look I wanted by bending these mechanical apparati (camera and enlarger, as well as chemicals) to my will.  I also learned a lot about interacting with people and ended up doing fine art portraits for my final project.  I learned and enjoyed myself so much in that class that I decided to start a photo blog.  I got tired of reading so much negativity and misinformation regarding film, especially how much it costs, so now for over a year I’ve written about good deals and getting the most for my money shooting film.  Writing this blog also inspired me to declare a minor for Visual Arts, emphasis on Photography, because a major in Sound Design & Music Composition just isn’t enough for me now.

I go to garage sales and thrift stores, but the majority of my cameras have now been gifted to me by people who no longer use them.  For that reason alone, shooting film is about as inexpensive as it is possible to get, far less than buying a digital camera would be.  And that’s the theme of my writing: there are too many cameras sitting around not being used, and they deserve better.  It’s time someone took these cameras out of the closet, dusted them off, and put them to work again!  If you have an old film camera you don’t use anymore, please give it away to someone you know; you may just end up encouraging a youngster to find an interest in photography.

I’m currently in college studying music composition, I record myself, put out albums, play shows.  This is my photographic outlet.

An Old-fashioned Man

Official Site for music/photo projects | Cowboys & Jeeps Instagram page

© Joseph Irvin.  All of the photographs on this site, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted by the photographer. No content may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without express permission of the copyright holder(s).

20 thoughts on “About

  1. I have not shot with a film camera since I was a teen..I currently use a Canon DSLR but would love to try film again. Got any old film cameras lying around? I would take it and be happy as a lark to start shooting film.

    • Sorry, at the moment I’m not getting rid of any. If you are interested though, you should look up some of the late ’80s/early ’90s Canon EOS film bodies, something like a Rebel G or Rebel 2000 would work with all your EF lenses and would get you into film for super cheap.

      • I was not serious about you giving me one :-).. But I will def look into these as to be able to use my lens on a film camera would be great.. I’ll stop back by and let you know what I managed to get.. appreciate the tips!

  2. Film DOES look better. Sadly, in Norway, it isn’t the cheapest way to take photos… But I continue nonetheless, because the first statement holds true. It just means that I save my film for my proper photos – the ones I actually think about before pressing the shutter release. Snaps of food and friends are (shudder) usually from my iPhone. Still, that’s not photography to me – that’s just quick-and-dirty memories jotted down. The photos from my film camera are the things I want to capture properly, the things I’m excited to get back from the developer’s, the things with a bit of thought poured into them (even if I don’t always manage what I set out to). Got a roll in at the developer’s this week. Can’t wait to get it back on Friday 🙂
    Looking forward to following your posts.

  3. Hello…
    I stumbled upon your site. You wrote about SFW film. All of the later film was C41 process. You can tell by the color of the film and the sprocket holes. Pull the leader out and if it looks like new color film then it is C41.

    Good site…Greg

  4. “I used digital cameras occasionally but I didn’t officially become a photographer until I started using film”
    So you’re saying is that there’s no such thing as digital photography?

  5. “I used digital cameras occasionally but I didn’t officially become a photographer until I started using film, and let me elaborate on that, because I don’t think that about people in a general sense…”

    It’s funny how I just want film to be around as a viable medium and ^this person above only seems interested in taking out the competition by any means necessary, for example taking quotes out of context. I also think it shows real insecurity that someone would feel the need to defend a process that has something above 90% market share by attacking people for suggesting that a different way might be better. But then some people just favor homogenization and trust their safety to numbers, while I’d rather see diversity triumph, myself.

    But hey, I’m just glad to have more comments! 😀

  6. I agree! I will shoot on film again once in a while. I collect all my film cameras and it’s all in mint condition–from Nikkormat, FM2, F3T are my manual cameras. I also collect vintage ones. Cheers!

  7. Hey there, just took a look at your blog and was impressed. I’ve added your blog to my blogroll. I also have vintage film cameras that I use from time to time, including everything from a Leica M3 to a Kodak Medalist II, from a Rolleiflex Automat MX to a four-lensed Nimslo. Nice to see more people using film as a viable photographic discipline!

  8. Just found your site, I really like it and your images.

    Regarding your early comment regarding getting a NIkon – mostly because I’ve been using oxygen for almost twice as long as you have, I’ve amassed a small collection of user-grade pre-AF Nikons, in large part because from about 2005 to 2017 they got really cheap (some models are getting pricey again). Bang for the buck, if you want a Nikon go find a Nikkormat. FT, FTn or FT2. Use any non-AF Nikon lens, including the cheaper-for-the-same-glass non-AI versions. My first SLR was a Nikkormat I bought new in 1975 with a couple of years of savings from minimum wage jobs, which I still have and still very much enjoy using. But I also really like using my Kodak Signet 35 (my first non-box camera). Great lens and simple to fix.

    • Thanks for your thoughts! I would definitely not say no to a Nikkormat FTn or later, they seem like sturdy reliable cameras. I haven’t published the posts yet but I actually have now gone the Nikon route! I have a Nikon F thrift store bargain find plus an F2A from my local camera shop. I don’t have any glass besides the 50mm 1.4 but I can’t say I’ve had many subjects to shoot yet! I’m halfway through my first roll in the F2 but even without the quarantine I’m not too busy unless it’s Summer. But posts on the Nikons are coming in the next few weeks!

      • 1. Being somebody who does believe that one’s hardware relates to one’s expressive perception (I think those of us that prefer older, infinitely rebuildable devices to the current Electronic Jesus’s harbor tend to that philosophy – I see the undercurrent in your writing), I find myself most often using a pretty beat up plain pentaprism F or an S2. But the Nikkormat still gets used. I think they’re everybit as bulletproof as the F/F2. Just a different sound and feel when they fire. And if you can lay your hands on the 50mm f/2, do so. It’s a much nicer carry-around lens than that huge 1.4, everybit as sharp and maybe a little better contrast.
        2. If you ever have the hankerin’ to fix a nice clean unmolested Kodak 35RF, I’ll send you one (once this viral thing dies down). I’ll never use it.
        3. Looking closely at the homestead pictures, it looks like you grew up in the riverside version of the Ohio farmtown I lived in for most of my first 48 years, opposite side of Columbus. There is a look to rural Ohio……… no wonder I like your stuff.

Please discuss!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.