Film Photography – Superior Medium

Can you remember a time before digital?

Tekel and I have been shooting a lot of film photography lately. He noticed that photos taken before digital tend to be well composed, beautiful photographs because of the time and money a photographer would have to invest in their cameras, film, and processing.

But even the cheapest of cell phones today have cameras in them.

Digital photos tend to be throwaways these days. You take one, review it, and have the ability to delete it without any consideration for the space it will take up because that space is not concrete and limited.

Film is.

24 exposures. That’s all I get per roll. Cost per roll, including processing, is around $5, so I force myself to think about my subject, lighting, timing, etc. “Is this photo worth 20ยข?” I have to ask myself every time I wind the film forward.

I shot two rolls of 400 speed film with a Pentax K1000 over last weekend, and, even though a few frames didn’t come out, there are some that come with stories. Great stories.

We’re toward the end of picture snapping in downtown Flagstaff on First Friday. It was dark, so I was armed with my flash pack. I turned it off as I saw a great shot through the window of the Mad Italian bar of beer pong tables. The lighting was sweet, and I framed up the shot from my vantage point on the sidewalk. Almost immediately, the bouncer standing at the door talking on his cell phone put his hand in front of my lens and said “No pictures” at least three times before I put my camera down.

“I’m on a public sidewalk. I can take pictures here.”

“I know, but no pictures.”

“All right, fine.”

We walk to the gas station down the road. On the way, I regret not standing up to the bouncer. Taking that picture is perfectly legal, and there’s nothing he could do about it beside trying to block my shot. So I decide to do a second pass.

In a stroke of luck, the bouncer is inside when I return. I take the picture, Tekel presses the test button on his flash pack, and the bouncer looks out the window at us. I give a sarcastic wave of the hand, and he bolts outside screaming at us. We make it as far as the crosswalk before he stops us.

“That wasn’t cool. I told you no photos, but you didn’t listen.”

“Yeah, that’s irrelevant because I was on a public sidewalk and I have the right.”

“No you don’t.”

The arguing continued for what felt like 15 minutes, most of which was spent literally in the crosswalk. He welcomed calling the police, bragged about being a business law major, and would not let us go. He demanded the film be removed from my camera. But that was not going to happen because I would lose other pictures from the night.

Eventually, Tekel agrees for me to apologize to his boss – the easy way out, as he put it. I said fine, and the bouncer leads us into the bar. We meet his boss, an apathetic twenty-something wearing a referee jersey and playing beer pong, and I promise that I won’t publish the photo in a newspaper. He cited some publicity reason for the no photo rule.

So, for the record, the organization hosting that party was the American Marketing Association (AMA) and this isn’t a newspaper. And don’t give the Mad I any business for this absurdity.

Also, I’m considering going back for a photo shoot on the sidewalk in front of the Mad I on Friday with some friends, simply to exercise my right to photography in public.

This man was hanging out in front of a restaurant on Leroux, noticed my camera, and asked if I wanted to take a picture of him. I said, “Yes, in fact, I’d love to.” I raised my camera, charged my flash, and he said “I’m going to die” as he made a give-me-money gesture before I took the picture. I agreed to give him a dollar to take the picture, and as I framed him up again, he raised his arms and said “I’m a freak!”

I found out his name is David, he’s Navajo (plenty drunken Navajo in Flagstaff, btw), and he bought a 40 at the same gas station we went to after the Mad I encounter with the dollar I gave him. Best use of it I could think of.

Just before meeting David, an overly ecstatic man wearing a long black raincoat commented on my camera: “What is that camera, a thousand years old?” I laughed, and he asked if I would take a picture of his dog. Sure, why not, I said. And there it is.

And these are a few pictures from my wanderings with Tekel and Angie through downtown Phoenix. We had an interesting time down there.

As a final note, you don’t get these with digital, no matter how good the camera.

For Tekel’s take on the evening (read: more details) check here.

About The Author

Kyle Anderson
I'm a media and IT professional and JavaScript developer who worked most recently as an Associate Broadcast IT Engineer (Tier II) for CNN in Atlanta. One of my life-long goals is to help bridge data divides - missing connections between software systems and data stores - promoting inter-system communication and automation. Many of the projects described here reflect this goal in some way or another.