Reviving the Endangered: Film Photography

“The medium is the message” — Marshall Mcluhan

The message here being, to slow down, breathe and look around.

Image by Bhavya Ahuja

Marshall Mcluhan’s book titled ‘The medium is the message’ became even more appropriate when the publishers made an error in the title, changing it to ‘The medium is the massage’ or the ‘mass-age’ as Mcluhan interpreted.

This mass — digital — age has inevitably led to an age of excess. One of the major points of excess being photographs. Our phones are constantly overloaded with innumerable pictures, be it our own, or of others on social media. Whereas, our computers are filled with photographs that we dream of sorting out, without ever actually getting to it.

The luxury of excess somehow ends up making our lives and work seem incomplete. And to fill that void, comes in more technology, claiming to make our lives easier and hence, better.

But whatever happened to ‘Good things never come easy’?

Today, the norm is to point at and shoot everything that may or may not arouse you emotionally. Enter: Film to the rescue!

Bringing you back to the basics, the process of shooting on film teaches the fundamental elements of photography without luring you into the trap of quick convenience.

Going against the idea of clicking in abundance to get that ‘perfect shot’, here is our conversation with some photographers who prefer the imperfections and slowness of film.


Prerna Nainwal
25, Mumbai

Q. What do you like most about the process of film photography?

I like the slowness. Thinking about the exposure, frame and everything before clicking. Unlike digital cameras, with which you can click and delete pictures, film cameras make you respect photography and photographs.

Q. Does your process differ when you shoot for a client?

It’s very different with a client. In India, photography still isn’t considered an art form. The clients bring in too many references and ask the photographer to click in exactly the same manner. There are too many opinions. So when I am shooting for a client, it’s them clicking pictures through me.

But when I shoot for myself, I click what I think and what I feel. I photograph my favorite colors and the compositions that makes sense to me.

Q. Where do you find inspiration?

Nature, Love and Longing.

Q. Do you remember what you felt when you developed or got back your first roll of film?

I got my first roll developed when I was in school. I didn’t know how to shoot properly then, so most of the pictures were over exposed and also washed out. I could only get one picture of my mother, which was really nice.

Q. If you could describe your style/aesthetic, through one of your photographs, which one would it be?


Dhrupad Shukla
25, Mumbai

Q. What do you like most about the process of film photography?

I believe that film has the tremendous power to communicate with a wide range of audiences across time and space, making it a rare and riveting medium. I enjoy dealing with photography at a conceptual level.

Q. We noticed, you work with a lot of tight crops when documenting your subjects. Is this intentional?

I instinctively enjoy shooting tight crops. When I think about my tight frames, I feel that it could be so because I am very tactile and possessive about my film rolls. I think I do it to discourage anyone else from recomposing the same shot easily!

Q. Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration in my everyday experiences. I find Darius Khondji’s work with composition and colors spellbinding.

Q. Do you remember what you felt when you developed or got back your first roll of film?

I was so excited that I ended up messing up the roll in a way that it got stuck to the camera. In the process of unfolding the roll, I ended up spoiling it and still regret never having seen my first photographs. It was an experience that taught me squarely what not to do when developing the roll and yet the memory of the thrill will always remain.

Q. If you could describe your style/aesthetic, through one of your photographs, which one would it be?

“Photographs shot on film have a high developmental potential with regard to the texture and grains, which is why I enjoy shooting on film the most. It is thrilling to see what becomes of the photographs once they are developed.”

Paras Vijan
23, New Delhi

Q. What do you like most about the process of film photography?

Initially when I used to shoot on film, the sole intention was to understand how the medium works and the technicality behind it. I’ve been shooting on this medium for a while now and I feel it slows me down and makes me think more subjectively. I love the hands-on aspect of film photography, from developing my own negatives to making my own prints in the darkroom.

Q. While looking at your work, we noticed that you are drawn to the everyday moments. What fascinates you about the mundane?

My fascination with the mundane comes naturally to me due to my living conditions. I live in Canada for 8 months, then I spend the summer in India. Constantly moving between the two countries has made me come to an understanding that “one’s mundane is another’s extraordinary”. Moving back and forth also helps me look at the same things with a fresh perspective.

Q. Do you remember what you felt when you developed or got back your first roll of film?

I have the same excitement every time I see my developed negatives. I remember how excited I was to see what had come out in the first roll I shot. It was mostly over and under-exposed shots.

Q. Where do you find inspiration?

I derive inspiration from the moving world around me, a world in transit and the restlessness in the continuous motion of people and my surroundings. I’m inclined toward the concept of journey/transit, often using it as a metaphor for living. Living, itself, in my head, is like a process or a journey.

Q. If you could describe your style/aesthetic, through one of your photographs, which one would it be?

“There is no set aesthetic that I could describe my work with!”

Naveed Hussain
24, New Delhi

Q. What do you like most about the process of film photography?

I just want that 90’s feel back when we used photo albums and had to wait for the films to be developed. I love those grainy photographs with over exposed portraits. Along with that, I love the element of surprise! You don’t know what you have clicked and have to wait till you get that roll developed!

Q. Do you remember what you felt when you developed or got back your first roll of film?

When I got my first film roll developed, half of it was over exposed. I only managed to get 8 photos. The rest were totally white! I was a bit disappointed but the feeling was inexplicable and I was like ‘dude this is not easy at all.’ It looks fancy & easy but it’s not!

Q. Where do you find inspiration?

Inspiration is everywhere. You can find it in some photographer’s work or by travelling, or just by clicking what you like and how you like it.

Q. How would you describe your time spent processing film in the dark room?

I haven’t processed films many times but I was lucky to do that in my art school. It was really exciting and really put me in the zone. I felt like I was travelling back in time.

After that, I recreated a dark room in my studio and managed to get some prints! Now I am planning to have my own dark room and learn the process thoroughly.

Q. If you could describe your style/aesthetic, through one of your photographs, which one would it be?


Hasita Kamlesh
27, Jakarta/New York

Q. What do you like most about the process of film photography?

Shooting film makes one choose what to capture more carefully, as there is a specified number of shots when shooting film vs the endless pictures you can take with a digital camera. What I love most is that there is little I can do beyond composing the image. It sometimes takes a while for me to get my film developed and by the time I do, I thoroughly enjoy reliving the moments I forgot I captured.

Q. How did the name of your blog — ‘sixdollarcamera’ come about?

It was the price of the first film camera I purchased when I decided to re-shoot film after a long bout in the digital world.

Q. Do you remember what you felt when you developed or got back your first roll of film?

Back in the late 90's I remember shooting a roll of film in Goa, India. I have family in Bangalore and I remember getting my first roll of film developed there at a ‘Foto Flash’, distinctively because it had a big tiger on its awning. I remember the sheer excitement because I had no idea how they would look, I still get that feeling to this date.

Q.Where do you find inspiration?

The streets, architecture and in the shadows.

Q. If you could describe your style/aesthetic, through one of your photographs, which one would it be?

“I can’t help but be enamoured by single point perspective. This particular photograph best describes my style and how it is changing, some of the rolls anxiously waiting to be developed tangent off this aesthetic. High contrast, architectural, light and shadows is what it’s about for me now.”

Sambit Biswas
21, New York/New Delhi

Q. What do you like most about the process of film photography?

At first, in 2015, I was drawn to it because of the unique look, colors, and the film grain since you just can’t get that on a digital camera. The images also feel more lifelike somehow. Every proper shoot I’ve done on film, I’m proud of all the images I take. The same is not the case with digital. Ending up with over six hundred and sometimes even a thousand raw files can give anyone a headache but add to that, not liking most of the images. It just made me mad.

Q. We love your portraits! What draws you to your subjects?

I was not very good at starting a conversation with strangers or even talking and holding a conversation with people I don’t know. Portraiture was my way of communicating with people at first. My nature of being a shy introvert changed through photographing people. It is still my preferred way of showing appreciation for people that I look up to and like.

Q. Do you remember what you felt when you developed or got back your first roll of film?

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I was actually jumping when I popped the film from the film tank and rolled it out to see in the light!

Q. Where do you find inspiration?

I look at the great documentary photographers and fashion photographers like Dorothea Lange, Vivian Maier, Mary Allen Mark, Steven Meisel, Richard Avedon and Irving Penn but also some new age photographers. I sometimes spend hours in my college library just browsing through photo-books. But the reason I fell in love with photography was looking at pictures taken by Prabuddha Dasgupta at National Gallery of Modern art in Delhi and especially his books ‘Edge of Faith’ and ‘Women’.

Q. If you could describe your style/aesthetic through one of your photographs, which one would it be?

“I’m a big fan of creamy pastel colors and minimalist photographs which show you what you want to see straight up. No distractions. My recent shoot with Belen and Abbey in Brooklyn is what I strive for in terms of looks/aesthetics.”

Lavanya Grover
22, Mumbai/New Delhi

Q. What do you like most about the process of film photography?

I think photographs clicked on film are more close to reality. Digital photographs in one way or another impersonate a perfect world. The grain and the slightly out of focus photos depict our perception of the world. Photographing analog film becomes so much about the moment, as it takes you away from the thought of the final result. It lets you experiment in the moment and teaches you to be patient with the results. After a point, you stop doing it for the end result and do it only for the possibility of creating magic. It teaches you to have faith.

Q. What is the idea behind your polaroid series that you re-shoot in different environments?

In the past couple of years, I have clicked hundreds of polaroids that have been scanned and archived multiple times. The idea behind the mini series was to install them in spaces that are relatable. Somehow, my instincts didn’t allow it to stick. I plan to display them someday in an unforgettable setting.

Q. Do you remember what you felt when you developed or got back your first roll of film?

My first roll of film came out almost entirely blank. That was 3 years ago. I realised that day, that this medium will never fail to surprise me and will always pose a challenge, which it still does today.

Q. Where do you find inspiration?

Experimenting with lighting inspires me as it is an elaborate way of capturing strengths and vulnerabilities of the subject. I find inspiration in the most absurd details. A lot of it has developed over the past year while working in the film industry. A huge part of my job is to bring in objects that are connected to characters. How the objects evolve with the character and reflect their state of mind. Singularity ceases to exist. Instead, you find coexisting voices. The visuals in their minds constantly overlap each other and so do the landscapes, the people and the objects that surround them. The photograph is often just a glimpse of the story. The story is the most important.

Q. If you could describe your style/aesthetic, through one of your photographs, which one would it be?

“I like exposing one frame onto another because it allows me to show how my creative mind works — the second thought always contradicting the first, several impossibilities merging into a definite concept to a detail oriented instinct. One form melts into another forming an illusion of depth and mystery. What you get is a juxtaposition of frames seeming like several ‘acts’ in a movie. There is a beginning, the middle and the end. I find this method ideal also because it saves me from digitally editing my photographs to bring the concepts to life. If and when I successfully capture an image with a certain timeless nature, the year of origin does not matter.”

Written by Seerat Sethi for AGENC

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