Monday, February 26, 2024
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Analogue resurgence

Dive into the revival of film photography, where enthusiasts and newcomers alike rediscover the magic of tangible memories and timeless elegance

Amidst the soft whirring of the film reel and the gentle click of the shutter, analogue film captures the essence of nostalgia and authenticity, transporting enthusiasts to a bygone era. Its resurgence defying the digital age’s dominance, drawing enthusiasts and newcomers alike with its unique charm and tangible experience.

Though still relatively small, communities of film photographers are flourishing, sharing their passion and creative visions in an analogue renaissance that celebrates the enduring allure of this timeless medium.

Videographer Wadi Bob and film photographer and lab technician Awangku Mahmud Aizuddin bin Pengiran Haji Baharudin, also known as Kei. PHOTO: IZAH AZAHARI

Meet 34-year-old videographer and photographer Wadi Bob and 24-year-old film photographer and lab technician Awangku Mahmud Aizuddin bin Pengiran Haji Baharudin, also known as Kei, two dedicated practitioners of analogue film photography whose passions for the craft knows no bounds, capturing fleeting moments with an ethereal elegance that transports viewers to another time.

Vintage analogue cameras. PHOTO: IZAH AZAHARI

DIGITAL DISSATISFACTION

“I started film photography sometime around 2013. I can’t quite remember when exactly, but I do remember it was because I had gotten bored of using digital cameras.”

Unsatisfied with the instant gratification of digital photography, Wadi sought personal growth through analogue film exploration. Navigating film photography solo that year, Wadi relied on self-research and online classes to develop his skills. Despite challenges like rising film costs, his dedication to the art remained unwavering.

Wadi believes that newcomers to film photography today are fortunate to have abundant online resources available for learning now.

“Film just gives me a sense of chill and relaxation.”

Explaining his approach to capturing images on analogue, Wadi said he wouldn’t do it ‘on-the-fly’, and would meticulously plan out each shoot, considering the desired outcome, the narrative he aimed to convey in the images, and the ideal moment to snap the photograph – all within a single frame. “My shooting style revolves around capturing just one frame; if it doesn’t meet my standards, I accept it as a failure,” said Wadi.

Thus, out of 36 shots, he said he might fail in three, but achieve perfection in the remainder. This disciplined approach defines his practice. Highlighting the demanding learning process, Wadi spent two to three years mastering film photography techniques, despite financial strains from high costs.

Although he temporarily paused analogue photography, his skills persisted like muscle memory. Now, he relies on intuition rather than tools, seamlessly adjusting settings for different shots.

Kei (R) talking about his past experiences using film. PHOTO: IZAH AZAHARI

“What I find most enjoyable about film photography is the journey of discovery; initially, the process may seem mysterious, but with practice, it becomes second nature.

“The technical aspects gradually become familiar, eliminating the need for extensive editing of film photos.”

Wadi’s passion for analogue photography is fuelled by the challenge, especially in nature photography, where he finds inspiration. He acknowledges that achieving perfection in film photography is elusive, despite dedication and practice.

 

PANDEMIC PIVOT

Kei, a newcomer to analogue film photography, embraced the hobby during the COVID-19 pandemic, choosing a film camera over a phone camera for a deeper sense of motivation. When questioned about his motivation, Kei offered two distinct answers: one truthful and one professional.

“My professional answer would be that I wanted to pursue photography as some kind of career in the future so I wanted to get better at it.

“But, truthfully, I wanted to impress this girl who had a film camera as well, so I picked up a film camera, too, so we had something in common to talk about.”

During COVID, Kei reflected that there was a significant surge in interest in analogue photography as people sought to step back and embrace a slower pace of life, and as he, too, found himself in that arena of interest, Kei highlighted its appeal, underscoring the need for mastery in film photography, encompassing elements like shutter speed, light reading, and film selection.

Kei demonstrates how to use the vintage Yashica camera. PHOTO: IZAH AZAHARI

He finds the learning curve enjoyable, acknowledging a distinct difference in experience compared to digital photography, which he also practices.

“Digital can emulate film, but the authenticity of shooting with film is incomparable. Film captures the essence of a moment, imperfections and all, mirroring the imperfect nature of memory itself.”

Further describing the allure of film, he mused that there’s a certain nostalgia in every stage of the process, from shooting to processing – like reliving a memory rather than just viewing a photograph.

Kei echoed Wadi’s sentiment about the relaxing nature of film photography. He highlighted that with digital cameras, the process often entails sifting through a vast number of photos to select the right ones.

“Film simplifies this, offering only 36 shots per roll, which encourages a focus on making each frame count.”

Kei showing some of his photos from shoots using film. PHOTO: IZAH AZAHARI

While digital photography prioritises capturing a large volume of images, especially for corporate events and fast-paced scenarios, Kei’s approach shifts when he switches to film.

He becomes more deliberate and personalised, selecting specific subjects and unique locations for his shoots, whether dedicating rolls of film to individuals or exploring nostalgic settings like abandoned houses, Kei finds that film enables him to express his creativity freely.

He values the chance to capture subjects against interesting backgrounds, making each shot feel distinct and special compared to typical digital photographs.

Photos above show landscape and portrait shots by Wadi and Kei. PHOTOS: WADI BOB & KEI
A shot of a boat at a port in Jeju Island, South Korea. PHOTO: WADI BOB

MARKET CHALLENGES

Currently, the film market is experiencing significant fluctuations and rising costs.

Kei explained that with Kodak being the sole manufacturer of film for various types, alongside Ilford, which specialises in black and white film, the options are limited. Despite the presence of different branded films like Fujifilm and CineStill, they all originate from Kodak.

This limited supply coupled with increased demand and occasional hype spikes has led to a surge in prices. Previously priced at around BND5 to BND6 per roll, film now ranges from BND20 to BND40 per roll.

“If you want to practise your techniques and get better and better, you’re going to have to spend money to practise as well, unlike digital where you can just put in an SD card and practice,” said Kei, adding that for him, he practises even on professional shoots as he learns something new every time.

“I’m always learning on-the-go. It’s hard to practise without having to shoot.”

Rolls of used films line up on display. PHOTO: IZAH AZAHARI

CREATIVE PERSPECTIVES

Regarding the resurgence of analogue film photography in Brunei, Kei and Wadi both express positive sentiments towards individuals creating Instagram accounts dedicated to showcasing their film works.

Kei welcomes the trend, appreciating the diversity in styles and approaches among film photographers.

He enjoys observing the range of photos captured on different types of film, from disposable cameras to professional-grade equipment.

PHOTO: IZAH AZAHARI

Similarly, Wadi finds the proliferation of film-centric Instagram accounts intriguing, noting the unique perspectives each photographer brings to the platform.

He emphasises the diverse aesthetics and creative visions showcased by individuals sharing their film photography online. – Izah Azahari

 

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