Attracting new film users
As a traditional photography instructor at a non-profit in central MA I am wondering how other attract new students to film. The instant gratification of the digital age makes it an uphill fight but I find that some "see the light" once they experience the darkroom. The question is how to get them through the door?
My daughters friends, and the occasional adult that I encounter when I'm roaming with cameras.
“What is a master but a master student? And if that's true, then there's a responsibility on you to keep getting better and to explore avenues of your profession.”¯
I run across people all the time that wonder why I don't use digital cameras. Usually I end up praising the digital technology for what it's good at, but move on to that film photography in its most raw and crude form has a lot more to teach me about photography; it makes me a more complete photographer. Most people understand this when you lay it out in such a fashion; film photography is different, it's a different method, it's a game of patience, process, and deep understanding of things like exposure, and matching film + processing to your paper and developer.
It teaches me the basic rules of exposure, when it's appropriate to intentionally break the rules, and use it to my advantage. Basically, it forces me to do this, or I just will not get good results. Because you don't know exactly what you captured on film until processing is done, it depends almost solely on me what the results are. When I am successful, and I get a picture that is beautiful and that satisfies hungry and critical eyes, it is so much more rewarding - mainly for all the hard work that went into it, both in learning how to get there, and in making the print in a stinky darkroom.
I really think you have to sell film photography and darkroom as 'different', where you show with actual results what can be had. Why should anyone want to put up with the hard work and actual physical attention to a process when you can do much the same in front of a computer screen? What are the reasons to give up such convenience? It's the adventure, the smells, the anticipation, the raw knowledge of the basics of photography, confidence in being the machine behind the results, and being more accountable for good processes leading to those good results.
"Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank
"Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh
Yeah, just be visible using film and willing to discuss it.
"Wubba, wubba, wubba. Bing, bang, bong. Yuck, yuck, yuck and a fiddle-dee-dee." - The Yeti
Thomas, Your description is the core of our teaching method, you need to be in control of all aspects of making a photograph and the more you know your equipment and materials the better final print you can make. We begin with "taking the camera off of automatic" and go from there.
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My experience has been that letting go of the evangelistic notion goes a long way. A lot of people don't like it when you're trying to convert them to something, regardless of what it is. I know I'm one of them.
Originally Posted by z3guy
I've been head of the local camera club for a few months now. While I'm one of the youngest members in a group dominated by retirees, I'm one of the few who still regularly shoots film. I don't try to (re)convert anybody. I just talk about the film I shoot like it's a normal thing. The group seems to respond very positively to me in this regard. Even though I shoot digital as well, a certain number of folk keep getting the idea I exclusively shoot film.
Just yesterday I showed some photos I took on Fomapan 100 stand developed in Rodinal. People loved the "old-fashioned" look it created. I talked about stand development's impact on the contrast and how Foma's factory is old and thus in a real sense producing "genuine" vintage product. Nobody seemed tempted take up film cameras again, but by associating images they liked with film, I think I've done far more to keep it alive than if I browbeat even one member into picking up a roll of film again.
One of the thing I greatly enjoy is the surprise of seeing what's on a roll after it has sat a while. My darkroom is 30 miles from where I live and so I don't get to process right away. I have a couple of rolls of 35mm that I shot a few days ago. I don't remember the exact subjects and compositions. For me film creates a better reflective process on why I shot a certain subject and why I shot it the way I did.
Originally Posted by z3guy
I will note that I am a 20 year old art student. I've noticed that other students really enjoy the Intro to Photography (Darkroom) class.
Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Arts: Journalism - University of Arkansas 2014
Canon A-1, Canon AE-1, Canon Canonet GIII 17, Argus 21, Rolleicord Va, Mamiya RB67, Voigtländer Bessa
Marketing film in a digital age is a real challenge.
Generally I think it is going to be an attraction rather than a promotion kind of thing. Being able to address the tones and shades far more variable than the 6, 12 or more mega pixels and Photoshop tweaks has to pull one from the insides.
Not certain how many times there are real photo exhibits of great masters about us, but if you ever get a chance to take a digital user to a showing of great work, or get them to stare through a loupe into a well done negative it might help.
Simple knowledge of this negative has never had to survive a hard drive crash ever, may never be enough. Nor would it matter to the guys I saw at Yosemite NP on my last trip as they ran up and took a picture of me looking through my Hassy WLF with his cell phone. They asked what kind of a camera is that and then ran off before I could say medium format, snapping 3 more cell phone pictures along the way
If we keep doing what we do and just invite one other along the way, we may have a chance to get them to walk through the dark room door and give this stuff a try.
You'll have to try to convince the right crowd. The best demographic is probably fine art people. The way film is heading, it's going to be a fine art process like lithography, etching and silk screen printing. It's going to be hard to convince wedding and commercial photographers with tight budgets and short deadlines. But most importantly, do the soft sell and don't be Evangelical about it. Don't bad mouth digital either.
We certainly don't trash digital, as some of our students shoot both, and we fully understand that to survive in the commercial world you must shoot digital to meet client expectations. We have had students learn film after starting in digital and they come out of a sense of curiosity and appreciation of a well crafted black & white print. Perhaps Mainecoonmaniac has some of the answer "The best demographic is probably fine art people." I appreciate everyone taking time to answer.