Hmmm... I was an Art Director for a major US retailer (JCP) from the late 80's and into the 90's. 80% of my group's location and studio fashion was shot 35mm, for retail store POP, direct mail, sunday supplements, and catalogs. It was generally the AD's choice, and we chose 35 for the speed on set and the amount of choices when editing.
Originally Posted by Ian Grant
The guys I were hiring were shooting for pretty big names - national brands and manufacturers, and doing plenty of 35 at the top of the food chain. MF was too slow to get 30-60 frames of each look.
I opened my own studio a few years before digital began to limp into view, and did the same thing - I did shoot MF for clients like Joan Vass, who were concerned with the textures of knits coming through, but plenty of 35 - I shot an AMR annual-report type of thing fully 35, stuff for some national brands - it all came down to what format was best suited.
I did a lot of work shooting 320t 35mm with very limited DOF and multiple exposures, and duped those to 8x10 velvia in a cheap enlarger with a flash taped to the condenser box - in that case the 35 was all about pretty grain. There were lots and lots of guys shooting more esoteric work 35, especially with the choices in emulsions back then. (Anyone remember Polagraph?)
It's all pretty moot for commercial work now. Few people are buying film; the convenience, speed, and cost of digital are too compelling. Especially now that even a cheap DSLR body can shoot tethered with full control of the RAW conversion, AD's can direct color, contrast, temp, etc. from the set and walk away with a hard drive of shots with the "vision" of the client and shooter baked in. Camera choices seem to be "do you need movements or not", with lower budget stuff being fully DSLR, product stuff using the pricier back systems with movements.
I'd guess there's a market for film commercially, if there's some beautiful effect you're selling or the client wants to believe they're doing something special. This would likely be at the very high end, or for very esoteric brands or boutique-level designers.
For the gallery market, I would assume there's still some "purist" feeling about film vs. digital. It certainly seems like good marketing to play on the public's perception that "anyone can shoot digital", that photography has changed completely and that film and chemistry is some kind of dark ancient art.