Tetmeyer: Life in film


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Columnist Grant Tetmeyer explains why taking pictures on film will never go out of style. 

Grant Tetmeyer

All of us know that feeling of advancing the film in a disposable camera, snapping that weird candid that blinded everyone in a three-foot radius from the flash. It was a staple of almost everyone’s childhood as well as the major medium for most of our elders’ lives. It is still a widely used format today, with some photographers exclusively working in it, even with an ever-advancing visual world.

Of course, with the world increasingly heading towards complete digitization, it’s a wonder that we can still focus so much time and emotional energy in a form that causes us to take time out of our schedules to see the belated fruits of our meager labor. And it is all because of what it represents: the process of art and living.

It is always said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but the process of creating it is worth infinitely more. It’s easy to forget everything that goes into processing visual information and imprinting it on a surface so that we can perceive the fixed movement we captured. The moment in time that we have immortalized for us to show off to our friends.

I mean, after all, I have over 3,000 photos in my phone’s camera roll alone that I can add to at any time with very little fuss. But to get film developed, or develop it yourself, sets something off in us that we continually work for. A sense of accomplishment. A sense of reward. That you put in your time and energy and were able to get physical proof of your memories. 

We are used to a world of instant gratification, where I can have anything I want shipped to me in three days or pick it up in a massive box store that somehow has every item in the world and also never enough of anything. But if I’ve learned one thing from film and good barbecue, it’s that anything done right is worth the time commitment. And though this is true of almost every aspect of life, it isn’t more observable anywhere than in the use of film. From loading a camera to working through the roll to developing and receiving your photo, it’s a microcosm of how our lives as humans work and have always worked. And this primal, base connection that we have with this ideal is why film will never go fully out of style. Because it is one of the greatest and easiest metaphors for our ever fragile and fleeting lives. And besides, who doesn’t like a good photo?