The art of undeveloped film

2021-07-31 @Blog

A certain piece of casual phlog writing caught my profoundest attention.

The person, a notable photography enthusiast, treasures the analog, abounding in film cameras and 35mm rolls. He cherishes the scarcity inherent to the roll and the conscientiousness in the selection of each deserving moment; yet in spite of that ‘investment’ in each photograph, the person hasn’t developed a single film roll in years.

Granted, though also a digital photographer, the writing led me to understand that film constitutes a significant outlet of all captured footage.

Part of the rationale in leaving film undeveloped concerns the outsourcing expenses. Part owes to the continuous postponement in the building of own dark room and equipment (in light of other priorities). Meanwhile, years of undeveloped rolls continue to accumulate.

(Driven by curiosity, I researched the film photography related costs: the rolls, the development, the dark room equipment. Can’t speak for the latter, but film and outsourced labor amount to twice/thrice of that twenty years prior. Entirely comprehensible.)

But behind the ‘capture and suspend’ practice underlies a deeper philosophy that I can’t help but appreciate. Part of it relates to my own practiced philosophy concerning the moment:

The fruit of the experience amounts to then and now; not in the simulation behind the stills, but in the very inception.

Someone like myself, virtually oblivious to the art of photography, excepting certain particulars, doesn’t care for the camera as incentive to explore the ‘now’.

The photographer under discussion, to a large extent also sees the film camera as merely instrumental in the moment-extraction. Although meticulously selective of the scene, the angles and the lighting to best accommodate the lens, it is that ritual in and of itself that amounts to the significant source of pleasure.

Further particulars:

Much of the customized camera equipment could unveil defects. A series of flaws and factors in the pipeline could lead to much film having been ruined in the very process, only to realize the fact years later if and when the roll develops.

The unpredictability, perhaps contrary to intuition, contributes to the heightened moment: the mystery of how the exposed still will come out, when, and if at all!

That raises the question: why even arm the canister, considering that a combination of controlled and stochastic factors lean towards the film never leaving the roll? Why not carry a filmless film camera?

The author notes: for the same reasons that we publish what we write.

However remote the possibility of public readership, however unpromoted the writing, however untraversed by search engines and left to digital limbo; that possibility, whatever it be, not only encourages us to write with certain frequency - at least those of us who derive pleasure in the act - but also to exercise a respective quality measure.

There’s power in the potential of inspiring just one incidental reader.

Even the writing I allude to, though fairly exposed within Gopher, aims not to reach the attention of most ‘normal’ internet users and search engines … for due reason. Likewise, something about the sharing of Gopher content on the HTTP hyperspace feels impure.

The empty-canister / unpublished-writing parallel does, however, manifest certain asymmetry.

How about, why even digitize your writing? Why not limit to the crispy paper?

To a further end, why not merely exercise the writing motions with an inkless pen? Were paper and ink actually scarce, the romanticism would heighten yet.

Or ultimately, why not produce organized and elaborate prose within our minds, in a meditative, serial fashion? Rhetorical questions, folks.

Questions, comments? Connect.