In an age where film photography has given way to digital — leading film presence Eastman Kodak Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Thursday — some photography students are still clinging to those nice bright colors and the greens of summers.
Sarah Mitrani, 21, studies photography at the University of Hartford Art School in a program she said strongly emphasizes film.
“I prefer film… mostly for the quality of the negative versus the quality of an image on a digital sensor,” she said. “As of right now, digital does not even come close. A film negative can pick up more detail and a film negative can be in different formats.”
Mitrani called her school “very traditional,” and said that one digital class in the program teaches Photoshop techniques.
But at other schools, like Emerson College in Boston, the overall trend from film to digital is already being echoed inside the institution’s walls.
“I ran the darkroom at Emerson for two years. They were talking about turning half of that space into a digital lab, I fought against that the whole time,” said recent graduate Dan Muchnik. “If you’re going to take photography seriously enough to be going to school for it, you should really be taking the time to thoroughly understand the process.”
For Muchnik, 21, the process is what photography is all about. It is why he has created his own darkroom in every place he has lived. And it is why — other than freelance skateboard photo shoots in San Francisco — he still prefers to use film whenever possible.
“Dealing with chemicals from scratch…that first smell of mixtures…(it) made me fall in love with it,” he said.
Then there’s the University of Ohio, a school that in the past five years removed a film requirement for commercial photography and photojournalism programs.
Loren Cellentani, 22, is a senior commercial photography major and photo editor for the university’s Backdrop Magazine. Although she loves film photography, she said it is no longer a huge part of her day-to-day routine. Nor does she believe it will be necessary in her future line of work.
“In the advertising industry, you’ll rarely see people shooting film anymore,” she said. “With film you’re not sure if you got (the shot). Or what if the film doesn’t expose? There are all these things that can go wrong.”
However, some students said that film’s wild card nature is exactly what draws them to it.
University of Massachusetts junior Astrid O’Connor, 20, said the cost of film leads her to think critically about each and every frame before she pushes the shutter button. And Michelle McWade, 22, a recent graduate of New England School of Photography, said the nature of film means the photographer is unable to “just throw up Hail Marys” and hope for something great among a mass of photo attempts.
McWade, who shoots freelance work in Salt Lake City, will take on a wedding project next week in Vermont. The couple was specific in their requests: they wanted film and no more than two rolls, and McWade was happy to oblige.
But for some educators, like UMass travel photography professor Richard Newton, the days of film are in the past.
“A $500 DSLR with a large 12-18 megapixel sensor far exceeds the quality of 35mm film and allows for moderate cropping later without serious loss of image detail,” he said.
“There are still film people out there, like there are still vinyl record people, but I’ll just use a ‘Kodachrome’ filter in Photoshop if I ever have a need for that look.”
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