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  • Isabella Trafton

Is 35 mm Photography Really On the Rise?

A few years ago disposable film photography and cameras were all the rage. Throughout Instagram and various social media, more and more accounts dedicated to film or disposable cameras were created. Around the same time that the new film trends began, I also became much more interested in Film photography, but why? What leads to the increase in interest and use of analog film? Read along to hear my thoughts and ideas.

My Introduction to Film

On June 15, 2019, social media star and Youtuber David Dobrik posted his first photo on his account, "Davidsdisposable." The post has over 100,000 likes as of 2023 and the account has almost two and a half million followers. In 2019, I remember being a slight fan of David Dobrik. I would occasionally watch his vlogs on youtube and I followed him on Instagram, that's the first introduction I had to disposable cameras. When he created his disposable camera account I was intrigued, but I didn't expect more people to be interested in film. Not that I am crediting Dobrik to be the first influencer or celebrity to create a film photography account, however, it was like unlocking the floodgate. I kept seeing more and more people creating disposable camera accounts, both celebrities and people I knew. Now, when you search the keyword "disposable" on Instagram, hundreds of accounts from people all across the world pop up.

Affect of Social Media

Although the film may not be at its peak popularity of all time, the medium is far from its end. According to Olivier Laurent for Time Magazine, film photography reached its peak in 2003 when 960 million rolls were produced, however in 2017 (when the article was written) the film market was only 2% of what it once was. Despite film production being much less common than in the early 2000s, the film community is still alive and thriving on social media. On Instagram, hashtags like "#film" has over 82 million posts, and "#filmphotography" with 40 million posts. Over the past few years, photos like landscape film photos or mirror selfies with analog cameras are much more common. Starting about a year ago, vintage film photo booths have risen in popularity. The trend could likely be tracked back to Bryant Eslava, the photographer behind the account "BoothbyBryant." His Tiktok and Instagram accounts posted various famous influencers and celebrities (such as Kendall Kardashian and the cast of Succession) posing in his 1950s photo booth. Eslava's photo booth uses black-and-white analog film, which leads social media users to try to find film photo booths near them. People across social media realized that the effects of retro photos cannot be recreated through digital cameras, thus contributing to the increase of interest in film in the younger generation.

Is Film Still Being Produced?

Despite the fact that film stock and camera prices are skyrocketing, it is still being produced. By far, 35 mm film stock is the most popular and produced the most. In NBC Left Field's short film, Why We Still Love Film: Analog Photography in the Digital Age on Youtube, Ed Hurley-the general manager of film at Kodak-commented on the upwards trend in film production. He says, "We are making more than twice the amount of rolls in 2019 than we made in 2015." Other film stocks like 8mm (for video cameras) or medium format film are made at a much slower rate than it once was. Popular film brands like Eastman Kodak still produce two types of Super 8 films, despite producing much more at one point in time. However, 8mm film is much harder to find because it is no longer being produced by big brands like Kodak or FujiFilm. Medium format film, specifically 120 films, is still being produced in small quantities today. It is the only surviving medium format film, however, after a quick search on eBay, films like 220 are still available to buy online. The unfortunate thing is how expensive these film stocks have gotten. Even though you can buy old, likely expired, film online that is no longer produced, doesn't mean that it's cheap.

What Does This Mean For Film Photography?

Honestly, I'm not sure. I won't pretend to have any answers, nor will I pretend to be an expert on film and analog photography. There are a lot of complexities and nuances to this topic that still confuse me and lots of other people. Looking from a bigger perspective, one might say that film isn't on the rise. Since its peak in 2003, twenty years ago, the film has just seemed to dwindle. But, to me at least, it is very much still alive and well. Lots of films may not be made like they once were, but that doesn't mean that film is dead. I believe that film is surviving and that because more people my age, especially online, are beginning to love it too, it will just go up from here. I hope that more brands like Kodak or Lomography see the increasing trends in film and start producing more varieties of their film stocks, but until then photographers, whether amateurs or professionals, will continue to use and love film.

Rockport, Massachusetts taken on Kodak Color Plus 200, 2022.



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