Is film photography more art than digital?

i’m in the midst of creating the first issue of my photo-zine, and for it I need some written content. So to get some material, I thought I would write some blogs in a more think-piece style instead of my usual highly technical research oriented reviews/tests.

A few months ago I was having some self-doubt as to the value of my photography work. I got into reading a few of the classic when it comes to photography/art, namely:

  • Susan Sontag - On Photography

  • Susan Sontag - Regarding the Pain of Others

  • Vilém Flusser - Towards a Philosophy of Photography

  • Roland Barthes - Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography

  • Annie Leibovitz - At Work

Reading all these books, I found that all of the authors were dealing with some self-doubt and negative emotions. It is also fascinating for how long people have been contemplating whether or not photography can be classified as art. Today, it feels like the discussion is over and has been for a couple of decades. Of course photography is art. But since digital cameras became so ubiquitous there is of now a pendulum swing. When something becomes too commonplace and too easy, it doesn’t feel like art anymore.

This is probably the main reason why a lot of young photographers who want to see themselves as artist are starting to get into film photography. They talk about how it is more real, how no editing is supposedly done even though they are shooting color negative. They leave the dust on the scans so that it makes the image feel more real.

Probably they have some sort of misconception that this is how photos looked liked before they were born. With a strong cyan cast and filled with specks of dust.

But I can understand where they are coming from. I like my mechanical cameras because they feel more real. I like vinyl records because I want to be able to hold the album and look at the cover. And since it is more difficult to change songs, I just listen to the whole album. Some times things need to be enjoyed at a slower pace. Some times the journey matters as much as the destination.

There is no point in trying to be different by using film cameras, there’s a lot of people who beat you to it. But if you feel that you create better work because the camera slows you down, and because you enjoy to use the camera itself - go ahead. I have found that different film cameras make me shoot in different ways, but I have never experienced this with digital cameras. And I have found that having limitations on myself makes me stop snapping and instead trying to shoot something meaningful.

So is film photography more art than digital photography? Of course not. It’s like arguing if oil paintings are more art than watercolors, how you got to your end result doesn’t really matter for anybody else than yourself.