“It’s all hipster nonsense”, they groan. First Taylor Swift bringing her album out on vinyl, then 17 year-olds selling 2008 Topshop clothes as “vintage”, now the resurgence of 35mm film photography is the final straw for the disgruntled children of the ‘80s. It’s no secret that everyone and their nan bought a disposable camera this summer. Now I’m no Martin Parr, but I’m hopeful that it’s more than a passing fad and capturing life on film is back for good.
Film photography is far more than just a pretentious and expensive hobby, as it is so often unfairly branded. Whilst for some it is a solely aesthetic endeavour, film photography has far more to offer than just pretty pictures. It transforms the way you capture the important moments of your life. The limit of 36 shots forces you to pause before you click the shutter and taking photos becomes a deliberate rather than passive practice. No more snapping away mindlessly until you accidentally take the “perfect” picture to share on social media to prove to droves of acquaintances that you are having an incredible time. With the invention of live photos, the notion of a photo itself has become even more skewed, as you can inspect every second of a moment to find your favoured frame. Film turns this toxic practice on its head, forcing you to embrace the candid and imperfect moments; you can’t sift through hundreds of images, instead you have to appreciate the moment the way it was captured.
It can’t be denied that a major deterrent of film photography is the price. Whilst I would dare to suggest that the expense of film is a crucial aspect of its value, as it requires you to thoughtfully consider every shot, it really doesn’t have to break the bank. When starting out, it is probably a smart idea to try a disposable camera, just to check you don’t hate it and want to dash back to the comfort and safety of your iPhone camera. But, if you are convinced of its benefits and decide to make film photography a more permanent pastime, there are still plenty more affordable options out there. Point and shoot cameras are generally the cheapest to come by and by far the most idiot-proof. eBay is a great place to look for reasonably priced second-hand cameras, with the Pentax Espio typically going for around £20, and the Olympus MJU II, a popular although marginally pricier option, often selling for approximately £50. Even if you wish to buy new, this is becoming an increasingly realistic option, with the colourful Kodak M35 currently being sold for less than £20.
Now for the most exciting part of the process: developing. The thrill of carrying a month of your life in a small plastic pot, images you have only ever witnessed for a split second, waiting to be revealed. It’s very simple these days to send your film away to be developed, but, if you’re feeling brave, you can try your hand at developing your own film in the darkroom on the top floor of the Union. This is managed by the St Andrews Photography Society who charge a very respectable £6 for use of the room for the semester.
So, I politely implore you to go forth and shoot your St Andrews experience on film. But please—whatever you do—don’t open the back.