I’m returning to film photography, for three reasons. It’s not going to dominate my output, but the proportion will increase.

Firstly, there are some good film cameras that can be picked up second hand for a couple of hundred euro. Given I’ve Nikon kit, I’ve settled on an F5. Well, actually, two F5s. Spares are already an issue, so now I’ve got some.

image: luxembourg

Secondly, there is a discipline with taking film that I’ve lost, that of taking only the right shot. Developing film costs time & money, so it makes sense for a film photographer to be careful not to take bad shots. With a digital camera, one just shoots and shoots and fills the memory card with mostly crap.

Concentrating on taking the right shot rather than pressing the shoot button a gadzillion times forces me to carefully consider the composition. Thus the best film shot is often better than the best digital shot, despite the far greater number of the latter. Restoring film discipline should make me a better photographer.

Finally, there’s Artificial Intelligence, which can already fake shots, although often with little errors and artefacts, such as, reputédly, bizarre hands. I don’t think it’ll be too long before AI will so improve that those artefacts will disappear, when it’ll soon be impossible to tell the difference between a genuine image and an AI fake.

Although there are some security techniques that can be used to validate a digital shot is genuine, they only work until their security is broken, which happens when mathematicians do their thing, or as computers simply become more powerful. It already takes a mere few pennies in the cloud to make a fake photo with fake security. It takes someone with a lab and good chemistry skills to fake a film, something not so easy to do.

Film provides physical evidence that a shot is real. It’s not perfect, but it’s far better than digital. Having said that, someone could take a film photograph of a computer screen to suggest that a dubious visual concoction is valid. At this point we get into serious fake detection territory, which will require resources: think court case costs.

Computer screens do not output the same light range with the same balance of colours as natural light, athough they’re easily good enough to fool the untrained eye. Furthermore, film responds to more than the range of colours that the human eye can see (for example, infrared film). Analysis of film will show whether an image was taken for real, or whether it’s a photo of a computer screen. As the film itself ages, it degrades, so analysis will also give an idea of when the photograph was taken. Putting this all together shows that faking a film shot of a computer screen is much less likely to stand up to detailed scrutiny than a genuine image.

Hence my belief that, over the next few years, film is more likely to be accepted as genuine than digital.

I’ve a particular horse in this race. I take abstract photos. All my photos are genuine; my few digital concoctions on this site are labelled as such. Some people have suggested that my abstract photos are fake. Frankly, I’m insulted by the suggestion, and also appalled that a so–called photographer hasn’t bothered to open their eyes, but that’s beside the point. Those photographs are digital. If I ever get to the stage that I get involved in a serious argument over whether my photos are genuine, I may need some serious evidence. Putting some on film will provide that evidence.