Making Pictures With Professional Photographer John Enman

Thinking about film again

I don’t use or even think about film much, but with the surprising interest I have seen at the last two Vancouver used camera shows this past year, and a visit this past week with a long time friend from Toronto, I actually have been wondering if I should give it another try. It was really good to see Merlin Boissonneault, and I commented on the old Nikon F5 that he had slung over his shoulder. With that he started telling about his recent experiences with other photographers using film.

I welcome the chance to exchange thoughts with those photographers who are using film in this day of digital technology. But I don’t really take film serious, however, Merlin is an avid film user and I was very interested in what he had to tell me about the large community of film users in North America that he is involved with.

I mostly see film as a “retro” thing. Kinda like records and record players, or restoring and driving 1970s cars. But listening to how my friend talked about film I am thinking maybe I am selling it short.

I refuse to get into the boring and wearisome conversation discussion of film vs. digital. Film is different than digital and that’s a more interesting topic to exchange views on. I think it depends on how one wants to show a subject to viewers and I think the technological cross breeding of film and digital is exciting and rewarding.

That said, in my long time experience teaching photography, I do believe that digital camera users become more knowledgeable photographers faster because of the instant reinforcement of their camera’s LCD, and it is so easy and quick to check images on a computer display. I disagree with those that say, “Film cameras are the best way to learn photography”. I think many of today’s serious film photographers probably started with digital cameras and may still use digital for some kinds of photography.

The dialogue now may be about computers, monitors, and software programs. However, with film we wanted the best enlargers, and enlarger light sources. What lens was mounted on the enlarger was as important as the lens on our cameras. I had a cabinet filled with many different kinds of enlarging papers from around the world, and another stacked with a wide assortment of developing chemicals for film processing and printing. And as with modern digital photographers, I thought about and researched cameras: 35mm, medium format and 4X5 in a continuing quest for what would fit the kind of subjects I was photographing.

There is a strong and creative movement into film right now that is worth paying attention to. Many of the old processes are being resurrected and may be changing to meet the times. And as I wrote, the technological cross breeding of film and digital is exciting and rewarding. Film cameras are still a bargain.

I think it was the famous Life magazine photographer, John Loengard that said, “When someone holds a camera in their hands they have a lifetime of experience processing visual imagery. The success of their image is how is works for them.”

These are my thoughts for this week. Contact me at or Stop by Enman’s Camera at 423 Tranquille Road in Kamloops. I sell an interesting selection of used photographic equipment. Don’t hesitate to call me at 250-371-3069.

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