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|| News Item: Posted 2006-03-02

Is Film Dead?
'There was something magical about the darkroom.'

By Brian Davies, The Eugene Register-Guard

Photo by Brian Davies / The Register-Guard

Photo by Brian Davies / The Register-Guard
(Editor's note: With the advancements in digital technology the days of a news photographer heading out to cover an event with a "pocketful of Tri-X and a Nikkormat with a 24mm lens" are over. Or are they? The Sports Shooter Newsletter asked four photographers to address the question on whether film is still viable in this day and age of gig-a-bytes, pixels and Photoshop.)

A year ago, when my colleagues and I at the Register-Guard mothballed our film cameras to enter the digital realm, we were one of the last newspapers in the country to do so.

The logic to us was simple; as long as scanned film provided better picture quality and reproduction, we would stay with film. It didn't seem like a bad idea as digital cameras would only get better while we waited.

After all, film had withstood a myriad of technological changes almost since the advent of photography. Silver-based emulsion has been the one constant in photography since it's been available to the masses and for all the swirling technological advances in the craft, the means of fixing an image has remained remarkably unchanged.

But I am here to report that film - at least in the newspaper world - is dead. I know this in part because there is a half-used brick of the stuff still frozen - Pompeii-like -- to the back wall of our film freezer, entombed where it lay on the day our shiny new Canon Mark II's arrived. But most of all, I know it because it was inevitable. Digital technology is too perfect for the newspaper industry. Digital is faster. It's better. It's sexier.

I have mixed feelings about this. I admire what digital allows me to do and the freedom it gives me. But I have always felt less connected to the final product.

There was something magical about the darkroom. It was artistic; a place where potential seemed limitless. The intimacy a photographer had with the work has, sadly, not been replaced in the digital realm. Digital post-production remains a clinical pursuit full of histograms and left-brained mumbo-jumbo. Efficient, but hardly satisfying.

I still carry a Leica M-6 and Fujichrome for the Davies family archive. I will trust my history to film. I know I will be able to pass those slides along to our son someday and he will have the unique and distinct pleasure of seeing his life memorialized in tiny, sparkling tableaus, as I have.

I'm less sure what he'll do with the Zip disk of his birth pictures, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

(Brian Davies is a staff photographer with the Eugene Register-Guard. You can check out his work at his member page:

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