In a world where everything from watches to refrigerators are connected to the internet, why are relics of the past such as vinyl records resurging in popularity? In the photography space, analogue cameras are becoming less and less of a novelty from a by-gone era as people turn to film for their everyday cameras. Up-and-coming artists in Geelong are turning to film photography as a means of self-expression and are approaching the medium with a desire to learn and explore the delicacies that make film such an interesting format to work with.
Analogue Academy is somewhat of an institution for Geelong photographers. Serving as one of the city’s only independent film development labs, the space is a hub for the local arts scene, transforming into a gallery space and bar for new artists to showcase their work.
Owner and founder Joshua Maxwell de Hoog, says that the lab started with humble intentions but has since expanded its operations.
“It’s primarily a film lab, with a lot of creative extensions,” he says.
Maxwell de Hoog had spotted a gap in the market when he couldn’t find a photo lab in Geelong to provide him with digital files of his film shots, so he could use them online.
“It started initially with me developing lots of film and not wanting to take it to Melbourne every time I was getting it developed,” he says.
“We designed it as a business/social enterprise for voices that were otherwise unheard in Geelong.”
Originally operating out of his garage, Maxwell de Hoog jumped on the opportunity when he saw the Couzens Place property come up for rent.
“It was used as an old wool shed, it was very dusty and gross, but we figured we could breathe new life into it. The business sort of adapted from there.”
At the mention of digital photography, Maxwell de Hoog cringes a little, words such as ‘convenient’ and ‘quick’ don’t matter to him and he isn’t bothered by the more cumbersome aspects of film.
“Film is inherently palpable, it’s tangible it has a quality to it that satiates my desire for photography, it gives me a result that encourages my creativity rather than stifles it,” he says.
“I worked as a digital photographer before opening Analogue, but it didn’t bring me the same joy as film does.
“I felt more and more disconnected from the process of creating photographs, whereas film allowed for a whole world of exploration.”
While the process of turning film negatives into a tangible image is a long and complicated one, this is where much of the “exploration” comes from.
A roll of film contains silver that, when exposed to light, is eaten away. The silver is run through a chemical called a developer, then another chemical called a fixer, and finally a stopper (which is usually water), before being dried and scanned into digital files. At any point during this process, leaving the film for too long or with the wrong amount of chemical can result in the image being over or under-exposed or completely ruined.
“The fact that a digital camera does do it all, is the reason why people go to this extent,” Maxwell de Hoog believes.
“If you really love something, you want to be as involved in the process as possible, and film photography allows you to be more a part of your final image rather than letting a sensor or a certain camera fully define how the image will be”.
For Geelong-based car photographer Daniel Aarons, each of his photos tell a story.
“There’s a lot more to talk about in (a film) photo. You snap a picture but there’s a whole process of getting it developed and then getting it back,” Aarons says.
“There are times when I’ve gone camping with friends and I’ve even videoed the whole trip and photographed the whole trip. There’s no need for explanation because there’s enough pictures.
“But when I go out with a film camera, I’ve only got 36 photos and that’s it”.
For Aarons, filling in the gaps is half the fun.
“It’s a bit of a journey, you’ve got this gap, then you get them back and go, ah wow, I forgot about that!” he says.
“There’s a lot more emotional connection to the photos.”
Aaron’s runs his part photo-blog, part clothing label, Driftscovery, from Instagram and uses the platform to document his automotive adventures with his friends using film, which is largely underutilised in the automotive space.
“I think the aesthetic of older cars, ’80s, ’90s cars, taken on period-correct cameras, getting that grainy, period-correct look is getting a lot more popular, more so than just a digital image of ‘that’s the car’.”
Aaron’s likes to think his two passions aren’t mutually exclusive.
“I think if you’re into one or the other you can sort of appreciate it. They sort of go hand in hand together”.
One issue with the revival of analogue photography is the environmental impact. The development of film not only requires harmful chemicals, but also a substantial amount of water and the creation of the film rolls requires the mining of silver.
“It’s one of the worst aspects of film photography, the waste aspect, and it can be difficult to come to terms with that,” Maxwell de Hoog says.
“It’s something you weigh up, and maybe that’s a justification.”
Analogue cameras are generally more sustainable than digital cameras as nothing new has been produced, except the film itself. The production of digital cameras requires the mining of lithium and the creation of plastics, which offers limited recyclability.
“Regardless, making is always going to be inherently unsustainable,” Maxwell de Hoog says.
“One thing I hold onto is that the cameras I shoot with are already 80 years old, I shoot with a Leica from the 1940s.
“For me, it’s about making sure the other aspects of my life are really sustainable.
“Making and sustainability is something I really battle with. It’s a real struggle as an artist in general to be aware about waste management and sustainability. Is your voice worth the output required to say your message?”
For Maxwell de Hoog, his “message” might be important enough to justify any impact he has.