The digital revolution in architectural photography is old enough to have become the status quo. When media lose their edge, or are overused, the practitioner and the aficionado begin to quest for something new, or, in this case, something older: We are now seeing a resurgent interest in film.
When Leonid Furmansky photographed LA-N-D’s pool pavilion for 51 East — a housing development in East Austin — he shot it with a Hasselblad 500cm medium format camera loaded with Kodak Portra 160 film. In doing so, he discovered something more at play in the medium than refreshment for the eyes.
Compared to digital photography, film has what Furmansky calls “soul power.” This is in part because it forces more thoughtfulness on the photographer, who, conscious of the cost of each shot, slows down and becomes highly aware of the light, and what falls in the frame. It is more focused than digital while shooting, but more relaxed thereafter. While digital photos are often heavily manipulated in post-production — allowing the re-toucher to significantly alter the source material and the photographer to exchange quantity for quality — with film, the photographer makes an informed but intuitive play at the moment of capture and then lets the emulsion do its thing.
Film can be seen as an antidote to, or respite from, the produce of the neoliberal economy, which demands more for less, quality be damned, whereas digital photography can be viewed as neoliberalism’s shill. Digital is the photography of the marketer: It can be produced quickly and cheaply and is easily doctored to tell whatever story will close a deal. Film, on the other hand, asks for presence in the moment and awareness of phenomena as they unfold, followed by a releasing of control. Film isn’t necessarily any closer than digital to the truth of the phenomena it captures, since media are always more revealing of themselves than the things they represent, but its processes encourage an attitude more in tune with nature and less concerned with what nature can get you.