Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Day 51: Saturday, April 30, 2011

In the morning, a man came over to buy my old camera lenses. He asked me why I didn’t just buy another Leica body when my camera had busted. I told him that I was happy with my cheap camera that I was using now since I didn’t have to worry about it at all, and since film was eventually going to die, I didn’t want to invest that much money in something that wouldn’t last. Since he was an expert, he reassured me that film would still be around for a long while- not necessarily in a wide assortment or at an affordable cost though… Anyways he ended up buying my lenses for 200,000 yen (about 2,000 US dollars), which would basically cover another month’s rent and living expense, or I could use the money to travel to somewhere nice… My initial thought was that there was nowhere else that I would rather be then in Tokyo because of Talking Barnacles, but after thinking about it some more, I knew that was false… The truth was that I was tired and needed a break…

Afterwards, Ian and Yuki left for their 10-day trip to Singapore and Malaysia, and I pretty much stayed home all afternoon. Around 5:00, I waited for the two pigeons to come, but I wasn’t very diligent about it, so they might have slipped by when I was not looking.

Around 6:00, I headed over to Shinjuku to buy some film because the following day I would be going on a car trip to the mountains with that nice girl that I met at that painful photo competition weeks back. I had been looking forward to it all week and, at the same time, wondered if anything would happen between us... When I got to Bic Camera, I discovered that they were out of my usual 30-roll pack of film, which was unusual, so I asked the clerk about it and he said something in Japanese, which I couldn’t really understand but I knew it didn’t sound good…

I decided to try the other electronics store called Yodobashi to see if they had any. On the way there, even though it was dark, I saw a man with sunglasses and a scarf on with some woman, and I thought, “Could that be…?” When he passed by and I got a closer look, I realized it was him- it was Mr. Poofy Perm (
the judge from that same photo competition who I really disliked)!
Mr. Poofy Perm
My Poofy Enemy
... I was so excited and wanted to share it with someone, but the only people who would really understand were Ian and Yuki, and they were already in Singapore by then.

When I got to Yodobashi, they had lots of film there- almost 13 boxes- but there was a sign underneath the rack in Japanese, which said, “After they are sold out, there is no more.” Immediately I began to panic because I have been using that kind of film for the past eight years since it was the cheapest (all the other stuff costs about twice as much)… Above that, there was an older sign that said, “After April 12th, processing and development prices will go up.” “Did this have something to do with the earthquake and the fucked-up economy?” I wondered… I had heard stories about how Japanese photo book companies had to order paper from abroad now because their factories were destroyed by the tsunami. I also remembered how I had heard that there were originally two kinds of Kodak professional film that everyone used, but recently they had to combine them into one in order to cut costs... Whether or not any of them had anything to do with the quake, my premonition was already coming true… Film was dying.

While I was freaking out, I decided to do some calculations: I had used 4 boxes last month… each box costs about 9,000 yen (90 dollars)… I could buy all the film there with the money I made that morning and still have a little money extra, but that would only last me about three months- four if I was careful and used them sparingly… but then what? What about after that? "Just when I had gotten the hang of my shitty plastic camera… Of course this had to happen,” I thought. Immediately I began to consider buying a digital camera. I could probably get a good one for 200,000 yen… but I always hated how digital pictures looked… but I also hated film because it was such a pain to use, scan, and make prints from, and it was so costly. If I decided to hold off buying film that night, go home and investigate digital cameras, and then end up deciding not to get one, I would have to wait another two days to go back to Yodobashi in order to buy film again because I would be gone all day tomorrow on my trip to the mountains, so there would be no time; and maybe in two days, all the film would be gone by then… So in my panic, I ran over to the ATM, got 100,000 yen (1,000 dollars), and bought 10 boxes worth of film (I also got an extra one for free with my store value points) to be safe. The clerk put them all in one big bag, and I could barely carry them home because of the weight.

On the bus ride, I felt foolish spending so much money on film because if I had learned anything from the earthquake and Talking Barnacles, it was that I would have to accept change and to adapt to new situations... I suddenly grew excited about the possibility of going digital. I began to imagine leaving film and my old ways behind, and how freeing that would be.


  1. Yeah, Film is slowly dying in my place. Even if they do have, the seller tend to sell it 2-3times higher than the actual price.

    I've been shooting with Compact digital (GRD3) most of the time beginning early last year when most of the photo labs shop in my place (Sabah, Malaysia) not selling in bulky film set and they increase the per-roll price by 30%. Even if I ask for develop, they straight away place my developed film into small plastic bag instead of Film Sheet.. >_<

    I'm still shooting film occasionally 3-4rolls a month.

    Somehow I get used with my compact digital.. I did a few photo series with it and Im quite happy with the result. Just need to take time and study how to tweak the image and make it looks like film result.

  2. i'm still shooting film, even with an 5D... just can't compare. i've begun to believe it doesn't make that much of a difference between film stocks all that much, what really matters is the lab scanning it and the person controlling the scans.

  3. Digital sucks for art photography. You spend forever on the computer and eventually start caring about processing over taking the photos. It's not about the gear and a good portion of digital shooters who are all about it eventually fade, realising they don't feel for it like they used to. They've lost their creative spirit in favour of technicalities.

    It doesn't have a variable per photo cost like film but the other expenses (computers, HDD space, time, editing programs, printing costs, monitor calibration, gear upgrading to stuff that doesn't suck) will still make digital photography cost the earth.

    I started to write a response to this post a while back but didn't. I felt instantly happy that you were prepared to sacrifice your future rent and comfort for film, you rule, this is real love. Don't go to digital, it won't ever get this response out of you.


  4. Nice comment.
    It's the same way here in Japan I think... Most art photographers still use film... When my friends and I go to the gallery, the first thing we say is it's digital if we noticed that it was taken with a digital camera... which is a bad first reaction to art... (But sometimes digital is okay for art... it just depends if its suitable for the style or subject...)

    I think that's interesting what you said cuz never even really considered losing passion for taking pics if I went digital... which would probably be the case... because each photo is no longer as valuable in a way... and part of the process and mystery of shooting film is gone for convenience... convenience is the worst thing for art.