One More Reason to Use Film

I’m currently reading a biography of Leonardo Da Vinci written by Walter Isaacson, who also wrote a biography of Apple founder Steve Jobs. Da Vinci was an amazing man (I’m certain he’d be a street photographer were he alive today, but that’s a discussion for another day).

We know so much about Da Vinci because of the voluminous note and sketchbooks he kept, many of which have survived since his death. According to Isaacson, more than a quarter of his notebooks, more than 7000 pages, remain available to us some 500 years after Da Vinci’s death. Meanwhile, in researching his biography of Steve Jobs, with Job’s assistance, almost all of Job’s emails from the 1990’s were found to be unrecoverable.

Think about that for a bit.


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15 thoughts on “One More Reason to Use Film

  1. Rob Campbell

    Reminds me of my fax machine as was… it became impossible to see what had been written, never mind read or interpret any of it just a short time later.

    Yet another example of half-baked ideas full of promise but released too soon – or is that too late?


  2. Alexander


    «de mortuis nil nisi bene», I know — but perhaps exactly the assistance of Mr. Jobs was the reason that the emails were unrecoverable … (if there was some tax-evasion related substance in them e.g.…) 😉

  3. Pingback: Why the Roy Stryker Project Uses Film – Roy Stryker

  4. Лазо

    Digital rot is today’s term…the ever marching path of obsolete technology. Remember the 8 inch floppy, followed by 5 inch, 3.5 inch, HD & double-sided discs? WordPerfect & WordStar? RIFF & CGM format? How about finding just the hardware to access those old files, let alone software that will work…for today’s machines?

    Solution: use proven technology and if digital, print to paper. No further software or hardware required except a metal filing cabinet to store them within…

  5. Rob Campbell

    If only printing was enough!

    Problem is, a print is no negative or transparency, and copying prints limits you to the quality of both the print, the operator as well as the system used to get there. Enlarging from prints just shows how poorly paper holds detail information. Basically, it holds smudges.


    1. Leicaphila Post author

      Rob: I like the hybrid solution. Shoot film, retain the negative. You’ll always have the ability to digitize the negative in the future, utilizing the latest technology to maximize its output, and you have an original negative you can file away for archival purposes.

  6. Alexander

    If one wants to translate this into political terms: Well, we *do* live in a 1984ish society. In say 2065, the public — at least, historians — can still say, what crimes the German Nazis have commited. Beacause the German Nazis produced countless handwritten/typewritten records of their crimes, and many of these records did survive. But: whatever our governments today do, will vastly be a mystery for future generations, I fear …

  7. Kodachromeguy

    Careful. The “photographers” (OK, dickheads) on Dpreview will pummel you mercilessly if you suggest film is more archival than their digital files, lovingly processed via their “work flow” and backed up on multiple cloud servers and multi-terrabyte drives in their house. And they are assured that their children will continue to back up their files and transfer to whatever media is in use decades hence. Hahaha, I worked in a government laboratory with professional tech support, and we could not read old media only a decade old.

  8. Rob Campbell

    Funny thing: I shot a pic of an old ’73 or ’75 Alfa Romeo as per The Graduate movie a couple of days ago. When it came to making the finished file, I realised that the colour of red was already too distant in my memory to permit me to correct it properly. Scanned Kodachrome would have given such a fine reference…

  9. jim0266

    There is some magical and wishful thinking that assumes anyone will care about anything we made once we are gone. Live for now and use what brings you pleasure.

  10. Archiver

    When my grandmother passed away recently, we found boxes and boxes of her old handwritten letters to/from her sister who was living overseas. But years from now, there will be no shoebox of love letters from todays’ grandma or grandpa. There will only be the cloud, made impenetrable by a lack of password. Long forgotten Facebook accounts will stand like a vast field of tombstones, many hidden from view or minimized in presence. The millions of photos taken by the average person will disappear with the loss of phones, the demise of harddrives, the replacement of computers.

    I have much of my old schoolwork from decades ago, as well as school notices about upcoming excursions and music recitals. Today’s students now receive emails and automated attendance forms via the school system, which will disappear with the years, too.

    Like the proverbial cockroach, good paper and negatives will survive. I’ve re-begun the practice of shooting a few well chosen film images each time I go out somewhere interesting. This gives me a permanent record of the highlights of my life, which is really how it was done in the old days. Negs are saved and scans and prints are made, and my photo albums grow one roll at a time.

  11. Randle P. McMurphy

    Not anything is worth to be read/seen/found again 500 years from now
    Any idea how many human work, ideas or even cultures are disapeared ?

    1. Leicaphila Post author

      As if this is an excuse not to attempt to transmit culture forward? Stop worrying about what will be of interest to people 500 years from now, because you can’t know. I can say with certainty that whatever they find – an old letter between friends, or my pictures of Italian manhole covers – it’ll be a lot more interesting and informational than nothing.

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