It’s been 5 years since I launched EMULSIVE – half a decade — during that time, the landscape of the film photography community has changed IMMEASURABLY. For the first time since I can remember, it feels like the film and traditional photography community has truly found its feet.

Over the past 12 months alone, we’ve seen an explosion of YouTube channels and new podcasts related to film photography, a raft of new blogs and websites dedicated to gear and reviews, the Instagram aesthetic has started bleeding over to film photography Twitter (which is stronger than ever), and even Facebook’s film photography communities are a supportive, collaborative place to be — especially this group: Film Photography Chat.

All in all, the film photography community is an amazing place to be right now and if you’ve just gotten into it over past year, take a moment and absorb the industry and community around you. It won’t ever feel the same again.

We have consistent, almost predictable growth in the volume of film being shot and developed, we have a mature network of cottage industries and small scale factories creating hardware like:

  • A multitude of Chroma Cameras.
  • Intrepid cameras (and of course, the Intrepid enlarger).
  • Ethan Moses and his fabulously eclectic CAMERADACTYL line (especially the MONGOOSE).
  • Film scanning hardware from the likes of Negative Supply and my wonderfully cantankerous friend, Hamish Gill.
  • Large format film and plate glass holders from Jason Lane (Pictoriographica) and Steve Lloyd (Chroma Camera).
  • A seemingly unstoppable source of rebranded reusable plastic film cameras from Dubblefilm and ILFORD Imaging (not ILFORD Photo, the ‘other’ ILFORD).
  • …I appreciate I have missed a few.

On top of that, we’ve got a healthy, growing film manufacturing industry that continues to report increased sales volumes and finds itself in a position of stability better than any time over the past decade.

2020 didn’t see the announcement/release of any truly new film stocks but I for one am glad that we also didn’t witness the demise of our film manufacturing industry. The year from hell did, however, see its fair share of price increases — more than one from both Kodak and ILFORD — but I’m ok with that. I believe we’re at a point where we all need to accept that in order to truly grow film stock offerings in a meaningful sense, our manufacturing and service industries can no longer sit back and absorb material/operating costs in order to protect consumer prices and keep the bar for entry universally low.

I know that as an advocate of film photography for all, these words might seem to go against my mantra over the past 5 years, however, I’d prefer an extant and diverse film manufacturing industry versus a dying and shrinking one. Price increases bite but if 2021 ends up just half as active for new film releases as my sources are telling me, those price increases are going to be well worth it for the future, and the diversity of our market.

Making film is EXPENSIVE. Increasing production capacity is HIDEOUSLY EXPENSIVE. It’s a little beyond the scope of this quick article to talk about the next wave of film manufacturing but I see a future where small-scale manufacturing plants/micro-factories are coating, cutting and finishing film stocks almost on the same basis as print-on-demand. It’s not a new idea but the ability to realise it, is.

One step before then will be the realisation of new supporting film photography hardware – both dumb and smart. Negative Supply, pixl-latr and CAMERADACTYL’s Mongoose are three excellent examples of the diversity of approach and the customer requiring to be filled.

…but I digress because this quick article is turning out to be anything but. Perhaps I’ll wrap the above into a mid-2021 “state of the union” instead.

Those of you with long-ish memories will remember that EMULSIVE’s official 5th birthday was June 1st 2020, not January 1st 2021. I had a couple of things planned for the official date but ultimately decided to move this retrospective post and keep it here from now onwards. This was because quite honestly, I did not have the headspace to deal with it all over the course of most of the second half of 2020. On a personal level, I came into 2020 looking forward to a break from work. I had the opportunity to take some time off and spend a few months considering my personal and professional development as a new decade began.

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What I did not plan on just a few weeks into my break was watching the creeping of a new “pneumonia” in China, followed by what appeared to be harsh lockdowns performed on a coinflip and the construction of several hospitals there over the course of Lunar New Year. The end result from what we initially called “Wuhan Pneumonia”, then “Novel Coronavirus 2019”, and finally, COVID-19 was a truly global epidemic, the likes of which have not been seen since the early 20th century. I’ve been lucky, I know that. I’ve been safe and although not a single person I know has been left untouched by the virus, I have, so far, not directly suffered the loss of family or friends as a result. The year ended on a positive note for me and I’ve spent the past few months trying to find harmony between my personal and work life — people use the term “balance”, but for me, that implies compromise/concession and I don’t really see it that way.

Perhaps the above paragraph is a little too much for a simple blog post about the birthday of a little website that celebrates a niche within a niche within a niche but if you’re not going to take advantage of a platform you’ve built in order to let off a bit of steam once in a while, what’s the point of it all?

Onto what you can expect from EMULSIVE in this, my 6th year: more of the same.

I’ll be continuing to cover film photography reviews, opinion, technique, news, featured projects and interviews. Very much more of the same, which has seen EMULSIVE grow to be one of the largest film photography websites in the world.

Here’s 2020 in numbers:

…and those are just the highlights. To put it another way, EMULSIVE generated over 10,500 hours of reading time over the course of 2020 — about 29 years and 5 months if you want to cut it into more relatable units of time.

If you want to add your voice to EMULSIVE and share your thoughts, experiences and photography, please get in touch, I’d LOVE to hear from you. Don’t worry if you’re not 100% how to share, that’s a process we can both get involved in and develop over the course of a few emails, a text chat, or phone call. It’s up to you.

Of course, my presence on Patreon is still very much active and if you’re supporting me there right now, I’d like to hear your feedback – how do you want me to engage there? Is there anything more I can be doing for you right now?

And finally, the same call I’ve had for a couple of years now: I want you to tell me what you want to see here on EMULSIVE over the coming year. What kind of articles, long-form writings and direction would be most useful to you right now and beyond?

As ever, I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say. Keep shooting, folks.

~ EM

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The transfer of knowledge across the film photography community is the heart of EMULSIVE. You can add your support by contributing your thoughts, work, experiences and ideas to inspire the hundreds of thousands of people who read these pages each month. Check out the submission guide here.

If you like what you're reading you can also help this passion project by heading over to the EMULSIVE Patreon page and contributing as little as a dollar a month. There's also print and apparel over at Society 6, currently showcasing over two dozen t-shirt designs and over a dozen unique photographs available for purchase.

I'm EM, founder, overlord, and editor-in-chief at EMULSIVE.org. I may be a benevolent gestalt entity but contrary to increasingly popular belief, I am not an AI.

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