It may be an exaggeration but if we follow what Michael Zhang describes in an article for PetaPixel, to its logical conclusion, we could reasonably expect to be doing this in a few years’ time.
Commercial film processors in the United States have decided that the photographic negative is redundant as a recording medium, and consequently as a means of preserving history. They have
concluded that when a roll of film is sent for developing, the photographer no longer needs to be bothered by the inconvenience of storing the film negatives, they will instead; provide the
hard copy prints and a “free” digital scan of all the images on a CD as a master.
To older photographers film has always been the gold or should I say “silver” standard of recording and documentation, committing an image to a photographic emulsion is an archival process
which has worked extremely well for nearly two centuries. In fact original negatives taken by our Victorian ancestors can still be printed using conventional photographic processes, today.
It would now appear if it can’t be stored as a bit a byte or a pixel it has no value and is really not worth storing, this seems to be the approach of film developing companies in the
United States and as we all know what happens in the U.S.A. will soon be with us in the UK.
What’s wrong with this you may ask?
Firstly, when I ask them to process a film, the film is mine, and the images on that strip of celluloid or polyester are my intellectual property in its original form, they have no right to
destroy it without my express permission. When I buy a roll of film I don’t regard it as disposable, to be discarded at will by the company I choose to develop my images. Apart from which
how do I know they’ve destroyed them and not sold them to a picture library?
Secondly, the photographic negative is the archival, enduring and viewable product, which at this time is arguably still the most accurate way to store photographic images. The negative
will endure much longer than a jpeg file which in itself is being degraded every time it’s changed and saved or a CD made of inferior quality plastic, which may or not be readable in 5years’ time.
Finally, although the photographic industry has changed beyond all recognition in how pictures are taken and handled, film is still a recognised medium and those who choose to continue
using the wonders of silver technology should be secure in the knowledge that their choice is respected by those who offer a service to develop that film.
As a professional photographer, my belief is that there are now two very distinct versions of photography, the new digital era, and the original conventional silver based photography.
There is still plenty of opportunity to work with both disciplines and as such the suppliers and service providers have a duty to respect the decision of the photographer to use whichever