I’ve always found the notion of world “awareness” days somewhat curious. First off, if it’s something people genuinely need to be aware of, then one day a year is completely inadequate for fostering a full-scale change in public consciousness. Secondly, there are many more causes than there are days in a year. So inevitably, your special awareness day will have to duke it out with dozens of other awareness days — most of which will be completely irrelevant and unrelated to whatever message you hope to spread. And third, does anyone actually pay attention to these awareness days? I mean, is there a giant calendar somewhere that lists them all?
Back in college, my friends and I maintained just such a wall calendar — except that ours was populated solely by thousands of bizarre holidays that we, ourselves, invented. Granted, thinking up ridiculous celebratory days probably consumed brain cells that would have been better spent learning to solve non-linear differential equations. But hey — that’s what college is for.
Our biggest made-up day of the year was National Biplane Lady Day — the existence of which we owe entirely to one fellow’s girlfriend and her penchant for fashion magazines. While leafing through one of her trendier publications, we happened upon an article showcasing elaborate new hairstyles — one of which looked to have been significantly influenced by the Sopwith Camel. After deciding such a coiffure was worthy of its own “day,” we crammed it onto our busy calendar in the only space available — April 31st.
While it was far from our silliest day, and though we had long since discarded the only known photo of the eponymous model, National Biplane Lady Day took on a growing annual significance — most likely due to its presence on a heretofore undiscovered date within the Gregorian Calendar. It became our Christmas, our New Year’s, our Labor Day and our collective birthdays, all rolled into one. On the eve of National Biplane Lady Day, April 30th, we’d throw a party, count down the seconds until midnight, blow our party horns and check the calendar — only to see it was now May 1st, and not April 31st. Undaunted, we would then regale one another with tales of how we each had spent National Biplane Lady Day.
Like most college buddies, we drifted apart after graduation, though for several more Aprils we continued to reach out and wish one another a happy National Biplane Lady Day. But as the years turned to decades, National Biplane Lady Day was forgotten…
… until a couple days ago, when I read something about Film Photography Day having taken place this past April 12th. What?! Really?! Is an entirely new generation of college kids making up days again? As best as I can fathom, Film Photography Day seems to be something that the Lomography company made up. And if they didn’t invent this day, then as the only company that likely derives the bulk of its income from film and film camera sales, it’s certainly an awareness day that Lomography aggressively markets.
But why do we need a film day at all? What possible purpose can it serve? I suspect Lomography’s bottom line requires they sell film and film-related products every day of the year, and not just on April 12th. So marketing the notion that people should shoot film on one special day each year doesn’t seem like an effective way to fortify Lomography’s balance sheet.
Besides, if someone’s never shot film, I can pretty much guarantee you that one day isn’t going to convince them to give up their lazy, pixel-peeping digital ways. Learning to see, appreciate and perfect the nuances of film is a lifelong labor of love — not a Hallmark Holiday.
And what about the former film photographer — the one who traded his chemicals and darkened dwelling for the ease of the digital workflow? The one who chose the allure of extensive resolution over tonality, and who rejoiced in the freedom to shoot a limitless number of identical images in the relentless pursuit of the one “perfect” image? What possible effect can a Film Photography Day have on this photographer, other than to remind him why he stopped shooting film in the first place?
And if someone is already a dedicated, hard-core film shooter (like me), then it only ticks us off to have some special “awareness” day to remind us of what insignificant, anachronistic, knuckle-dragging dinosaurs we really are.
So do we really need a Film Photography Day? Designating an arbitrary spot on the calendar and suggesting everyone shoot a roll of film will not increase the relevancy of film. Nor will it “save” film, since film is in no need of rescue — rather, film has simply shifted from a mass-market consumer item to a specialized tool for the arts, much like chalk, charcoal or oil paints. Besides, Film Photography Day had to share April 12th with National Nanny Training Day and National Grilled Cheese Day, which (as everyone knows) is the one that gets all the press.
To illustrate my point that film is a lifestyle, and not just a “day,” I’ve adorned this article with a random sampling of casual, walk-about snapshots — the sort most people would take with a smartphone. Only these were all taken on film; and on whichever day of the year I felt like taking them; and yet, curiously, none of them were taken on world Film Photography Day. Coincidentally though, I did write this article on National Biplane Lady Day. But in strict observance to both tradition and the Gregorian calendar, I waited until May 1st to tell you about it.
ABOUT THESE PHOTOS:
“Concrete Tornado” was shot with an Olympus PEN FT fronted with an Olympus 25mm f/4 lens, exposed on Tri-X at ISO 320, and developed in a 1:50 solution of Rodinal.
“Riemannian Plane” was shot with an Olympus Pen FT fronted with an Olympus 42mm f/1.2 lens, exposed on Tri-X at ISO 320, and developed in a 1:50 solution of Rodinal.
“Frame of Reference” was shot with a Leica M6TTL fronted with a Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 Super Wide Heliar lens, exposed on Tri-X at ISO 320, and developed in a 1:50 solution of Rodinal.
“Princess Lane” was shot with a Leica M6TTL fronted with a Leitz 50mm f/2 Summar thread mount lens, exposed on Delta 3200 at ISO 3200, and developed in a 1:25 solution of Rodinal.
“Reflected Past” was shot with an Olympus Pen FT fronted with an Olympus 42mm f/1.2 lens, exposed on Tri-X at ISO 320, and developed in a 1:50 solution of Rodinal.
“Approach” was shot with an Olympus Pen FT fronted with an Olympus 38mm f/1.8 lens, exposed on Kentmere 100 at ISO 50, and developed in a 1:50 solution of Rodinal.
“Conformity” was shot with a Leica IIIc fronted with a Letiz 35mm f/3.5 Elmar thread mount lens, exposed on Tri-X at ISO 320, and developed in a 1:50 solution of Rodinal.
“Mayan Influence” was shot with an Olympus Pen FT fronted with an Olympus 38mm f/1.8 lens, exposed on Kentmere 100 at ISO 50, and developed in a 1:50 solution of Rodinal.
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