Picture Perfect Photo Lab is a second home for photographers looking to return to the age old practice of developing film.
Originally founded in 1985 as a one-hour photo store, the business now does it all: developing C-41 color negative and B&W film weekly, in addition to scanning and digitally restoring old photos/slides to continually add to a 22-year-old archive.
“We've really seen a huge surge in film photography from young people who are in college or high school who are looking for a different experience from their phone or digital photography,” owner Matt Alexander said, who originally started working at the shop in 1996.
Film photography has had a resurgence in interest for well over a decade. A 2020 Wired article recounted how, after the film brand Kodak filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy and discontinued its most popular 35mm film Ektachrome in 2012, “a nascent audience of shutterbugs drove the company to revive Ektachrome five years later; Kodak's film business saw year-over-year growth of 21% in 2018.”
There’s several theories as to why film photography is gaining popularity again, even with the vast array of digital and high end cinema cameras available on the market.
According to the documentary “Why We Still Love Film: Analog Photography in the Digital Age” from NBC Left Field, the tactile nature of film photography contributes heavily to its appeal. Alexander also said shooting on film forces photographers to be more intentional with their shots, since they only have 24 or 36 exposures per roll.
“I think film photography kind of lends itself an artistic side that people appreciate — people like the graininess of the film, the grittiness, the rawness of the moment,” Alexander said.
According to Wired, a fascinating intersection of film and digital photography can be found on the photo sharing social media app Instagram. Developers realized people liked the “look” of film photography and created filters that made digital photos look like they were taken on film. But as the Wired article points out, such filters “don't satisfy us, and that points to a deeper reason for analog's persistence.”
Alexander said younger generations now use the app to upload their photos that were actually taken on film cameras as “a badge of honor.” The hashtag “stay broke shoot film” currently has 4.4 million posts and the hashtag “film is not dead” has a whopping 19.1 million posts, indicating the prevalence of film photography on the app.
Another reason Alexander cited for the appreciation of film photography is that it “makes you slow down and think and value the moment a little bit more, and it gets you off of your digital device for a moment.”
“Why We Still Love Film” also speaks to how younger generations that grew up with a saturation of digital media are looking for an escape from instant gratification. The tactile nature of putting a roll of film in a camera and taking it into a shop like Picture Perfect is equally as appealing to people who grew up with “point and shoot” cameras and smartphones.
Another unique aspect of Picture Perfect is how much of their work lies in restoring and digitally scanning old photographs, negatives and slides. Alexander said restoring old photos is the essence of photography because “it captures that little sliver of our lives and it preserves it for years to come.”
Much like how vinyl made a comeback and brought back record stores, this renewed interest in film photography and the desire to preserve slices of life will continue to help places like Picture Perfect to keep film alive.
Shelby Kleinhans is a beat reporter and freelance photographer at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BirdsNotReal99