Analog photography has seen a resurgence in recent years as more photographers reach for film cameras instead of digital when shooting their work. However, like many histories, the analog film industry is rooted in racism and prejudice. Original film stocks were designed for what they deemed was their target audience–– those with fair skin and who predominantly identified as female.
What actually brought on the demand for more inclusive and dynamic film stocks was not photographers of color, but the chocolate and furniture industries. In the 1960s and 1970s, these companies discovered the available film at the time was unable to capture the deep browns of milk chocolate or the subtle tonal grains and finishes on furniture. However, it would take another two decades before Kodak would release a multiracial coloring card for technicians in labs tasked with developing and printing analog film. This new multiracial card featured a white, Asian, and Black female as well as the standard solid color blocks. This proved to assist labs with correct exposure and color correction for all skin tones. But, it was not until early May 2000 when Kodak released Gold Max, one of the first film emulsions created and branded for being the “best” in authentically portraying darker complexions. Even with the advancement of digital photography, issues of authentic portrayal and representation are still present. For example, facial recognition software implemented in consumer digital cameras to identify someone blinking is noted for producing errors when photographing Asian individuals.
In order to uplift the next generation of analog photographers, we have compiled a list of contemporary artists to follow. These artists show a passion for the format and use the power of photography to tell stories of their own and others who may not have a platform for their voice.
Bio: “Doug Sweet is a photographer, instructor, and writer, based in Houston, Texas. Beginning in 2001 shooting street and architectural photos, his career has allowed him to shoot every aspect of photography from events to weddings. He found his way back to film about 10 years ago after being gifted somewhere north of 450 rolls of expired film. If you can’t find him behind a camera, he’s definitely thinking about it.”
Bio: “My name is Markell, I am from southern California. I started shooting polaroids a few years ago. I wasn’t really consistent about it nor did I take it seriously. My father was really into photography and its something that has always been in my life. He loved capturing the moment and believed in cherishing every photograph good or bad. When he passed away I began to take it a bit more seriously and have been shooting polaroids with more serious intent. I like polaroids because its instant there’s no waiting for them to get developed or being disappointed in a bad photo when you get it back and the opportunity to retake it has passed.”
Bio: “My name is Caleb Martin, I’m a 20-year-old film photographer and collegiate American footballer from Oak Ridge TN. Being from East TN and a small rural area you’ll see a lot of that represented in my work. You may also see a midwestern style because that’s where I get inspiration from. It’s a goal of mine to live out that way one day. I’ve been shooting film for going on 3 months now and I’m loving every single moment of it. I believe film is something all photographers should experiment with, because of the slower process and learning about light/ different settings for different scenes. Altogether I’m just a kid who loves to shoot film and chasing his dreams.”
Bio: “My name is Ahza. I am a film photographer who takes a lot of self-portraits to not only document my life but as another form of art to express myself. I also like to take photos of anything that captures my attention, things that I find beautiful or unique. Most of the time it’s vintage cars and plants, or flowers. Things reflecting what I like, or bring peace to me. I am an introvert so my work kind of reflects that as well. In due time, I will like to take portraits of others, women in particular. Especially black women, to have us shown and captured in every way. More positive, beautiful, unique, peaceful, savage lol, and creative. I want to create more art reflecting us loving ourselves just the way we are!”
Bio: “My name is Xhosa, I’m a filmmaker and photographer based out of New York. I shoot mainly on film because I like the fact that I don’t have a clue how the image will turn out and that in itself is an exercise in mindfulness and being in the moment for every shot. I use art as a way to bring people into my world.”
Bio: “My name is Terrance Evans. I’m from Cleveland Ohio, and I am 23 years old. I started photography when I was around 13yrs old with an iPhone 4s, just going around taking pictures of what I can find. Then around 2014 or so I started film photography with a canon sure shot 40mm point and shoot. As of right now I mainly focus on portraits, but I still try all the other mediums, street photography, landscape, contemporary. I’m currently working on a long term project here in Germany called “sprichst du Englisch?”. Which focuses on my current state of living as an American in Germany, and not knowing how to speak German trying to adapt. I have a short term project as well, but it has no name yet with my 4×5 intrepid camera with combining likewise images together. A goal for me is to just get my art out there to other photographers and, to anyone that enjoys a nice image on print or digitally.”
Bio: “Hi my name is Nelson Mendes Vieira. I am a street photographer from Cape Verde. I love this branch of photography because it always gives you something you’ll never forget, especially when everything is locked in a frame.”
Bio: “Julia Karwan-Jastrzebska (b. 1993) is a visual artist, working in the field of photography and graphic design. Specialized in portrait photography and visual communication. Inspired predominantly by humanism, feminism, and pop culture. A graduate of the “Media Art” department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Based in Warsaw, Poland.”
Bio: “I am primarily a self-taught photographer, and also attended classes at Washington University in St. Louis and St. Louis Community College. I create work with film, digital, and Polaroid cameras. My previous body of work, Girls with Fruit, visually discussed how women’s bodies and minds have been linked throughout history to the type of fruit they ate; pomegranates to increase their fertility, apples to represent original sin, and too much grapefruit causing mental illness. As of late 2019, I have chosen to work with Black women exclusively, as a way to reconnect with my own identity.”