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Film Isn’t Going Anywhere

Arts | August 22nd, 2023

By Sabrina Hornung

sabrina@hpr1.com

‘Shot on Film’ provides voice for analog photography

A lot has happened in the world of photography in the past 20 years, as we watched the world transition from analog to digital. Fargo-Moorhead photographer Scott Olsen assures us that film isn’t going anywhere and it’s clear once you view the exhibition “Shot on Film” which opens August 17 at the Spirit Room in Downtown Fargo.

Inspired by a long-forgotten roll of film, “Shot on Film” features the work of Ross Collins, Lynn Fundingsland, Scott Olsen, Jon Solinger, and Chris Walker.

These artists share a common background in academic spaces as well as in the world of photojournalism and documentary photography.

Ross F. Collins is a professor of communication at North Dakota State University, as well as a former photojournalist.

Lynn Fundingsland, also a former photojournalist, has published nationally since the late 1960’s.

Jon Solinger is a documentary photographer and educator. According to the exhibition’s artist statement, “He aims to offer insight into his rural Minnesota community’s culture by bringing individual members into the art-making process, then sharing the work with a wider audience.”

Chris Walker typically uses a wooden, 8x10" view camera. He teaches lens-based media in the Communications Department at MSUM Moorhead and his website, chriswalkerphoto.com, is on The New York Times’ list of “Must See: Most Provocative Websites” and his work has been featured in Smithsonian Magazine online.

W. Scott Olsen is a professor of English at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. He’s an author, a contributor to Frames Magazine and LensCulture, among others; and even hosts a photography podcast series for Frames.

In fact, the exhibition was Olsen’s idea that came to fruition as a number of photographers gathered to talk shop.

Primarily a digital photographer with an interest in street photography, Olsen said that once he dipped back into the world of film, he noticed a difference in the way he framed and captured his shots. With analog photography, the photographer has a limited number of photos at his disposal; in digital photography shots are almost infinite.

Processing the film proved to be no difficulty. A number of the photographers had their own dark rooms available. In fact, Ross Collins helped process Olsen’s film. Once he acquired his negatives, Olson then scanned, dodged, burned and manually edited them via computer.

“One thing about the exhibit, on a personal note,” said Olsen, “the other four are presenting really, REALLY high quality work. I looked at mine and the stuff that was good…was good. But the mistakes were really interesting. There's the things that in a digital world, I would have looked at and said oh, I screwed that one up, and would have taken it again, but the fact that they were permanent, and were there on the negative, I saw them as attractive errors.”

One of Olsen’s pieces in the exhibition looks as if there were a ghost image on the negative. Was the film touching as it was processed? He’s not sure, but it makes for an interesting composition and would prove to be difficult to achieve if one attempted to edit or render the same effect digitally.

When viewing the work, Olsen suggested, “Get up close to the pictures. Because one of the things that is really remarkable when you start looking at the quality of images– analog has its own voice, it has its own presence– so when you put your nose up against the glass, you're gonna see stuff that you're not going to see in a digital image.”

As we see fewer dark rooms in classrooms and newsrooms, Scott Olsen assures us that dark room or film photography isn’t a lost art, but a niche art. He predicts that film will make a comeback.

“I think somebody's going to bring out an updated film camera. Fuji film just came out with an instant. It's not a Polaroid, but it's an instant film camera. Film photography is not going anywhere, it's just becoming a little bit more rarefied.”

He added, “At the Fargo street market the other day, there was a line to get to a little stand out in front of the vinyl record store to go buy vinyl records, you could not get to the bin. Vinyl’s coming back – and you could say the same thing for film.”

IF YOU GO

“Shot on Film”

Exhibit through September 16, Gallery I

Spirit Room, 111 Broadway N, Fargo

701-237-0230

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