Every second there are things that are forgotten, things that slip beneath notice or things that can only be carried in the memories of whoever witnessed them. Our capacity to rescue some of these things, these fleeting moments, and give them an endurance of their own is only as old as the first photograph. Sure, I know that people regularly depicted things by hand before that, but it's difficult to give a sketch or painting the same tincture of reality that a photograph has merely by existing.
Digital photography arguably enables much more thorough sharing of a photograph that before. How likely is it I'd be able to sent a printed photo to the readers (hundreds, I hope) of A Bit More Detail on any kind of regular basis, or even once? Digital photography can also have issues.
Take the photos themselves, and the ease of taking, collecting, and retaining them. That's only really become feasible within the last few years, thanks to the convergence of digital photography and advancements in information storage. It's probably for the best that my Hanimex 35SE film camera doesn't fit in my pocket, unlike my digital; I'd say that the second-most important lesson I learned about using film was photographic discipline. If I'm out and about with my digital, I'd think nothing of taking a hundred and fifty shots over the course of an outing, generally anything that catches my interest. Film cameras present bottlenecks that don't exist with digital cameras. At the most you'll likely have thirty-six exposures before you need to change out your film, and even then you won't know how well the photos turned out until you get them back from thelab.
It's the lab that makes photographic discipline necessary - or, more appropriately, the expense of developing that roll of film into glossy prints. Unless you're a professional or independently wealthy, you've got to practice photographic discipline if you want to see any of them again. Six years ago, when I travelled to the United Kingdom with a friend, he brought a film camera while I carried my first digital - and it's good that I did, because as far as I know all those rolls of film he took were never developed due to the expense. If I was to take ten thousand film photographs, the development costs would be somewhere in the neighborhood of five thousand dollars - and that's not even taking the cost of the film itself into consideration.
I started off my [PHOTO] post series buying disposables, taking my fill of them, and then sending them to be developed. (Shopper's Drug Mart in Canada does a good, inexpensive job.) Last week I picked up some photos I took on disposable film back in August 2003 when I was in Montréal (a half-dozen disposables were involved). There is a certain physicality to film.
I'm pro-digital, though. Digital photography isn't necessarily connected with excessive numbers of photos, although I do admit I took ~150 photos during last month's visit with my parents to the Toronto Zoo. There can be a discipline with taking photos on film; there can be a discipline with taking digital photos. Being able to look back and say, this was a good photo, or that was badly framed, or maybe this third image can be cropped and tinted to some sort of acceptability, helped me improve my skills as a photographer more than I think photographic endeavours limited to film ever could have.