Generations: Photography through the ages


Posted at Mar 26 2020 06:16 PM

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MANILA -- Some 300 million pictures are uploaded every day because taking and sharing photos are now instant due to the prevalence of smartphones and digital cameras.

In the earlier days, however, one had to wait days to have a picture developed and printed. Instead of social media feeds, these snapshots are stored in photo albums which are often displayed in living rooms for visitors to browse.

Photographers of earlier days had to learn how to use film cameras if they wanted to practice their craft. The same is true for casual individuals who wished to document important events.

That's why for Jay Javier, who teaches photography to college students, the experience is more meaningful if a film camera is used.

“Noong araw kasi nagdadala lang kami ng camera kapag may okasyon. So siguro iyon ang paniniwala, ang photography ay isang okasyon,” he told ABS-CBN News.

(Back then, you'll only bring a camera if there's an occasion. That's what led us to believe that photography is an occasion.)

“Pag tinutok mo ang camera sa isang bagay, ibig sabihin importante sa ’yo ‘yon. isha-share mo ngayon ‘yong experience na ‘yon sa pamamagitan ng photos na shinoot mo.”

(When you focus your camera on something, that means it's important to you. Then you'll share that experience by using the photos you shot.)


Most printed photos from those days featured several individuals in one shot. According to Javier, that was because film is usually expensive. For example, a roll with 36 shots used to cost P60. That’s about 10 times the jeepney fare of that time.

“So kada 36 na kuha n’ya iisipin muna n’ya kung importante ‘yun, itatabi ko ba ito? Para siguradong maipapasok sa film,” he said.

(The 36 shots you have, you have to evaluate if each is important, if you will keep it. That is to make sure if you will catch it on film.)

But taking pictures is just half of the process and the rest will be completed in the dark room.

For Javier, printing the pictures himself lets him be in full control of the output he produces. He added, he is able to better express himself through the pictures he takes when he uses a traditional camera.

“Sabi nila ang photography ang pinakamahirap lagyan ng identity. So saan papasok ang pag-angkin sa isang image? Through intervention… Sa analog ang daming points of intervention… Sa pagkuha pa lang and then sa processing ang daming puwedeng gawin,” he said.

(They say it's difficult to put an identity unto photography. So where will the possession of an image come in? Through intervention. In analog, there are several points of intervention. In the taking of the picture and the processing alone, a lot can be done.)


But this process, from clicking a camera to the printing, changed when digital cameras came into the picture. The film was replaced by the SD card that stores up to thousands of pictures. The dark room became photo editing apps such as Lightroom that allows the user to automatically set the exposure, aperture, and shutter speed.

This efficiency became advantageous for photojournalist Basilio Sepe, who, although first exposed to photography through his father's and uncle’s film cameras, refined his own technique in taking pictures through digital tools.

“Sa news photography you have to be quick. Everything is fast-paced. And dapat 'yung equipment mo mabilis (your equipment has to be quick) and you have to send pictures right away… I won’t be able to do the job I have right now kung 'di ko dala ang digital camera ko,” he said.

Like Sepe, model Amara Ui uses the technology to her advantage. The pictures she takes on her smartphone — selfies, travel photos, and even food — are instantly shared with the thousands who follow her on social media.

Although she does not claim to be a photographer, Ui said she likes capturing everything that catches her attention. She is able to do that thanks to the capacity of her phone to store large data.

“I really want to capture all the memories and have something to look back to… When I go abroad, I’m going to remember it better if I take a lot of photos,” she said.


Searching the hashtag #FilmIsNotDead on Instagram will yield about 14 million posts from around the world.

Among the youngsters who embrace the tedious process of using film cameras are Derald Umali and Gab Visenio of Thirty Five Studio, who document on YouTube how they use film and vlog about their experience.

“In a sense para siyang mas true to life. Organic. Magco-contemplate ka more kasi 36 shots in one roll. We value every shot that we make,” said Umali.

(In a sense, it's more true to life, organic. You will contemplate because you only have 36 shots in one roll. We value every shot that we make.)

“It’s like 'yung camera na ito is made sa '70s or maybe earlier. Ginamit siya ng tao to take a moment in time. And now I am using it to take my moments. I'm super passionate about that sentiment,” added Visenio.

(It's like the camera is made in the '70s or earlier. People used this to capture a moment in time. Now I am using it to take my moments. I'm super passionate about that sentiment.)


The digital age offers users many different opportunities to be creative, said Ui. But for Javier, whose beginnings were rooted in analog, the multitude of pictures creates “visual noise.”

Yet, he believes that a photograph, no matter the device used or the length of time for it to develop, holds dear memories to the one who took it.

“Kahit ano pa ang pinangkuha diyan, ang ending, may photo ka na precious sa ’yo. May value ‘yun. It doesn’t really matter kung ano 'yung ginamit,” he said.

(Whatever was used to take it, in the end, you have a photo that is precious to you. That has value. It doesn’t really matter what was used.)