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While the rest of the world has embraced digital imaging, Gander’s Mike Hiscock remains dedicated to film photography. Not only does he shoot in this format, he also develops film and makes his own prints.
While the rest of the world has embraced digital imaging, Gander’s Mike Hiscock remains dedicated to film photography. Not only does he shoot in this format, he also develops film and makes his own prints. - Adam Randell

Mike Hiscock has ditched digital for film

GANDER, NL – For Mike Hiscock a picture is a tangible thing.

While much of the world has made the shift to digital imaging, the Gander resident remains dedicated to film photography, developing his own film and prints.

The passion for film started in the early 90s, during his high school days, when Gander Collegiate still had a dedicated dark room for its photography club.

“No one was really using it, so I pretty much had it to myself,” he said, as common practice at that time was to drop rolls of film off at commercial photo labs for development.

He has been developing film ever since, getting his first negative enlarger to set up at home when he was 16. But as photography made the transition to digital images, the need for film-developing services waned.

While he continued shooting with film, Hiscock admits he too embraced the new technology, buying his first digital camera in 2003. He would continue shooting in the format for a decade.

But something always felt off.

Hiscock says his 1954 Crown Graphic Graflex, which shoots large format – 4x5 inch film – always draws a lot of attention when he’s shooting in public settings.
Hiscock says his 1954 Crown Graphic Graflex, which shoots large format – 4x5 inch film – always draws a lot of attention when he’s shooting in public settings.

“The quality wasn’t there for me, the enjoyment wasn’t there,” he said. “When you’re using digital cameras there’s a lot of computer work, there’s no hands-on control of the process.”

He made his decision to shoot solely with film, other than the odd camera-phone photo, about five years ago after losing a hard drive that contained his son’s baby pictures.

“There was nothing I could do to get those back,” he said. “If I lost a stack of prints, I could just go and make another stack, thank god I was still shooting film at the time.”

While the equipment he is using isn’t that easy to come by in central Newfoundland, the same technological advancements that led to film photography’s demise has been a blessing for Hiscock.

He’s been able to find equipment, parts and cameras on the internet. There’s even a Hollywood connection to his film.

“With 35mm motion picture film, it comes in 1,000-foot reels – 10 minutes’ worth of film. If they do eight minutes that’s 800 feet, they’ll cut the rest off and sell it as short ends online. I’ll buy it and spool it off into 35 mm film cartridges,” he said, noting this is less costly than purchasing pre-rolled film.

Hiscock goes through about 100 rolls of film per year. He’ll also do about 100 large – 4x5 inch – format shots.

And in the come-full-circle fashion – much like vinyl records – film photography is again finding its place in modern society; a trend Hiscock finds encouraging.

“There are actually film companies reopening, and films that were discontinued are being reintroduced. People take hundreds of pictures digitally in a day, but it’s very rare that one manifests itself into a physical object,” he said.

“I think it’s about getting back to a craft process; people are again seeing the value of a handmade image.”

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