A kid finds an old camera in the attic and falls in love with the feel of the shutter release and the movement of the mechanics in her hands. Then there’s the excitement of waiting for the film to return from the processor at the drugstore—a sense of wonder while anticipating what treasures might emerge from the celluloid and silver.
It’s a familiar narrative for today’s film photographers. Lara Porzak, the featured artist in our September/October issue, fell in love with photography after unearthing her mom’s old Minolta, and one of our regular photographers, Stephen DeVries, started using film after picking up his dad’s Pentax. For identical twin brothers Brandon and Brian Wright, the love for photography started 15 years ago after uncovering their father’s Olympus OM-1. Brandon and Brian’s discovery not only kindled a love for the images the camera produced, but also a passion to contribute to the ongoing inventions and innovations that have been part of film photography since its advent.
Photos of Brandon and Brian Wright by Jack Strutz.
“We started shooting photos of each other skateboarding, trying to reverse-engineer the creative photography in Thrasher and Transworld skateboarding magazines, by hacking together our own lighting,” Brian explains of their early photography experiences. “Been reverse-engineering everything ever since,” he adds with a smile.
Most markedly, the Brothers Wright (as they are jointly known) have spent the last two years creating CineStill, a still camera film made from motion picture film.
That’s right, while it may look the same, the film used in motion picture cameras can’t simply be placed in a still camera and work. That’s largely because to make motion pictures, the film has to move through the camera extremely quickly—a process that would scratch the film if it didn’t have a protective layer of carbon on one side. Place that film in a regular still camera, and even after exposing it, it would remain completely opaque. Never mind sending it to a film lab to be developed—the carbon would ruin the processor. While some diehards remove the carbon at home, that laborious process can only be done in pitch-black conditions after the film is already exposed.
Brandon and Brian managed to do the seemingly impossible and invented a method for removing the carbon layer before exposing the film. Considering that motion pictures remain at the center of the celluloid film industry, the brothers’ creation now allows film photographers to access the most profitable and plentiful product in their field.
Even more significant for analog photography enthusiasts, the Brothers Wright reopened the door to shooting a color film balanced for incandescent tungsten light.
That probably sounds overly technical, so think of it this way: most indoor lighting is incandescent tungsten light, so tungsten light = indoor light. (For those living under the buzz of florescent bulbs, their film works well in those conditions too.)
If you shoot film in a light that the film is not balanced for, the colors turn out orange and unnatural. While there used to be low-speed films made for shooting indoors, Brandon explains that only cinematographers have ever had access to high-speed film balanced for indoor light. And, he adds frankly, “that’s just not fair.”
So by making cinematic film available for still photography, the Brothers Wright have allowed still photographers to enjoy something previously unknown—taking pictures on high-speed color film indoors without needing a flash.
That also makes CineStill a new film for the twenty-first century, not a mere restoration or nostalgic throwback.
But wait, there’s more. As is the tendency with inventors, just one creation wasn’t enough for the Brothers Wright. After the successful production of 35mm CineStill, Brandon and Brian are now turning to something quite literally bigger, and, if not better, just as good as the original.
The brothers recently launched a Kickstarter to support the creation of CineStill 800T, a medium format version of their film. The new film would allow photographers to shoot color film under indoor lights on a range of other popular film cameras. As we explained in our post on Lomography, medium format cameras use a larger film, thus creating a bigger negative that has more detail. These cameras are among analog photographers’ favorites, and CineStill 800T would further expand the cameras’ usefulness.
The benefits are really twofold. As Brian explains, “We will not only be creating a new and exciting product, we will also be securing the continued production and availability of these motion picture and still photography materials and services.”
The Brothers Wright refer to the advent and expansion of CineStill as a renaissance. When asked what he sees in the future for film, Brian says, “I suspect we will see even more passionate supporters, companies collaborating, and new analog options. Development of analog technology may have been put in slow motion for the last decade, but it is far from its potential.”
Learn more about CineStill and the Brothers Wright’s plans to grow analog photography here.
Below are some of the images photographers have captured on CineStill.