Film shortages leave photographers idle

Long time no see: A roll of black and white Ilford HP5 film in Calgary on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. (Photo by Ethan Andruchuk/The Press)

As the pandemic resulted in both an increase in solo hobbies alongside supply chain shortages, film photographers have felt the squeeze of these issues compounding together.

Google search data shows that in 2021 worldwide interest in film photography peaked to a number that is comparable to the early 2000s. Meanwhile Kodak and Fujifilm, who are the largest producers of film, have struggled to maintain a consistent supply of their most popular film stocks.

Photographer Michael Ahearn, who’s been shooting film for the past 20 years, says that the current shortage is unlike any other he’s seen before.

“Over the last decade or so we have seen the loss of a number of film stocks, and the choice of film has gone down a lot, but previously you could always get your hands on something to shoot,” says Ahearn.

Due to shortages, it is more difficult than ever to find the film you want when you start to run low.

“I remember a time when you could pick up film everywhere. The grocery store, the gas station…and if you went to a proper camera shop it was like being a kid in a candy store,” says Ahearn.

Although, Ahearn says that this issue seems to only be affecting film stock, he hasn’t had any troubles getting a hold of chemistry or paper stock so far.

“I distinctly remember chatting with people who work at a local camera store who said the demand for dark room supplies and 35mm film was astronomical,” says Ahearn.

Jackson Reed, who’s shot film on and off over the past five years, says that he really felt the shortage last year.

“I could only get black and white film for a while, to the point where I had to order some colour stuff online because I just couldn’t find any in Calgary,” says Reed.

Even though his ability to get film has been restricted, Reed says that his personal reason is more due to a lack of repair & maintenance services for his camera.

“The place that I usually get my camera cleaned or repaired has shut down so I need to find a new place,” says Reed.

I have never experienced a shortage like this before. – Michael Ahearn

On top the lack of repairability, Reed’s main film supply store has also stopped carrying any film at all.

“It was great because Save-On-Foods used to always have Kodak and then they stopped carrying it last year. I still instinctively look at the battery section in Save-On when I go there as that’s where the film used to be when they would carry it,” says Reed.

Drew Crawford, who is a salesperson at The Camera Store in Calgary says they just recently got their hands on a new batch of some film stocks.

“If you need some or want film, I would highly recommend getting it within the week we get it in stock,” he said. We do also carry it on our website if you can’t make it into the store in time.”

About Ethan Andruchuk 3 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Ethan Andruchuk is working as a writer for The Press in 2022-23.