Jamie Potvin, the darkroom instructor at the School of Photographic Arts: Ottawa — commonly known as SPAO — has been witnessing a revival of interest in film photography despite the dominance of digital cameras in the 21st century.

“For a while, it was like these niche companies that were sustaining (film) for the hobbyist,” Potvin said. “Now the mainstream companies are repurchasing it, so hopefully that means that it’s sticking around.”

An article in Pattern, an e-commerce acceleration platform, recently showed that the demand for film was 61 per cent higher in the U.S. in 2021 than in 2020.

“Film cameras, once thought to be going the way of the dinosaur, appear to be only growing in popularity,” the article states.

A few Ottawa businesses, such as Galaxy Camera on Bank Street, sell disposables, develop negatives and offer repair services for vintage film cameras. 

People like Neddy McIntyre say they are a fan of film because it’s an experience.

Galaxy Camera window is filled with signs saying they develop fill, the types of film they carry and shows pictures of film cameras.
Galaxy Camera on Bank Street has been operating locally for over 30 years. While it no longer sells vintage film cameras, Galaxy is one of the few places that develop negatives and offers repair services for film cameras. [Photo © Rebecca Weston]
Jon Spence holds a old press film camera.
Although it can be difficult to discover traditional film cameras, Jon Spence finds and sells a variety of cameras at markets such as 613 Flea. Spence used to only do this as a side job, but people’s interest in film cameras grew and so did his business. “Why not? I love it,” said Spence. “I’ve been into photography for half a century.” [Photo © Rebecca Weston]
Neddy McIntyre looking at a film camera while people walk by and watch
Growing up, Neddy McIntyre used to admire her grandpa’s film cameras and says it’s a different experience. She wants to get her own film camera, but the price of vintage cameras is an issue. For now, McIntyre will continue to use disposables. [Photo © Rebecca Weston]
Jamie Potvin teaching how to develop film
Jamie Potvin (in yellow) has been working with film for 15 years and has never used digital cameras. Potvin is currently the darkroom instructor at SPAO. In this class, students are being taught the steps for developing film. [Photo © Rebecca Weston]
Potvin has film images from the early 1900s and can view them by inverting the colours on their phone. Potvin says while technology has made some improvements when it comes to photography, film cameras are still able to capture textures that an iPhone wouldn’t. “We can see the knit in the tweed,” said Potvin, while examining the negatives. [File Photo © Rebecca Weston/Capital Current]
Jamie Polvin getting ready to project a picture on the paper print projector
This is the same printing processor that Potvin used when they went to school at SPAO. While most film is developed in rolls, SPAO has a paper processing section that students can use to enlarge their negatives. There are only a handful of darkroom studios in the city. “When people ask me what I do like for a living, I say I have the weirdest job, like nobody else in the world has my job.,” said Potvin. “It’s a niche career.” [Photo © Rebecca Weston]