Analog Photography and the Environment

by Angel Cray

Hello All!  I am excited and thankful that the lovely Ashleigh Downey asked me to be part of Greenhouse Culture’s TAKEOVER.  One of my favorite subject matters is anything nature!  I grew up in Northern Maine, which defiantly played a part in my tree hugging ways.  It is also the reason why I take my approach to analog photography and the environment seriously.

“The world has digital, and I have film!”

says Angel

Can the art of Analog photography be environmentally conscious?

There are many conversations that surround Analog photography and the environment.  Honestly there is not a simple answer, but a lot of gray.  Protecting our environment is very important, so elevating a lot of the environmental pitfalls of photography is a must. 

One of the leading concerns are the CHEMICALS USED, but there is an easy solution, at least in America anyway.  Most cities in the US have chemical recycling centers that have the proper equipment and regulations to neutralize and dispose of the chemicals properly.  NEVER, never pour chemicals down the drain, not even the black and white.  There are special Eco-friendly black and white chemical for paper and film (Eco-Pro and some homemade concoctions).  Regardless of these chemicals being advertised as Eco friendly, I highly recommend still bringing these chemicals to the redemption center.  If you are going to be a photographer in film or digital the expense of recycling chemicals and digital equipment is a must.

A 2nd issue in the analog process is the AMOUNT OF WATER USED for rinsing both film and paper.  One minor aid is reducing the flow of water to a thin stream, you do not need gallons of rushing water.  A syphon can be attached to your rinsing tray to help circulate water around, but still requires low running water.  Some of the drainage water can be used to further dilute chemicals being brought to the redemption center.  

A personal goal I am working on for the future is developing a recycling system for the rinse water. The hope is that it will cycle out the silver and chemicals from the rinse water, in hopes of reduce the water being used considerably.  I figure if NASA can figure out how to recycle piss back into drinkable water; hopefully I can come up with a system for rinse water 😉

The final (not really) but 3rd environmental issue are the FILM CANISTERS that film comes in.  These are a necessity for the light sensitive film, but I have come up with a fun way to recycle the film canisters.  I am excited to share with everyone around October of what I have been up to…
So watch this space… ☺  

Lastly the one part of the analog process that I have not figured out how to lessen the environmental effect, is the PHOTOGRAPHIC PAPER.  Unfortunately, photographic paper is not recyclable due to the emulsion and silver layer.  So, if anyone has any thoughts of how to recycle photographic paper, I would love the input!!

I hope this helps some new folks finding a way to balance their love for analog photography and being respectful to our environment.

All photographs copyright & credited to Angel Cray

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