Digital camera technology is pretty incredible these days. The features and functions can make them a dream to work with, and the images can be stunning. For a while, it looked like film photography would soon be a thing of the past.
But film is far from dead. In fact, analogue photography is having a renaissance. For some photographers, film is still king. And many digital users are now dusting off their old 35mm machines.
We’ve created a list of the 25 best film photographers working in 2021. Not only will their work demonstrate that film is not dead, but they may also inspire you to pick up your own analogue camera!
What’s Special About Film Photography?
For all the technological mastery of the modern digital camera, there’s a quality to film that can’t be replicated. It’s hard to say what this quality is exactly. There’s a deep textural aesthetic created by the chemical reaction of light hitting film that digital can’t replace.
Capturing on film creates a classic feel that carries much more emotion than simple digital images. The film grain and lower dynamic range can actually make film photographs more interesting.
Influential Film Photographers You Should Follow
Whether you’re interested in landscape, fashion, or documentary, we’re sure you’ll find something that interests you in this list of the 25 best film photographers to follow in 2021.
Dan Rubin is one of the leading practitioners of contemporary film photography. He is a master of the 35mm and medium format camera.
Much of his work is natural and candid, but he still knows how to curate a scene. His collection demonstrates he can find shot as well and construct them.
Lucy and her Leica M10 are inseparable. Together, they capture the bright and the beautiful.
Lucy, as you can see from her work, is drawn to the sea. Her mastery of 35mm technique allows her to express the joy and enjoyment of being on the shore. Water and sunlight are recurring motifs throughout her work.
Her photos are vibrant and alive with colour. The golds and deep blues warm you even if you’re miles away from the Mediterranean coast.
Henri Prestes is a fine art photographer from Portugal. He works across southern Europe, honing his film photography technique.
Henri is a curator of mood and atmosphere. His images are filled with an intense eeriness, combining natural landscapes with a sense of the supernatural. There’s a dream-like quality, reminiscent of Emily Bronte’s northern moors.
His work is not going unnoticed. He was a finalist in the 2020 and 2021 ADC awards.
Ryan Muirhead has a highly cinematic style of photography, using both 35mm and medium format.
His images can fill you with wonder and unease. They’re scenic and beautiful but remind you of a bad dream you had long ago. And his portraits are personal and intense, like scenes of a horror movie.
He has no fear when it comes to experimenting with form and technique. This only adds to the uncertainty of meaning in his imagery.
Ian Howorth is a celebrated film photographer based in Brighton in the UK.
His documentary style has a timeless and nostalgic quality. His shots of contemporary England take you back in time—a time that you can’t quite place.
He brings mystique to the mundane and finds beauty in the benign. His photos come from places we are all familiar with, yet they all seem new.
He has been published in The Guardian and Huck Magazine. He has also published two books, Arcadia and In Passing.
Oleg is a fine art photographer from Ukraine.
His images are intense with colour and concept. The scenes are highly stylised, and every detail is has been attended to. Every colour, line, and texture has been considered—there are no accidents here!
Oprisco’s work is fine art in the medium of film photography. And the film plays its part in his imagery.
Trev Lee lives and operates on America’s Pacific coast. His work is full of that famous West Coast sensibility. His collection has a sunny, upbeat disposition which is undeniably infectious.
He has some stunning landscapes and has a wonderful eye for composition. But it’s his people photography that holds the real charm. They’re full of wide eyes and smiles.
He also has a fabulous monochrome collection on his website that’s full of sharp imagery and texture.
Patrick is a street and documentary photographer from Sydney, Australia. He works in the medium of 35mm film and travels around the world.
His photos convey the feeling of walking through a strange city at night. You’re alone but alert to all around you. The viewer is the fly on the wall—you’re getting a glimpse of what you shouldn’t.
Patrick uses patterns, angles, and shadows from the street to create images with an urban elegance.
Tom is a Scottish photographer now based in London, UK.
Tom matches stylised fashion photography with a relaxed and casual sensibility. He uses natural and studio settings, but his subjects are always at ease. His shots are controlled yet candid.
He uses colour and black and white film and often presents them together. This adds depth and texture to his collection.
Carianne Older uses the quirks and complexities of film photography to her advantage. She uses SLR, compact, and Polaroid cameras to create images that are distinctly analogue.
Her style is overtly glamorous. She indulges in the kitsch and the gaudy, creating a style that is sexy yet self-aware. She has a more-is-more approach, but her scenes are deliberate and considered.
Her popularity is booming. She’s had commissions from Puma and Playboy and is heading Rebecca Black’s promotional campaign.
Chelsey is a fine art film photographer based in New York.
Her imagery is sparse and her colour pallet is pale, but her photos are gripping and intense. She sets bare skin against raw elements and stark conditions to convey a sense of vulnerability and fragility.
Chelsey’s scenes are formulated and exact. There’s a feeling of intended tension in all her work.
Rosie is one of the UK’s leading portrait photography. Working with 120 medium format film, she is a master of her craft.
Her portraits are casual yet intimate, and the work shows that Rosie sees the best in people. She connects you to her subject with the use of eye contact in many of her shots. And the bright lighting creates a sense of empathy.
Rosie narrowly missed out on the Portrait of Britain award in 2016, and she is still one of the UK’s top talents.
Based in Helsinki, Peter uses the sparse beauty of the arctic tundra to create stunning works of film photography.
White dominates much of his imagery. You feel a chill when confronted with the conditions of his photos, which he tackles head-on. But despite the freezing conditions, his portraits are full of warmth and humanity.
Peter Holliday’s photos are a document of Man’s battle against the harsh conditions of the arctic regions. They convey the struggle of winter and the warmth of the hearth.
Louis is a film photographer with the heart of a movie director. He constructs his images with a glowing cinematic style. There’s an electric combination of neon and noir, black and brightness.
He conveys a feeling of being lost in a world we don’t quite recognise. This style gives his portraits a feeling of sadness and distance. The subjects are lost and vulnerable.
Louis is a master of double exposure. He uses the technique to add depth and sense of the paranormal to his photography.
Muhammed is a film photographer and cinematographer based in Istanbul. His love of cinema is well presented in his photography.
He uses subject, environment, and technique to create scenes of high drama. There’s a starkness running through his imagery that creates a cold and sterile atmosphere. The tones are muted, but his images are striking and powerful.
Mateusz is a Polish photographer true to the medium of analogue photography. His contribution to the field has been recognised with an IPA Analogue award.
His shots are highly styled and detailed, yet distant and dream-like. His human subjects are vulnerable in their stark environments. And despite the cold and muted colours, there’s a warm humanity.
Some of his sets are cinematic in their composition, while others feel more candid. But, with all his shots, everything is deliberate.
Toby Harvard has a distinctive cinematic style of photography. He contrasts dark settings with bright neon colours that give his pictures a neo-noir aesthetic.
His portraits are tense and moody. His use of subject and location give an air of dystopian science-fiction. The atmospheres are dark, yet the images vibrate with colour and intensity.
His cinematic sensibilities do not end with the camera, as Toby is also a screenwriter.
Daphne Kladis is a fine art film photographer from Switzerland.
Daphne explores shape and form with bleak and abstract imagery. Her photography is not exclusively black and white, but there is a striking lack of colour. She uses the body for shape and effect.
Her work is full of analogue techniques, like double exposure and motion blur. Her camera is used to explore the medium of film photography.
Zhamak Fullad is a film photographer based in Toronto. Her photography blends portraiture with a rugged street style. The images are carefully stylised, yet feel intimate and candid.
Zhamak gives you a glimpse into a world outside the mainstream. It’s a window into the underground and the marginal. A part of society you might not otherwise see.
She’s been published by Galore magazine and has been shooting behind the scenes for images for Canadian singer Roy Woods.
Rhiannon’s work combines art, portrait, and documentary photography. She’s from Ireland but has had a nomadic existence throughout her life.
With her photography, she’s not just showing you the sights. She takes you on a tour and tells you the story. The images are beautiful and emotive, but she accompanies them with heartfelt descriptions.
The photos of Rhiannon Adam are a journal. Through her work, she brings you on her journey.
Flynn is a portrait photographer working in London, UK.
His style of portraiture is stylish and modern, yet personal and relaxed. Whether in the studio or on the street, his work has an easy feel. Eye contact with his subjects plays a big part in establishing a connection with the viewer.
He allows the subjects’ characteristics to influence the schemes and motifs of his portraits. Each shot expresses its own personality.
Masahiko Nishiyama is a Japanese photographer who creates colour photos that combine portrait and landscape.
Her photos are a celebration of light and colour. She uses pale pastel colours, especially pinks, greens, and blues. There’s a sense of overexposure that gives her collection a subtly and elegance.
Her work is bright and colourful, but dream-like and fragile too.
Michael is an analogue photographer originally from Prague, though now he spends much of his time in Iceland.
His landscape and documentary photography is striking. His images are composed in a way that highlights the grandeur of the scenery. There’s a narrative of Man’s struggle against nature throughout his collections.
Paul Bundy | @paulbundy
Paul Bundy is a photographer living and working on America’s Pacific coast. He works with 35mm and 120 film, capturing the sights of the West Coast.
From majestic shorelines to curiosities of American suburbia, Paul transports you to that world. Paul captures an America that seems timeless. You don’t know if you’re looking at 2021 or 1951.
Ana Topoleanu is a Romanian photographer currently based in Mexico. She works with portraits and landscapes, often combining the two.
She loves nature and open spaces. She knows how to utilise natural light, and the sun plays an important role in her photography. No matter where she is in the world, she documents the world with an intimate style.
Film photography is alive and kicking. The 25 most influential film photographers in this list are proof that analogue image-making is still alive. And not just alive but thriving with beauty, passion, and energy.
Film photography is an art form all its own. If you pick up a film camera, there is no end to the horizon of opportunity. From landscape to portraits, from abstract art to documentary, these photographers have mastered their craft.
Maybe you won’t like them all, but there will be something to ignite a passion for film photography. Find your inspiration, pick up an old 35mm camera, and start shooting.