Ben Ali Ong: film is tactile

Photographer Ben Ali Ong

Nate Warburton interviews Sydney based photographer Ben Ali Ong to better understand film’s position in the modern era of digital photography. 


Presently, film photography seems to be an expired medium, and when compared to digital, film is technologically outmatched.

Yet despite film’s shortcomings, it still holds a place in the world of photography through its rich history and a continuing tradition of people who love the medium. In the age of the smartphone, where everyone has the skill to create stunning imagery, the knowledge behind the beauty and difficulty of working with film is lost on the masses.

Award-winning photographer, Ben Ali Ong provides me with a fascinating insight into the world of film photography. He holds that film is still relevant today. Ben is the resident artist at Rewind Photo Lab and has been a finalist in numerous photographic awards such as The Olive Cotton Photographic Prize, The Moran Photographic Prize, Head On Photographic Portrait Prize and the Blake Prize, plus many more.

As it turns out, people who are still invested in film don’t disregard the format because of its flaws but instead love it for these imperfections. Film’s limitations – such as storage space, the requirement of a dark room and the added costs of film stock and developing – are points that are romanticised by photographers.

Film enthusiasts argue that digital cameras need to be constantly upgraded, causing countless items of outdated equipment like cameras, memory cards and batteries to be added to the growing e-waste issue around the world.  It is said that this is more harmful than the chemicals that are used in the film development process.

Photograph by Ben Ali Ong

It’s a refreshing idea to land upon. In a world where we are all blindly riding the crest of the latest technological wave, some of us are realising that newer is not always better and people are finding beauty again in a once arcane art form.

Photograph by Ben Ali Ong