I've been thinking a bit recently about film packaging. I'm an amateur photog, and have been since I was 14. I'm also obsessed with how products are presented to consumers. To me, few things are as exciting as a new role of film. Just holding that little box in my hand and thinking about all the millions of images that I could possibly fill its contents with never ceases to be an incredibly exciting and equally daunting experience. For me, that box is an unlimited collection of visual possibilities. And yet, film boxes are disappointingly taciturn about the potential glory that their contents provide. Looking at a box of film one learns almost nothing about what may be in store. Think about the packages that house other products that we use and love. Vitamin water, that stuff you drink when you have a hangover even though you know it will never in a million years sate your ridiculous thirst, poundy head or non-existent attention span is the first product that comes to mind. For all of its flaws, Vitamin Water is the most entertaining product I can think of. Its label wants you to read it. It draws you into its mystique. Even if, objectively, you know that drinking it won't land you in 50 Cents' entourage, you're entertained enough by the idea to at least give it a try. And it tastes like melted popsicles--the kind you get at summer camp that are all sugar and artificial colors and frozen water.
My point here is that film boxes need to be more like Vitamin Water. Every dedicated photographer knows that there distinctions between different kinds of film. Some result in photos that glow with warm red and orange tones. Others have cooler blues and greens. Some capture speed amazingly well. Others have crisp contrast and itty bitty grains with slick silver sheens. Visit any internet chat board dedicated to photography and you'll find photo geeks salivating over the latest films, dissecting the differences between competitors in minute and loving detail. And yet, all of this seems to be lost on the marketing geniuses at Kodak, Fuji, et all.
I don't want to have to run a Google search to learn the difference between Fuji Sensia and Fujia Astia. I want the box to tell me. I wouldn't buy packaged food without first reading the label and I feel the same way about my film.
It seems to me that there was a time when boxes needed no elaboration because people would buy the film anyway. But the digital market has exploded in recent years and times have changed. People don't have to buy film. They can snap away on their digital cameras, using pixels to fill the blank spaces once offered by film. We need to make film hip. Bring it into the 21st Century with informative and sexy prose decorating its containers. Use quotes from famous photogs. A quote from Nan Goldin telling my why I should use Kodak EC? I'd snatch it up in a second, and I doubt I'm alone.