In a time when various aspects of our lives are being digitised, film photography is seeing a not-so quiet resurgence.
22-year-old Singaporean Rhay Gynn, who owns camera store filem.sg, recalled that when he started shooting film about 4 years back, “only the older folks would know what it was and how it worked”.
“[But now,] about 90% of my customers are below the age of 25!”
With demand comes an increase in price, and Rhay Gynn shared that while his Contax T2 cost $400 when he first got it, the camera can “easily go for $1,200 these days”.
A quick check on Carousell listings show that his estimate is already at the lower end:
Regardless, he is still “quite happy that younger people are interested in film photography”.
“I wish that film photography will last throughout my whole lifetime,” he said in an interview with us.
This hope isn’t one built off aspirations of earning big bucks from a lucrative business, however, but one that comes from his love for the medium.
A Love For Film That Transcends Generations
Rhay Gynn’s love for film photography is something that stemmed from a camera that his grandfather passed to him.
“My grandfather had a display cabinet filled with his medals and awards from his time serving in the British Navy and Istana. In the display case, there was also a camera which I’ve seen since young,” he reminisced.
It was only when Rhay Gynn got older that he approached his grandfather to ask him about the camera, a Yashica T AF-D.
“[My grandfather] told me that the camera was the family’s first camera and to him, it’s very precious and filled with fond memories. He then asked if I wanted it and passed it down to me!”
Just like many new to film photography, Rhay Gynn used the camera sparingly because he didn’t want to waste any shot, taking about a month just to finish his first roll.
Impressed by the results of his first foray into film, he also felt that the “‘restrictions’ of film helped [him] improve [his] photography”, as he would need to be “more patient and frame [his] shots to capture the right moment”.
From Carousell-er To Entrepreneur
The more shots he took, the more Rhay Gynn got acquainted with the medium and its tools.
Thus, 3 years ago, he started a Carousell account (very straightforwardly named ‘vintagecameras’) and sold around five cameras every month just to earn some extra pocket money.
Rhay Gynn soon realised that he could actually earn more from this side gig if he had more cameras for sale. To fuel this plan, he worked part-time in a luxury retail store at Paragon and even as a banquet waiter so that he could procure more cameras to sell.
He declined to reveal the sources of his cameras (“Trade secret I can’t tell you haha.”), but did share that his suppliers are from overseas that he befriended while backpacking.
“Usually when I travel, I make it a point to source for cameras to sell in back home.”
“I did this until I had to go for my National Service [but even during those 2 years], I thought of the many possibilities that this company could evolve to and decided to work on a plan to expand this after ORD.”
Almost 600 Cameras Sold To Date
For one who just began as a hobbyist, Rhay Gynn has since sold almost 600 cameras to date, with an average of 30 sold monthly.
But beyond selling cameras and film, Rhay Gynn’s plans for filem.sg included opening a physical outlet so that he could offer more photography-related services.
To do so, he recently opened filem.sg’s office and showroom in Tai Seng.
“We will also be conducting film photography workshops at the Vintage Camera Museum near Haji Lane once a month very soon.”
“We are also looking to go into film camera rental and developing/scanning services!”
In the slightly further future, there are also plans to release a filem.sg line of disposable cameras and even placing them in vending machines around Singapore like those in Korea by FilmLog.
“We will also start our YouTube channel really soon, where the focus is mainly on film photography tutorials, reviews, and fun ways to shoot film!”
I’d like to thank Rhay Gynn for his time!
- Check out filem.sg and their offerings here.