Sunday, September 11, 2011

I am mystified why in the digital age of photography photographers still want to hold on to these ancient icons of another age of photography. When the term "Photographic Proof" actually meant something.  Perhaps because now that cameras no longer "capture" an image on film but instead use digital manipulation to create images the photograph no longer can be trusted but the camera perhaps can.   The need to link the anlog world to the digital world is a way of maintaining the integrity of photography in a digital world where that is now suspect.  So photographers  hold on to these symbols like holy relics so they can feel linked to the objectivity and craft of Photography in the pre-digital age.

There is also the former analog photographers who have gone digital but still keep their hand in the analog world and feel they need to explain why they still use film. (even though they really don't). 

"I use film any time I want to make an image I feel is important to me. It preserves the option of making "real" prints for that uncertain future time when I might have a darkroom again."  The emphasis here is that you need film to take a real picture.  It's difficult though and the results are not initially as impressive.  I still have the very first photograph I ever took that was in focus.  For me that was a huge step.  My "A" image.

I used film for years and then abandoned it before the digital age because I hadn't the time, the money, or the focus anymore and because I really wasn't very good at it.  A lot of time passed and then I picked up my camera again but rather than go in the digital direction I wanted to pick up where I left off to finish what I started and find out if I was any good.  A lot of my inspiration was finding a copy of Ansel Adams first book 'The Camera' something I wish I had been introduced to back when it would have really mattered but still here was a comprehensive guide to returning.  The process has been a frustrating one.  Though equipment is cheap the materials especially film and papers are limited.

Of course if I were -heaven forbid- a "Professional Photographer" I would use digital over analog.  Why take the risks involved in using film if your livelyhood depends on it? If you ever photographed a wedding for someone in the pre digital age when cameras had to be focused and film developed you know the anxiety involved in all the things that can go wrong before and after you push the shutter release button and you do not want to go back to a Bride and tell her you have no pictures.  I never did more than a few weddings the stress was too much.  The photojournalist Robert Capa landed with the D-Day Invasion carrying a twin lens Rolleiflex to record the event.  He was being shot at while he was shooting with a camera that required focusing, and exposure setting and changing film after every 12 exposures.  Only a few of the images made it because a darkroom tech in England screwed up the development of  most of his film.  He wasn't all that upset, probably because he knew he was lucky to still be alive (though years later he would die stepping on a land mine in Indo China).   Analog photography made photographs and photographers in a way that digital photography never will and this is why I think photographs and photographers will die along with film, paper and chemicals. If you want to practice real photography then do it now while there is still some equipment and materials left and it's a long learning curve and time is short.  I've been doing it since 1968 and I still feel barely adequate at the craft but I have developed an appreciation for the craft which can be an end in itself.

I love to work in my darkroom.  I love to expose film to just about anything just for an excuse to see what develops in the film tank and in the print trays in the dark room under the amber glow of a safe light. To see first what the camera saw.  That was magic the first time I witnessed it and I still feel the same way over 40 years later.  I only want to attempt "real" pictures.  True pictures.  Film is a direct link to a specific moment in time formed by reflected light and lens by an independent chemical process not digital manipulation ruled by some programmers algorithymn.  Film is more difficult to lie with. I choose to wear this Cilice photography vest because I  would rather risk failure for the rare moment when I succeed at something that requires craft then eliminate the risk to produce something I am in no way really attached to.  For what it's worth.  That is why I still use film.  A simple truth is better than an elaborate lie.


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