Back outside: beating the film drum & loving it

April 22, 2009  •  Leave a Comment

p11026598-2 I've always resisted conformity. I can remember years ago when I started my first job in Chicago. I'd ride the train every morning along side the executives and office workers, into the city, every day, rain or shine. The Friday concluding my first full week of work (of my first job out of college), my dad picked me up at the train station. It was raining in Wheaton, and I climbed into the car and sighed. "What's wrong?" he asked. "I just don't see how people are willing to do this every day for the rest of their lives..." I said. He laughed and shook his head.

Being a raquette ball player, I always carried my Ektelon raquetteball gym bag on the train. Being fresh off the train from Colorado, I would also wear my purple Patagonia synchilla snap-T top. One day my mom asked why I didn't trade that in for a trench coat and briefcase, "like all the other guys?" You may be starting to form a picture here...

I've been shooting more film lately, rather enjoying the dismay and perplexity on people's face when I tell them. "Why?" is the ever present question. The short answer is, because it pleases me to do so. The longer answer is this:


p186611230-2 Please... stop comparing photographs preserved on film with digital captures. They are fundamentally different. I’d go so far as to say apples and oranges. Still the comparisons continue, with the criteria of which is “better” including such things as sharpness, noise, lack of apparent grain, ease of ISO adjustment, number of images you can shoot without changing film, instant grattification, instant feedback, reduced cost per shot over time, etc. For those reasons, I am comfortable conceding the pont to digital. It wins. o.k.? I own, shoot and love my digital cameras and see an important place for them in comtemporary photography.

p616717335-2 However-there’s nothing like film, and I suppose and postulate there never will be in the digital realm. Unique dynamic range, unique treatment of color rendition and fall off, its transitions of tones and the way it spreads color from region to region within an image, the lack of banding that plagues many digital cameras, and even the appearance of grain, which has become such a dirty word in photography, but actually contributes to the character of an image if handled properly. Then of course the authenticity of the image: there’s no disputing an image’s authenticity (as in lack of manipulation and tampering) if you're able to examine the original frame recorded at the moment. Add to this its existence with or without a computer and the ability to view using no electricity - without turning an electrical device on - and its tangible existence in analog space - with substance, matter... and you have unique properties that render comparison moot.

p980564187-2 Please... leave film alone. It stands on its own merits and doesn't need to be inanely compared to the different characteristics of the new digital capture. If you don't want to shoot it, or can't shoot it for whatever reason, please be happy shooting your digital cameras and get on with your life.
Don't look back.
Don't wonder if you've made a horrible mistake spending thousands of dollars on a technology no one knows the future of at the moment; on a camera that - in only a few comparatively short months will be worth a fraction of its over-inflated original price tag; saying goodbye to the tried and true method so many photographers have employed for so many years, that has captured image after image, time and again through history, that represents one of mankind's greatest achievements in my opinion; the ability to record and preserve moments in time visually for others to experience - often times a lifetime later.


p332924073-2 Me? Well, along side appreciation for "new fangled technologies" I have deep love for old school, too. Tradition. Homage. Authenticity. And even retro. All these words have meaning to me, and all figure into it somehow. I think the bottom line is to just have fun taking pictures, and don't be afraid to try something that may, on the surface, make you appear to be different then "all the other guys." It's O.K. to be different.


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