Article about 35mm...

Discussion in 'Photographic Aesthetics and Composition' started by Michel Hardy-Vallée, Mar 31, 2008.

  1. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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  2. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    Nice article!
     
  3. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Member

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    g'day MHV
    great images and the most informative part of your essay, as for the text i'm not sure as to the point of your article

    are you ragging digital or defending 35mm?

    most of your points are unexplained, ill defined assumptions

    if digital capture is "vacuum cleaning" compared to 35mm, could not the same be said of 35mm capture compared to LF capture?

    what do the attractive offspring of insurance salesmen have to do with your argument?

    Ray
     
  4. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Metaphors, Ray.. Metaphors... They grow on you like fungus when you spend too much time reading books :wink:
     
  5. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Now you can even use my real name!

    Technically I'm defending 35mm, but taking a swipe or two at digital.

    Well, that's something I'm not entirely sure of yet. In the all-analog days, 35mm was the vacuum cleaner of photographs; now it's digital. 35mm was the small, light, fast, etc; now it's digital. 35mm was the entry point in photo; now it's digital, etc.

    The way DSLR have been marketed, they were positioned as a means to entirely replace 35mm in terms of handling, lenses, quality, etc. Now that the DSLR is the building block of 21st photograph, most people either switch to it, or stick to film with larger formats. I'm trying to see if there's something left to be said for 35mm besides grain.

    Concerning assumptions, well yeah, they're vague. I'm working from the inside out, starting with subjectivity instead of sticking to technical data.

    As I like to point out, the word "essay" comes from the French "try," which implies the possibility of failure as well. But no risk, no glory, I guess.
     
  6. aparat

    aparat Member

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    I enjoyed reading your essay. I particularly like the conceptualization of a 35mm film as a complete story, captured as it unfolds in time. The contact sheet does, indeed, add an extra layer of storytelling. I think, however, that, potentially, a 35mm digital camera can perform the same function, but, as you point out, the temptation to fill up the memory card and hope for some "keepers" is often too great to ignore.

    I prefer to think of a roll of 35mm film as a finite form, one that gives me both space and limitation. I enjoy the process as much as the aesthetic of film images.

    Thanks for sharing the article!

    aparat
     
  7. DanielOB

    DanielOB Member

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    Nice text. Super images in that 35mm analysis. That guy is really good photographer. Hey MHV are that pictures your? Ah you. You should say "that images are mine". Well go Canada.

    Daniel OB
    www.Leica-R.com
     
  8. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    Quite a good article, as opposed to an essay, which it isn't.

    Flowery writing, almost a bit too flowery, but readable.

    I have to agree with Ray that some or your point(s) aren't too obvious.

    That said, if this was in a magazine I would have read it through.

    Mick.
     
  9. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Thanks Mick. I was reading a book by Chris Marker about Jean Giraudoux when I wrote it, so some of his style inevitably dripped into the prose.

    Maybe I'm misusing the term "essay" in English; in French, "essai" is used for any kind of reflexive, sometimes off-the-cuff or tentative prose. I think in English it's more used in the context of term paper, class essays, i.e. argumentative and structured prose.
     
  10. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    Michel, I have to retract what I said about it not being an essay!

    Essay:- A short literary composition on a particular subject.

    Macquarie dictionary, second edition.

    As the first description of an essay in the dictionary, is the above, you are spot on!

    Mick.
     
  11. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    No, there's one thing the digi format is missing: reality proof. In the cult of HCB that I'm in, you gotta have BLACK BORDERS to make your point stand out and clear!

    If I had taken these photos(see the attachment files) with a mid-format camera with a wider lens and cropped them and so on, instead of using a 35mm camera with a 50mm prime lens and shooting full frame, I would've somehow lost the energy that was in the scenes...
     
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  12. DannL

    DannL Member

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    I must be honest, I found the writing to be a difficult read, at best. Not that I couldn't read the words as they are written, but I could not determine the central purpose for the writing. I must assume the writer would like to put a 35mm camera and a roll of perforated film on a pedestal. There's nothing wrong with having an idea, but putting the idea in a format that is readable requires a certain amount of labor. Consider the differences between composing a photograph and taking a snapshot. What I found in the writing was a mishmash of ideas, concepts, assumptions, and random thoughts bound together by unnecessary catch phrases. Could this really be an essay about catch phrases? Secondly, all of the photographs provided with the text could have been taken with a Kodak box camera, or a 110 instamatic, a 6x6 TLR, or even a 5x7 slr. The photographs do make good filler, but they do not support the writing. Other than that, kudos on a job well done. Cheers! Dann :D
     
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  13. lns

    lns Member

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    Well, I found it thought-provoking. I can't say I've ever thought about the format that deeply, and am impressed that you have.

    Here's what resonated most with me: your link between the roll of 35mm film and memory. Your point, I think, was that the film must be developed at a later time and contains too many different frames to be fully remembered beforehand. When the roll is processed, memory is restored. I totally love this. Also, with regard to 35mm film in particular, so many of us have albums (or shoeboxes) filled with family pictures taken in 35mm film. That also powerfully connects 35mm with the larger concept of memory, or history.

    I also appreciate your (metaphorical) comparison of a 35mm format picture to a word, while larger format negatives are more like a paragraph. I am aware that you purposely are talking about different and more public subjects, but if you will forgive me, I will again mention the humble genre of family pictures. My mother recently received a copy of a professional studio shot of her father and his brothers that was taken 80-90 years ago. It was interesting to look at. I focussed on how they looked, dressed and wore their hair. I tried in vain to connect the very young man in the picture to either my memory of the very old man I knew (he died about 25 years ago), or to my mother, myself and my siblings. The picture itself was a complete thought. But I couldn't really read it, to be honest. In contrast, when I look at our family's 35mm pictures, what I find is a story told by an accumulation. The very quantity of pictures of each event adds up to the story. Of, say, my daughter's first Christmas, or my childhood trip out West. There is no need for one picture to tell a whole story, and no pretense that it could. That's both a strength and a weakness of the 35mm format. But I like it, as you do.

    Your comment that "35mm begs for collage" also struck me. I think that's true. I had never considered it before in exactly those terms. But I find it inspiring.

    Thank you for the effort you made in this essay, and thanks for calling it to my attention. -Laura
     
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  15. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Well said, Michel.
     
  16. GraemeMitchell

    GraemeMitchell Member

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    Funny, I just did a blog post on 35mm after I was inspired by the bias for the format by a group of college students I spoke with. I was taken aback, they didn't care about medium format, or large format...or gear really. And these kids all have access to gear galore.

    There's a young generation out that's grown up seeing, Terry Richardson, Jeurgen Teller and later Ryan McGinley, Cass Bird, (and the general aesthetic of anyone, say, repped by mslogan) or anyone part of the London fashion aesthetic (Roger Deckker)...kids who respond more to Newtow and Bourdin then any of the classics...

    I found it inspiring, and it opened my eyes to see them respond to this work like I responded to Penn and Avedon and Roversi when I was their age. I'm interested to see where they take the industry in 20 years.
     
  17. tiberiustibz

    tiberiustibz Member

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    I think digital is too fast. It takes something away, being able to snap off so many pictures without even a thought. It seems to remove some of the value from photography, turning it into some sort of endless avalanche of mostly useless pictures. When the "limiting factors" of film and film cost are removed the value of each picture is reduced and people are more likely to waste it on something not worth a picture.

    What is a digital picture? It's merely bits. On and off. 0 and 1. It's nothing but insignificant numbers.

    LIES! A 35mm kodachrome slide from the 50s contains more data than all but those exorbitant digital cameras today requiring tethering to computers. 22 megapixels with a good lens. MF has I believe 70, 4x5 has 300. (you have to scan them well, ye old desktop scanner is not gonna pull it off. Think drumscans)

    Digital is chugging along. Currently it's best for those email pictures.
     
  18. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    But you see, that's exactly the point that I'm arguing against.

    Why would megapixels, real or putative, be the only reason why one medium matter over the other?

    35mm film has 22 "megapixels." So what?
     
  19. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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  20. tiberiustibz

    tiberiustibz Member

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    That's very true, but in your essay you referenced that some people justify abandoning 35mm film in that digital is "better" in terms of resolution. I was merely seeking to prove these incorrect.
     
  21. CRhymer

    CRhymer Subscriber

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    Bravo Michel,

    Cheers,
    Clarence
     
  22. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Yes, but I am also trying to show that to counter the "digital is better" argument with a "film has more megapixels" argument is a dead-end.

    Maybe one day we'll have handheld, cheap cameras that have sixty gazillions megapixels. What will be the reasons for using 35mm film then, if it does not have more gazillions megapixels? Is there something else than resolution or number of pictures on a support that guides our choices?

    If you look at other photographic processes, like cyanotype for instance, resolution is not a justification at all for choosing them over digital.

    And I don't think visible grain is enough of a pictorial characteristic to distinguish 35mm.

    The memory/narrative argument I'm trying to make is to show that 35mm is a particular interface, a particular way of dealing with the world.

    Of course, I had to coat it all with layers of rhetorical flourishes and poetry, but that's how I was feeling that day...
     
  23. Snapshot

    Snapshot Member

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    This is a good point. If your rationale for using 35mm is that it has more effective megapixels than current digital offerings, what happens when this is no longer valid? :confused:

    I keep telling myself that it's the creative elements of developing and processing film that keeps me using 35mm.
     
  24. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    This megapixel terminology that we often see is just no good for describing the real photographic issues at hand.

    In my humble opinion, topics that people really might bother to discuss are (in no particular order):

    (1) actual resolution (MTF, lp/mm etc.);
    (2) signal to noise (S/N) and continuity of tone;

    and (the least definable of the three),

    (3) character (which includes how the grain interacts with the composition, plus things like bokeh etc. that are quite subjective)

    Would people kindly refrain from speaking in terms of megapixels! We are adults with a far broader vocabulary! Sweet cheeses, even in digital circles, reasonable people realized long ago that megapixel number is not The determinant of the value of an image.

    If there were one word I could wish permanently banned from apug: megapixels. :wink:

    <end of mini-rant>

    Alright I got that outta my system.
     
  25. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Keith, in the case at hands I'm not concerned whether film resolution can be calculated into pixels, line pairs, signal to noise, or fluffy bunnies. It still misses the point that resolution is not everything.

    People use to buy this lens or that lens because it resolved more, and this film or that film because it also resolved more. But in the end we're still buying blurry vintage prints for millions of dollars.

    I find it fascinating up to a point how "sharpness" and all its corollary terms has been the holy grail of photography during the 20th century.

    I think the (3) character option is a step in the right direction. It's one aspect that can make film a "killer app" in the changing photographic landscape of the 21st century.

    Because in the end it's not about who has the longer d---, but how well our tools can serve us.
     
  26. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Exactly. If we keep arguing that in fact "film has more resolution" than digital, then one day we might be proved wrong and end up looking like a cult paralyzed by denial of reality.

    I don't care if digital has one day more resolution than 11x14 ULF. I don't care a whit at all. But as long as we know how to exploit what makes the film product special, we will keep using it.

    Otherwise we wouldn't have painting anymore, because, hey photography has killed painting isn't it? :wink: