Defensiveness about film photography

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by cliveh, Jun 29, 2014.

  1. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I sometimes see on APUG and other areas on the net related to film photography a defensive explanation for using film against digital and new technology. Should this be the case? Film photography has had a run of over 100 years, during which time the process has produced a multitude of iconic and classic images. Digital has yet to do this and prove it can do it, so why do some film users feel they have to justify their methods? It’s a bit like Claude Monet apologising for using oil paint instead of using a different medium.
     
  2. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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    well, quite.
     
  3. Ken Nadvornick

    Ken Nadvornick Subscriber

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    A great deal of the dislike of digital photographic technology is rooted in the zero-sum game played by commerce. One doesn't really dislike digital technology as much as one resents it. A resentment arising because of what it has done to the analog equipment and materials markets that film practitioners still value and require.

    In other words, film photographer's available choices have become either drastically reduced, or gone totally extinct, as a direct result of digital's rise. So film photographers denigrate the digital market in a desperate attempt to preserve what little remains of their shrinking analog market.

    If miraculously the rise of digital technology had not resulted in the loss of the heart of analog technology, there would be nary a cry of protest from the analog community. Both would be peacefully coexisting in non-zero-sum harmony. Kumbaya around the campfire...

    Ken
     
  4. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I agree and commerce is a large part of this equation.
     
  5. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    cliveh, resentment of the effect digital has had on the viability of companies making film/darkroom products is likely all the defensive position is about. If we are honest with ourselves it really has nothing to do with art, or quality. We simply prefer the darkroom process. Anything beyond that and you know you're dealing with a BS-er.

    I don't agree with your assertion digital has yet to prove it can produce iconic and important images. The technology is no more or less capable than analog. It simply hasn't had the >100 years analog has had, throughout which, by the way, the vast majority of images have not been iconic, classic or important. It is like that in any medium.
     
  6. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    it sux that chemical photography is a memory to so many
    and a boutique sort of thing nowadays, but to be honest
    i kind of like it this way because that means it will be elevated
    even more "as an art form" because so few people are doing it.
    all this anger about digital taking over and having no history
    should be put towards making great analog photographs,
    something the electronic folks and others will be in wonder about.

    i used to be cranky, i don't really care anymore.
     
  7. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    In my daily life I use both analogue and digital and have no cause nor reason to be defensive about either: they are both great mediums to use in skilled hands. There will always be those who want to beat about the bush over digital vs film and vice versa. I seriously don't take any notice of them.

    Why did you say digital has not proved anything in terms of iconic imaging? You might want to consider that the iconic images of 9/11 were all made on digital of that day, with only a small number on film. It is a bit hollow to throw punches at the striking achievements of digital (my printing is analogue-to-digital) when it is the prime mover of chipping away at the epitaph of analogue.

    By the way, Monet didn't just use oils. :wink:
     
  8. frotog

    frotog Member

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    Digital photography was an inexorable step in the evolution of the medium. Many of photography's technological developments along the way (e.g. faster, smaller film, smaller grain, instant film, etc.) bear the hallmarks of a medium slated towards the advent of digital photography and all the advantages (or disadvantages, if you'd like) that digital has to offer. Looking backwards, it's hard not to see the teleological seeds of the digital revolution in each historical movement along the way. In this light, the defensiveness of analogue photographers regarding their material choices seems to betray an underlying anxiety in the face of a quickly evolving medium. When forced to confront the nature of this anxiety I suspect it's easier to simply complain about the discontinuance of Super double x or some other, hallowed and unavailable material.

    Art and quality, As Michael states, has nothing to do with it.
     
  9. snapguy

    snapguy Member

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    Digital, like selfies, is here to stay and I for one am not going to agonize about it. Glass plates used to be the medium of choice and I imagine that when that whippersnapper upstart George Eastman invented the Kodak moment "you press the button, we do the rest," a lot of fuddy-duddy olde time glass platers got their knickers in a twist. I was around when the shift was made from 4x5 to 120 to (gasp) 35mm film. There were those who foretold doom when they foresaw everybody starting to snap away with those "miniature" cameras and their seemingly-endless 36 exposure rolls of film. The film parade has gone by. Live with it. Film is becoming a specialty niche to be used by those who truly want something different or better or both.
     
  10. hdeyong

    hdeyong Member

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    Part of the reason for a defensive explanation for using film may be because digital people have given analoguers some grief, one way or another.
    One day out shooting, I had some guy using the very latest techno-marvel DSLR ask me why in heavens name would I still use film? He really made an issue of it, telling me about how much better digital was, higher ISO, etc, etc, automatically assuming I'd never held one in my hand.
    When I told him I shoot all my colour with a DSLR and all my black and white on film, he started up again about how digital could make great B&W pictures, there was software for that, etc, etc. Actually, HE seemed to be on the defensive.
    This was certainly the most extreme situation, but not the first, and won't be the last.
    It's funny though, virtually every person like that, (all men), were in North America, I can't recall a single time here in Europe.
    I can honestly say I've never walked up to a complete stranger and asked him why he uses digital, and start telling him how much better film is.
    I have a large business-style calendar on my desk, full of notes, reminders, lists, ideas for automotive articles, and the odd appointment. A number of people have wondered why I don't use the Google or Mac calendar, instead. It seems if something isn't done electronically now, it's not as good, out-dated and inefficient.
    Anyway, I tell them I like having it on paper in front of me, and then point to my package of 3B pencils. That really appals them.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 29, 2014
  11. CHX

    CHX Member

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    I think Ken knocks it on the head. It doesn't bother me whether people use DSLR, Digital range finders or a smartphone with attachable plastic lens blu-tacked on the end. Hey, whatever works for you, right? But I do resent that it has totally trashed the supply of film materials/equipment/services, no doubt in much the same way a lot of vinyl fans resented the rise of "soul-less, boring, samey" tape and CD, computer geeks resented the rise of "spul-less, boring, samey" Wintel clones, or in the future maybe how petrol-heads will resent those "soul-less, boring, samey" electric cars.

    If I could get Aerochrome, Kodakchrome and easy repairs or replacements for film equipment, I would doubtless geek out over all the potential tricks you could do with software, but it is indeed a zero sum game. (that said, I *do* like many of the things photoshop can do to save a mucked up negative, and I do like being able to print from scans, not having access to a dark-room of my own)
     
  12. dorff

    dorff Member

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    One of the main gripes we have with digital is that it has made larger formats inaccessible, and rendered the medium and large format equipment mostly obsolete. That in itself is kind of sad, and it would be a painful day when large format sheet film is not available any longer.
     
  13. analoguey

    analoguey Member

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    Inaccessible how? Decent LF cameras (new) arent far off a decent pro DSLR. Lenses also similarly priced.
    You can then choose whether the new LF uses MFDB, scanning back, 35mm DSLR or film!
    If anything, LF is more accessible!
    (not to mention the used gear around)

    MF also - at least with the Pentax digital ones?


    Sent from Tap-a-talk
     
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  15. dorff

    dorff Member

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    Inaccessible in terms of cost of large sensors, and inaccessible in terms of getting the same format size for which the equipment (especially the lens) was designed. Apart from prohibitively expensive scanning backs, I am not aware of any fixed sensor that covers the full 6x7, 4x5, 8x10 etc size. There are many alternatives in various sizes. But my point is that for the vast majority of MF and LF cameras and lenses, no feasible digital extension exists which staves off their obsoletion. Even my Mamiya 645 AFD II, which is nominally digital-ready, is hampered by lack of an affordable sensor that covers the 42x56 frame size. That is what I meant by inaccessible. Not as in "NASA can't do it" but as in "Ordinary Joe can't do it".
     
  16. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    This is a flawed assumption, 1 - the context we live in has changed, the social relevance of ALL photography has changed as has how our attention is divided. Does anyone remember when there were just three TV channels and when "everybody" talked about the same shows and news? 2 - Film and Digital systems are just tools, both fully capable of creating technically excellent work. Denying this is, IMO, simply an act of burying one's head in the sand.

    Film is relevant to me because it helps me think differently and work differently than I do with digital. It gets me away from the computer, it keeps me from chimping, keeps me focussed on the subject and the craft. The cameras are great for starting conversations too. When I hand somebody a Holga and ask them to take my picture they are generally truly amused.

    My use of film is "about me" and "about how I interact with the world", it is no longer a technical argument for me and never really should have been.
     
  17. analoguey

    analoguey Member

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    But, wouldnt the price of LF anyways kept it out of reach of the avg Joe? (at earlier prices I mean, pre-digital) I'd presume that pre-digital as well 4x5, 8x10 or other LF would be quite as expensive if not more?
    Even used MFs (RBs) that I heard a professional tell me he sold in 2000s didn't really go cheap -even though digital was catching up.

    I'm not sure what you mean on the obsoletion bit though - phones get obsolete every 2 years - my phone has 12 times more RAM, has 5 times faster processor than my first PC(2000) but is (kinda) obsolete now - I bought it in 2012 and it was a flagship device then.
    Are you saying LF-MF arent going through that cycle? MFDBs are - probably closer to 3-4 years.


    I'm very happy with the Digital camera entry - I doubt I would have followed into LF or MF otherwise - Digital made analog more accessible to me! (strangely enough)





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  18. Truzi

    Truzi Subscriber

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    I'm not against digital per se; I just prefer film. While I wish film and equipment were easier to find without going online, and I realize this is because of the popularity of digital, it does not make me defensive. I'm used to being into things that are not always easy - so that's not a major factor to me.

    Generally, I only get "defensive" when someone (such as my brother) decides to get into a "my camera can beat up your camera" argument. When they are extolling the virtues of being popular, cooler, futuristic, megapixels, etc., it seems to me like nothing more than bragging about... umm... size. Arguments on this level are not truly about photographic meduim, and while I don't know much about film, I do know enough about computers (read, digital cameras) that I can pick people's argument’s apart on technical merit alone, since they typically spew marketing data.

    Otherwise, there is little need to get defensive - most of the digital photographers I meet anymore will just give me tips on something nearby worth photographing. It's almost as if the megapixel war ended for consumers, and now we all just want to take pictures.
     
  19. dorff

    dorff Member

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    IDK what prices were in 2000, but by 2011 MF equipment had bottomed out. If anything, prices have since risen a bit, since the original predictions re the total demise of film have been proven overly pessimistic. But that wasn't my original point, which was actually that until today, affordable digital sensors for larger formats still do not exist, and the cost of entry is much higher than it ever was for film, while the available sensors do not even reach the same sizes that the original film provided. This means that photographers who chose larger sizes such as 4x5 and 5x7 field cameras for their unique properties might end up with NO equivalent option, should film disappear. Other niche but important applications for film, such as night photography, might end up in a similar situation. There is no digital camera that can do long exposures without two problems: battery drain and digital noise. LF lenses can happily sit open all night without asking to be fed electrons all the time. But you need film to catch those photons.

    By obsolete I mean you cannot obtain the materials necessary to operate them any longer, to note 126 format cameras, for example. Your examples are not quite analogous, as your computer/phone will still work, although they may be infeasible to repair if they break. For film cameras, film is an important part of the ecology within which they function. Film users were used to 72 month update cycles, not the now typical 12-18 months. The cost of MFDBs puts them in a special category of their own, one where serious amateurs are not much in the picture. Same for scanning backs.

    Yes, ironic isn't it? Like you, it has benefitted me greatly.
     
  20. Alan Klein

    Alan Klein Member

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    Are they the modern, high tech type with the erasers on top? Just in case you need to delete something.
     
  21. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Really???
     
  22. BMbikerider

    BMbikerider Member

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    I confess! I use digital in the shape of a NIkon D90 and very good it is too! However after a prolonged motorcycle tour of mid Europe and using the D90 I returned home to UK and downloaded an 8Gig memory card and at the time could not help thinking and feeling the results were created by someone in Japan or wherever the camera was made and I was only the carrier and operator of a machine, that had no real input from me. It really was a point and shoot exercise

    This feeling was strengthened when I went out a week or so later with my F100 and a couple of cassettes of FP4. Looking through the view finder was so much more satisfactory and what I photographed was then processed by myself into negatives - so much more satisfying.

    I don't really have an operational darkroom at the present time, it has had to be dismantled as I am moving house, only a temporary glitch I hope and I have grand plans for a well equipped room. Once again I can get down to processing B&W prints and then reincarnating my NOVA processor for RA4 colour. Oh happy days. (it beats sitting down in front of the computer)
     
  23. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    MF/LF/Darkroom Gear is more accessible and cheaper than ever. Nothing to resent there. Not that resenting does any good or heals anyone or anything. Everything technical changes. Want to fix a radar from 1970's for your boat? Good luck. Buy a new one. Camera gear can still be fixed.

    Film is the only uncertainty. If you like Kodak, buy enough to fill the freezer and feel smug instead of resentful. If it's Ilford, keep buying it and use it rather than talk about it.
     
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  24. yurisrey

    yurisrey Member

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    By being an advocate of film, I've often been called a Luddite when it comes to my photography by fellow photographers/passerby. I don't mind and I'm far from being defensive, little do they know that I work for end's meat with digital on a day-to-day basis and it just bores me to hell:smile:
     
  25. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    You have a heck of a lot more input into the shooting and function and results from the D90 than you do with a holga. And a holga is a certified cool film camera.
     
  26. NJH

    NJH Member

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    This agreed 100%. I should love digital, after all I have spent much of my adult life designing digital based sensor systems for Aircraft, Ships and Submarines. I have from time to time thought about designing my own digital camera given how atrociously bad the HMI is on so many of these products, I also work every day with computers using complicated engineering applications. I don't want to think to much about all this stuff in my free time so yes I resent the computerisation of so much of our lives. Its for similar reasons that guys buy expensive mechanical watches and old cars fueled by carburettors and no electronic safety net to stop you from sticking it backwards through a hedge. Plenty to get defensive about when caught by the attentions of an avid tech geek iPerson, which sadly are legion. Having said all that these are not the predominant reasons why I prefer to use film, I prefer the cameras, I prefer the lower cost of the equipment and its lack of depreciation and most of all I prefer how the results look even if looking at them on a computer screen.