It's complicated...

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by batwister, Jan 25, 2013.

  1. batwister

    batwister Member

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    For some reason, the image of an analog photographer in my head is basically this guy. "Oh please, the first edition of The Print is far superior." :munch:

    Has traditional photography become something of an intimidatingly snooty and exclusive club? I feel like the biggest deterrent for newcomers is the idea that there's too much to learn, that they're going to bump into Analog Photography Guy and be shot down for their ignorance.

    Back when it was just called 'photography', any idiot would have a go in the darkroom without hesitation or fear of ridicule. Since the principals haven't changed in the last 20 years, why has it suddenly become more complicated? That digital is easier hasn't changed the inherent difficulty level of analog photography - easy - as past generations will testify. Yet, there's a certain smugness we all have in thinking film photography is... hard. Why?

    I'm conscious that I suffer from this mentality. Something builds up inside of me when I meet a photographer - that uncontrollable urge to divulge; "I shoot film". I'm telling the person this because there's an underlying implication, especially if they shoot digital, that I'm incredibly serious about photography, I have depth and intelligence and a great wealth of knowledge, because film is complicated. So what was the excuse pre-digital?
     
  2. sehrgut

    sehrgut Member

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    It's not just that we're "incredibly serious" about photography, it's that we're BETTER than them! ;-)
     
  3. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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    well said.

    the blessed roger hicks wrote something I like to remember (mostly because - despite 40-odd years shooting film - I've only just begun developing film and doing darkroom work) :

    "Photography sometimes attracts people with a very high opinion of their own expertise, and a predilection for bossing others about. Listen to some of them, and you will be amazed that silver halide photography ever succeeded at all, given that it is so difficult, complicated, and expensive. Except it isn't.
     
  4. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Roger speaks from considerable introspection there! :smile:
     
  5. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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    I expect he'd agree, and of course his tongue is often lodged deep in cheek ... but his observation remains accurate, to my mind.

    batwister's point rather hits the nail on the head.

    Have a look at the responses newcomers are offered when they come to APUG, state they are beginners and then suggest they want to try something a bit different and ask for advice ... mostly it is "you mustn't do that until you know what you are doing" ...
     
  6. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    Yeah, I think there were always a few people who were smug like this...the difference today is that whereas 20 or 30 years ago there were a small number of smug bastards in a big ocean of common folk shooting film, now we have the same small number of smug bastards in a small pond of traditional photographers...

    I think the key is to not let yourself become one of the smug bastards...
     
  7. dazey

    dazey Member

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    My experience has not been that with analogue photographers, in fact in general, most of the people I have met shooting film over the last 5 years have been people who have come digital-film. Myself, I have gone film-digital-mix! I think a lot who started on film stopped, and a lot who had never tried film were intrigued to try (thanks partially to the next to zero cost of decent film bodies). Perhaps its just London but film here seems more playful and experimental than snooty. I still shoot digital if its a paid shoot.
    i shoot primes though on digital and on film, and shooting on primes just is better, period :wink:
     
  8. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    True. But back then smug was large format over 35mm. You can now shoot 35mm and be smug. We're more inclusive in our smugness nowadays. Progress... :smile:
     
  9. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    When somebody tries to give me that blah-blah about traditional photography being too complicated, I show them this picture of my nephew:

    Daniel Photographer.jpg

    Then I tell them the story of the day we went out to Presque Isle and shot pictures. I showed him how to load and how to use the camera. He did the rest. I even stopped to ask him if he needed help changing film and he said, "No, I already did, about ten minutes ago."

    We went home and developed the film. I showed him how to put the film on the reels and put it in the tank. He loaded his own film. I showed him what chemicals to use and how long to time his development. He did the rest by himself. We hung the film up to dry then had some dinner.

    When dinner was over and the film was dry, we went into the darkroom and I showed him how to print. He made two or three prints of his own negatives and he did it all by himself. The whole time, I only stood by and watched to make sure he did everything safely.

    My nephew went home that night with three photographs that he made himself from scratch.

    So, when those people bellyache about how hard it is to develop film, I say to them, "If my 12-year old nephew can learn to do it in one day, anybody can!"

    Most people get really quiet, right about then... :wink:

    The reason why people don't use film is because they are too damn lazy!
    They would spend just as much time sitting in front of their computer screen, twiddling digits, as they might spend in the darkroom making real photographs, all the while complaining about how much less work it is to make digi-photos. No! They're just too lazy to get up off their fat asses and go down to the darkroom!

    That's the way I see it and, if that means I'm smug then, so be it! :finger:
     
  10. bobwysiwyg

    bobwysiwyg Subscriber

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    Or impatient. Maybe they are one in the same in this cocontext.
     
  11. EASmithV

    EASmithV Member

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    Many people are unhappy with their film results because they don't invest the time to learn the craft.

    A lot of the "difficulty" is psychologocal.

    I read so much about people on here bitching about hauling around their 8x10 camera, that i started thinking mine was a pita too, and stopped using it for about a year. Then i picked it up, and it wasn't ALL that bad. Mine specifically is a pita because it doesn't fold in any way shape or form, but that makes it simple to set up and stable, if bulky. It's all how you look at it.
     
  12. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    It didn't get more complicated. I think it's two things.

    1) rest of the world got simpler
    2) we sometimes are way too serious!
     
  13. rthomas

    rthomas Member

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    I think this is also true of many who use digital. My opinion is that these people want things to be easy, and if something they expected to be easy turns out to involve work, they drop it and go try something else. I've had a few students with this attitude.
     
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  15. ParkerSmithPhoto

    ParkerSmithPhoto Subscriber

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    Maybe you are Comic Book Guy?

    I shoot digital almost every day, in addition to my film work. Most people who shoot film and turn their nose up at digital don't realize that digital carries with it its own set of complications and difficulties, if you are to do it properly. Saying "digital is easier" is like saying that it's easier to run ten miles than to swim ten miles. They are both difficult. It is not any easier to make a significant photograph in the digital age than it was 40 years ago. The method of making the image may have changed, and perhaps sped up the process of knowing that the resulting image either is or isn't of significance, but it certainly hasn't made it any easier.

    This sort of snooty bias cuts both ways. There are plenty of digital photographers who are "incredibly serious" about their work, yet anyone can make a digital photo today. 100 years ago, Kodak said "you push the button, we do the rest." What's the difference?
     
  16. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    I've posted before about a level of "beneficial ignorance". In the old days beginners often took introductory classes and read Kodak publications as well as relatively non-technical books like the Time Life series. They went into the darkroom excited, not scared, and did it. Now, instead, beginners start with overly complicated books and come to forums where they find out about the 1,001 things that might go wrong and the excruciating minutiae that make the difference between good and bad results. Not to mention mountains of plain bad information (in books too). One could easily get the impression analog photography is nearly impossible to do without years of technical study and a truck full of expensive equipment.
     
  17. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    "Beneficial ignorance"- I like that. It's how I started in 1970. It's how I continue in 2013. I've just managed to find new photo things to be ignorant about...
     
  18. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I think in today's world digital is easier - to find supplies for, to find salespeople selling, to see adds for, and to reach in your pocket and take a photo with your phone.

    In other words it is more commonplace and more oriented to the "snapshot" world.

    I am a member of a fairly large (~100 members) photo club. Almost everyone is shooting digital, although at least a fair number have good quality RA4 prints made out of their work. Many of them do very complex things (much of it in "post") but at least a few of them are just as "photographic" with their point-and-shoot and cell phone cameras as they are with their DSLRs.

    And as for complexity, nothing we do with film and darkroom exceeds what some of them do with Photoshop and ink selection.
     
  19. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    I believe that's the wrong way to teach.

    If you want to teach photography to anybody, put a camera in his hand and tell him to go shoot pictures.

    That's the way my father taught me. He handed me a camera and said, "If you break this, I'll break you!" He kicked me in the ass and told me not to come back until I had shot the entire roll.

    That's the way I taught my nephew, except without the threats or the ass kicking.

    You know, even when a person wants to learn how to fly an airplane (even if only a Cessna) he gets to take the controls at least part of the time. The instructor handles the takeoff and landing, of course.

    The point is, that to learn anything, the student has to be involved. You're right. If you force people to sit in a classroom they aren't going to want to learn. If that's the way people are teaching photography, no wonder the general public think it's hard.

    I often tell people, if they want to learn photography, they can learn the basics in an afternoon. I've never had anybody except Daniel take me up on the offer, though.
     
  20. John Austin

    John Austin Member

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    Well, if BW film photography is not difficult, how is it I still sometimes phuq up after forty years constant work
     
  21. BMbikerider

    BMbikerider Member

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    I used to belong to a club in UK where every one shot black and white and colour was kept to the realms of slides, then it changed gradually and colour prints came to the fore, or at least were looked upon as being on the same level as B&W. People who belonged to the club were knowledgeable about developers, papers, lighting, film, and almost anything else connected with the craft. They were always glad to give advice and to pass this knowledge on to those who were just getting interested. not in a complicated sort of way, but on a level even a child of 10 could grasp easily.

    Gradually digital reared it's ugly head, more and more people gave up on darkroom work, some because it released another room in the house for normal purposes, some because they were after something that they could not produce in the darkroom. It may be easy to some, but so is driving but we won't all become skilled drivers.

    I have found after perhaps 13-14 years of people using digital to make pictures the depth of knowledge about what makes a photograph 'tick' has diminished so we now have a load of people who can make pictures but have no real grasp on how it happens nor do they much care. I have always understood that knowing about the tools you are using is fundamental in getting the best results. Is it lazyness? I tend to think so.

    So currently, I am the only member of my present club who uses a dark room, makes slides, and surprisingly, one of only a few who print there own. I listen to them speaking as if they were all professors in computer sciences and think what has this got to do with photography. I say nothing and go on my own way. What I will say is I am few up with seeing badly composed, over saturated, over sharpened photographs accepted as 'perfect' when submitted for competitions. Again I keep my own council.
     
  22. batwister

    batwister Member

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    Yes, agree that digital (or Photoshop specifically) can be just as complex. As I see it however, digital is accessible because it's perceived as easy, film isn't because it's perceived as complicated. This is a problem.
    To be honest, it is possible to sit down in the darkroom, on a rolling chair, just like in the 'digital darkroom'. You're just doing different things with your hands at the end of the day.

    But my argument was that traditional photography isn't really that complicated, but saying you shoot film has an underlying implication that you have some special knowledge - and should be respected.
    It's a universal fallacy that can make traditional photographers seem pretentious, even if they don't mean to be. Me: "I shoot film" (subtext: "I'm special"), Other Guy: "Ohhh, do you now?" (subtext: "swine")

    I've found, however you say it, it's always a loaded statement.
     
  23. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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    Wasn't that true when there was digital imaging didn't exist, when millions upon millions of people shot P&S and instant cameras (or even SLRs and rangefinders) and then just took them to Boots The Chemist (or sent them off to TruPrint) for developing & printing.

    The idea that there was a pre-digital age where the use of film somehow made everyone with a camera aspire to the status of Adams or Cartier-Bresson (or name your favourite photographer) is to envision something that didn't exist. It's a bit like wishing teenagers were more polite to their elders (like they always used to be)

    Ian Grant put this up in the articles section ... it's a good read http://www.apug.org/forums/forum220/110454-what-wrong-photography-1948-a.html
     
  24. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    You don't have to be an English Literature professor to read Shakespeare's plays. Studying literature certainly helps you understand all the jokes but anybody who cares to put his mind to it can read Shakespeare. Nobody doubts that.

    You don't have to be Mario Andretti in order to drive a car. While driving a passenger car isn't too difficult for the average person, driving a race car is more dangerous. One false move can mean injury, death and destruction. In this case, anybody can drive a car but only a race car driver should drive a race car. The problem, here, is that people confuse the two activities. They think they are both the same but they are not.

    In photography, there are cameras that are like passenger cars and there are cameras that are like race cars.
    Here, on the desk, beside me is a Canon SureShot, Point-and-Shoot 35mm camera. On the shelf to my right is a Rolleiflex Automat. (3.5 A) The Canon might be analogous to a Honda Civic and the Rollei is like a BMW. Two different cameras were made for two different purposes but so many people lump them all together into one category.

    So, why, when I go out for a walk and take my camera with me, do people look and think I'm like Mario Andretti instead of some guy who just likes to read Shakespeare and laugh at all the jokes?
     
  25. Pfiltz

    Pfiltz Member

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    I'm new to film. I'm 57 years old, and just started to shoot it approx 9 months ago. I've been running a studio for 13 years. I'm shooting MF and LF now and trying my hand at printing it. Yep, I'm clueless.

    I've received some great advice, and answers to my newb questions here on Apug. Having said that, I'm not one to be deterred by someone who thinks highly of himself/herself. When I get questions about my cameras on the street, I always try to take a moment to let them see 'em and answer what ever question I can about them.

    Life's too short.
     
  26. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Humans so love to form tribes. Then point out how the other tribe is inferior.