Slow Photo movement

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Mainecoonmaniac, Nov 14, 2010.

  1. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    After reading Sea Photo's thread going back to "Real photography", I'm wondering if there's an the same movement with foodies called "Slow Food" movement started in Italy. The commonality is returning to old methods because the new methods of production doesn't yield the same quality. Am I way off base here?
     
  2. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    I have not heard of the "slow food" movement, but your description sounds like the same debate raging here. I also compare it to the fact that many great guitar players still use 50 year old Fender, Gibson, Rickenbacker and other guitars, and run them through tube amps because newer digital equipment doesn't give them the same sound quality.
     
  3. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Dan, the "slow food" movement was the beginning of what we now call the "local food" movement in most of the US; it originally took hold on the west coast but is now found throughout the country. It's meant to be the antithesis of the fast food / industrialized foods movement. If interested, pick up the book "Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan...

    Anyway, Mainecoonmaniac, in my opinion, the photographic analogy to this movement would entail mixing of your own chems, making your own plates, coating your own papers, and being more conscientious about disposal. Investing in that entire process would indeed be much slower than the clickety click approach now found throughout digital photography. But I don't think merely working with the "old" film methods would go nearly as far, in spirit, as the slow/local foods movement goes. The spirit of that is really to take total responsibility rather than assuming that someone else will do it for you. And frankly I don't think there is any proud history of that in the film industry, which was scaled up for mass production since the invention of roll film. (Not that I think digital is any better in this regard, mind you)
     
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  4. SWphoto

    SWphoto Member

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  5. Ian Leake

    Ian Leake Subscriber

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    Achieving the highest quality takes effort and commitment; and the highest quality is worth the time it takes to achieve it (sometimes). The Slow Food movement has recognised this, and I feel there is (or at least can be) a parallel in photography.
     
  6. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    I've mentioned a possible overlap between the Slow Food Movement and film photography a few times here. I started to think about it more when I became interested in bread making and especially after I chucked out the bread maker and started experimenting with sourdough.
     
  7. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Working with large formats is the equivalent of slow foods. The discipline and pace of working tends to spill over into subsequent work with smaller formats.

    Ian
     
  8. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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  9. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    one should be like an " iron chef " with a camera ..

    i don't believe quality and luscious image making has anything
    to do with speed ... seeing yes ...
     
  10. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I see some similarity, but also some differences. The Slow Food movement seems to be largely about "food to the consumer", not so much a movement of people committed to using certain practices in their own kitchens for themselves.

    It's hard to draw the analogy very closely since food occupies such a special place in human society. So does art, of course, but the connection between the artistic process and the "quality" of what reaches the observer is much less clear than it is for food. (If I cook crap and feed it to you, you're eating crap. If I start with crap and make it into art, it might end up being pretty good art.)

    But the general current of what might be called "de-commodification" seems to be a commonality, maybe part of a broader change in social attitudes...

    -NT
     
  11. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    Remember the old saying...

    You can have:
    • Good.
    • Fast.
    • Cheap.

    Choose two out of three.

    :D
     
  12. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    All is tied together

    I did read Pollan's book "Omnivore's Dilemma". Great book. I also enjoyed Botany of Desire. I have to admit that I'm a bit of a Foodie/photographer. I also eat a very limited amount of fast food and shoot digital. My guilty pleasures I guess. It's fascinating how a culture develops around food and photography. I worked as a photo assistant at a food studio back in the film days which I have many fond memories of. Both have areas of food and photography has consequences of production and consumption for which there are diametrically opposing views and philosophies. I'm glad that I now pursue these passions at an amateur. :D
     
  13. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Cool. I'm a foodie too- I spent a lot of time setting up a minifarm on a University campus, where students grow all manner of things and have begun to enjoy cooking again. I consider myself very lucky to have met Wendell Berry and Joel Salatin a few times; they are of course two of the most interesting players in the local food movement on the east coast. Brother Wendell has a print of mine, and I look forward to doing some shooting at Salatin's farm next year and try to make something he would like.

    In many ways, the enemies of the slow food movement... speed and convenience for its own sake... are also enemies of the craft of handmade photography. Quick 'n easy has taken over almost every aspect of our culture.
     
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  15. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Too more folks to Google

    I'll have to Google Wendell Berry and Joel Salatin. I'm a west coaster and we have Pollan of course and Alice Waters.

    In the age of speed, convenience and instant gratification, we have lost the art of enjoying anticipation. With industrialized and convenience foods, we have an abundance of low quality food. It's somewhat true with images too. With digital photography, people are able to produce tons of images with little or no thought. I do think digital photography is perfect for disposable commercial images used in advertising. With some art photos, old methods are better. It looks like the slower analog photography is becoming a fine art process like lithography or etchings. Food just like photography, you have eaten and experience real food before one knows that it is. I'm discovering a whole generation of young photographers are going to galleries and museums and seeing analog images and liking what they see. A Hot Pockets generation eating a Chez Panisse and enjoying the food and the experience perhaps? :munch:
     
  16. CGW

    CGW Restricted Access

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    Ecchh, please don't equate Alice Waters and analog photography! Rather than "slow" photography, I much prefer "chemical" photography since that's really what we're talking about. The "slow" food analogy just doesn't work on any level for me, nor does it clarify the separation from digital. Anyone spending hours at a computer futzing in CS5 with colour correction or tone mapping knows the meaning of "slow" all too well.
     
  17. phaedrus

    phaedrus Member

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    Concur exactly with what Ian says, though I think one should try to keep limber on one's feet, so to speak. I don't think the slow method works on the street, for example. And if you force it on the subject material, you'll influence the expression, willingly or not.
     
  18. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council

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    With photography, the "slow" you get in photoshop is not the same as the "slow food" analogy referenced here. Just as it takes hours upon hours to get something just right in photoshop, I'm sure McDonalds spent countless hours tweaking the formula for the McRib barbecue sauce or choosing the right bun for the Angus Burger. Once that's done, though, they can be spit out endlessly, uniformly, without thought or expertise. Once you are done adjusting your file in Photoshop, anyone with sufficient manual dexterity to click a mouse button and load paper in the printer can follow directions to make additional prints that exactly match your original master print.

    Hand-coated alternative processes, however, are very much the equivalent of "slow food". Every step in the process must be done deliberately and carefully, and cannot be handed over to an untrained novice to repeat successfully. In each gum bichromate print I make there is a little blood, sweat, tears and love of mine invested. The difference is that between a technician and a craftsman.
     
  19. CGW

    CGW Restricted Access

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    With respect, that's baloney. Not obvious from this you've spent much if any time retouching in CS or any other Adobe product.
     
  20. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    For me there's no point in making a separation from digital, I've long held the belief that film photography can stand on its own merits and doesn't need to be defined by what it is not.

    The slow food analogy came to me when I started to consider the role of time in bread making, how time dominated the whole process and how the baker was very concious of that time. To manipulate time is to bake a different type of bread, the possibilities are endless and the craft of baking is the appreciation of time. I saw parallels with photography, specifically film photography where time was not only important in the sense of shutter speeds, but also in terms of the development stage and the printing stage. To me, to be a film photographer is to be concious of time in the same sense the artisan baker is. I'm not interested in a quality/convenience dichotomy, rather it's the act of manipulating time to realise your vision which works with both film photography and artisan baking.
     
  21. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council

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    You completely miss the point. And I have spent plenty of time frustrating the heck out of myself in Photoshop, tweaking and tweaking and tweaking only to find out that the printer has drifted and I need to start over and recalibrate. I've been using Photoshop since Photoshop 3.0 (Not CS3, but circa 1995). My point is that in Photoshop, you front-load the effort - yes, it's a lot of hard work up front (the design/engineering), but once that part is done, the production is repeatable without technical skill (if I have a finished file, I can give my 70 year old mother directions on how to print it and she can make 100 identical copies, 100 days apart). With full-analog, specifically the alternative processes where everything MUST be done by hand, it is a craft and the production of the print is at least as labor intensive as the creation of the in-camera image. The line blurs a little when you get into working with commercially produced image-making materials, because while it is possible to get consistent, repeatable results using (for example) Ilford products, even if I left burning and dodging and toning instructions for my 70 year old mother, she would not be able to reproduce my print twice in a row, let alone 100 times in 100 days.

    To refine my analogy, if I give my mother the photoshop file that I have manipulated(i.e. with all my 'directions' for printing included), she can turn on the printer, open Photoshop, open the file, and click 'print'. She will produce the same print I would produce. If I give her my film negative, and directions for how to print it (color balance, burn-dodge sequence, time, lens f-stop, etc), she will NOT produce the same print I would.

    At no point did I say that working in Photoshop is skill-less. It takes a lot of skill to manipulate a file in Photoshop, just as it takes a lot of skill to design a McDonalds' Angus burger, especially to design an Angus burger that will look, taste and smell the same everywhere on the planet, regardless of who cooks it. But that doesn't mean it isn't still fast food. And just because it is fast food doesn't mean I automatically hate it - in fact I like the Angus burger. But it's still fast food, and it doesn't satisfy the same way that dinner at Posto (an Italian restaurant here in DC that crafts its food) does. I'm willing to pay $7 for the Angus burger lunch and spend 20 minutes at McDonalds - but I'm willing to pay $40 at Posto and spend two hours because the food is that much more satisfying.
     
  22. Ian Leake

    Ian Leake Subscriber

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    I don't see that "Slow" only refers to the time spent doing something (driving a golf buggy to work would be slow but not Slow). It's as much about a philosophy or a state of mind as it is about the rate of work.

    In our interconnected, "always on" world it's sometimes good to step back, return to first principles, and make a conscious decision to invest yourself in what you're doing. Learning to do something yourself (rather than rely on the wizardry of software engineers) is Slow; and it's immensely rewarding.

    And I wouldn't agree that there's a specific analogue/chemical versus digital angle. Blasting off 10 rolls of film and shipping them away to the lab isn't Slow (even if it's slow).

    Is Slow the only way of doing things? Of course not. But it's a good way.
     
  23. Mainecoonmaniac

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    It is good. Most of our attention spans are getting shorter. Some always trying go get "ahead" with the latest. There seems to be an arms race in the profession of photography of getting the latest technology to have an edge. This attitude has also seeped into the area of hobbyist and amateurs. I have to admit that when I was a professional, I was in that race to upgrade too. After the market dropped of the commercial market, I switched careers. Luckily, I didn't dump my analog camera and darkroom gear and slowly started shooting and printing again. You can invest your money and time into analog photography and not have it evaporate our digital environment. You can have a long attention span with analog photography and do it Slow.
     
  24. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    To be fair, you *can* do that with the Other Capture Medium too. Technology that's pointed at "faster and more convenient" makes it more difficult (but that applies in film-land too, and I suspect the wet-plate folks were saying the same thing about those ridiculous newfangled dry plates).

    I think there's a stronger nexus between "Slow" and the serious attempt to perpetrate art than between "Slow" and any particular medium.

    -NT
     
  25. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    The more that I think about the "Slow" food/photography/bread making/fill-in-the-blank movement, the more I am reminded of the Amish people that I grew up around. They eschew modern appliances and conveniences, preferring to use traditional tools that have stood the test of time. They have a reputation for craftsmanship. They tend to band together in small communities and speak a language not understood by outsiders. They spend considerable amounts of time in places without electric lights burning.

    So maybe I will begin thinking of myself as an Amish Photographer. Not a photographer of the Amish, they have that graven-image issue. But no one ever said an Amishman couldn't be behind the camera. And, I would have Photographer's Rumspringa to look forward to!
     
  26. CGW

    CGW Restricted Access

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    Yes. This and most subsequent comments are ensnared in a "fallacy of perfect analogy," where a partial resemblance between two things is taken to be a complete resemblance which, in this case, it isn't. The arguments made here tend to assume that "slow food" and some form of chemical/analogue imaging are analogous in some ways. They also assume "slow food" is a good thing, therefore chemical/analogue imaging is also a good thing. Simply put, a partial resemblance gets converted into what logicians call an identity, which it isn't. Interesting arguments so far, except that they're not logically informed or even very convincing.