Preserving the Benefits of Traditional Photography
I've been thinking about the decline of film and photographic paper. There's still a lot of photographers using traditional products, but the trend is clearly down. The problem is that, now that traditional film has left the mainstream in most photographic disciplines (although still being used), new people coming into the profession don't get exposed to, or trained in these methods. This only accelerates the effects of attrition.
For example, I considered purchasing a weaving retail supply store earlier this year. But, I went to a local weavers' guild and found that the average age of weavers in my area is 55 and above. (The 55 year olds were the youngsters!) Good bye retail weaving! As another example, I've heard the average age of bridge players is somewhere in the range of 55-60. Do we want this for traditional photography? I think not.
A few months ago, I allowed myself to be pulled into a local, small-school photography project. The administrator put this thing together. I did a preliminary presentation showing some of my photographs, my LF camera, and some of Ansel Adam's special edition prints. Then, she set up the boy's bathroom as a darkroom. We put the enlargers on a table in front of the urinals and used the washing area for developer, stop, fixer, and rinse. It was perfect! Everyone from the fifth through the eigth grade was involved, and we all had a lot of fun. Afterwards, we had a gallery show for parents. Thanks to this particular administrator's creative thinking, it was a big success.
This got me thinking about the importance of involving young people in the photographic arts. Traditional photography is ideal for this. It's fun, it involves mixing things, there're no expensive computers or printers involved, and it's definitely hands-on. Plus, one can teach lessons of working with chemicals, safety, etc. There are lots of inexpensive film cameras around, and chemicals can still be purchased off-the-shelf. It would also be excellent as a science project.
If we want to preserve our passion, traditional photographers and their stakeholders should join forces and figure out different ways of introducing the photographic arts to new people. I can think of a few ideas.
>> Put together kits that science teachers could use in their classes.
>> Individual photographers could work with schools to do projects similar to that of the school I mentioned.
>> Create an idea or source book of different projects that have been tried and are known to work.
>> Consider different ways to communicate the potential of photographic projects to different organizations that might be interested.
>> It doesn't have to be for kids, either. There's a growing community of photographers who've never developed a roll of film. (Either by themselves or by sending film to a lab.)
>> I would think that Ilford, or other companies still providing supplies for traditional photography, might be willing to provide funding for some sort of effort in this direction.
These are only a few of the obvious possibilities. Given some thought, I'm sure many others exist.
I know that the weaving community is aware of the dynamic I've described. But, they're attacking the same issues late in the game.
But, this isn't the case for traditional photography. Any ideas? I suspect it could make a big difference in the future of our media.