Going back to real photography
I am on the brink of returning to my darkroom,the dark, the developers and the smell of fixer. Digital is magic and can result in stunning pictures but they are not the product of my skill. I will never forget my first print emerging in the tray, and my first good print some time later.
I am in awe of the vast knowledge of subscribers on this site and wonder why they stick to this peculiar, messy long winded method of making pictures ?
Written language is digital, because you use digits.
And to twist words a bit further; digital photograpy is abstract while analog photography is real.
Why do I pursue analog photography? Because of its tactile nature and the countless nuances of the variables that makes it both wonderful and frustrating at times. I love that I can make a photograph or print.
Last edited by Jerevan; 11-18-2010 at 08:16 AM. Click to view previous post history.
“Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.” - Lao Tzu
The darkroom is digital because my digits focus the head!
Actually, that's one of the reasons I started back into film.
Originally Posted by Steve Smith
My darkroom is at this point just for personal work.
For commissioned jobs like weddings and senior portraits I shoot, drop the film in the mail, and it comes back "done".
We all have the choice of how much we do ourselves with any particular film we shoot.
Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
I think it's fairly convenient, I have a Nova and the chemicals are ready whenever I am. In fact it's far more convenient than painting, composing a score or writing a poem, to name three other artistic expressions. But then, maybe all of those are digital and there's no difference.
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I would suggest that there is also a top-down aspect to digital & computer and a bottom-up aspect to film & darkroom work, that makes for a huge distinction.
By top-down I mean that someone else has made a lot of the decisions for you, although you will likely never know their names, their specific reasoning, or their agendas (sales!). You just have to accept it on faith, because you can't change it. However, I suggest that if you did know their reasoning, it is possible that you would not agree with some of their decisions, like details about how they compute exposures on automatic cameras. They are aiming for a "good photo most of the time." Is that really what you want? Don't you really want a great photo most of the time (unattainable, but worth striving for)?
By bottom-up I mean that you the photographer have to make specific decisions all along the way, including focus, exposure, development, printing, etc. It is difficult and errors are likely, although you are the one in control. Nobody is forcing you to do things a certain way (sometimes for their own reasons, e.g. marketing). Perhaps some manufacturers (Kodak) influenced how you did things, but it was a fairly soft touch compared to the domineering control behind modern digital products.
There is a political analogy to the top-down, bottom-up philosophy but maybe I better not go there. But personally I hate the top-down form of anything. People you don't know are making decisions that affect you, without your input or knowledge. And you have to pay them for their services, big time. Orwell understood this completely, many years ago.
Originally Posted by jscott
Having written sofware professionally for the last 20+ years I am acutely aware of the degree to which my design and implementation choices can and do limit the end user's choices, often intentionally.
For example, I much prefer implementing a dodge or burn by physically casting shadows in the projected enlarger light using my hands, rather than simply clicking a mouse to execute some nameless programmer's algorithm which merely simulates his interpretation of that reality.
But that's just me...
"They are the proof that something was there and no longer is. Like a stain. And the stillness of them is boggling. You can turn away but when you come back they’ll still be there looking at you."
— Diane Arbus, March 15, 1971, in response to a request for a brief statement about photographs
I do it because I can make my own cameras, and get results (not always the results I want, but results all the same!
I can't do that with digital.
"He took to writing poetry and visiting the elves: and though many shook their heads and touched their foreheads and said 'Poor old Baggins!' and though few believed any of his tales, he remained very happy till the end of his days, and those were extraordinarily long "- JRR Tolkien, ' The Hobbit '.
Why do violin players stick with 400 year old Strads?
Originally Posted by Dan Henderson
I just had my old Washburn parlor guitar, one that I've owned for 50 of its 100+ years, brought back to perfect playing condition by a luthier who does restorations for museums. I can't even really play. I can't, in fact, really afford what it cost me to turn this instrument, which I purchased in 1961 for $8, into something I'd have to fight to keep the collectors from stealing. I just love a REAL instrument. Can't keep my hands off of it. The guitar deserves to be what it really is, and, at 24,900+ days old, I'm going to take lessons. Over the many years, my bond with the instrument has become like a marriage.
Photography is like that too. I may be an anachronism. In fact, I'm sure I am. I have spent my life building not only these skills but the sensibility that one needs to employ them to fully express what they make possible. I had my fling with digital, and it was fun, but am I to sacrifice the fruits of my long and passionate labors, and love, to become a beginner again in a medium that requires so little? Just like every other clicker? Commit myself to the easy, the mediocre?
Digital has its uses, things it does really well, and I will happily use it for those purposes. I do love how efficient it is at accumulating images. But even that is a problem. I have issues with my own addiction to accumulation, and too many images make a big mess, just like all those old enlargers I ought to get rid of.
Today I was out in the trailer I use for a darkroom, making a print, and I loved doing it. I do not love sitting in front of a computer. Were I still working commercially, I would have to do that, because you really can't make a living if you don't these days. It's a job. You know, J-O-B. Since I'm "retired" now, I don't have to do that.
I will do what I want to do now. What feels good to me is film, paper, and chemicals. What looks best to me is a silver (or carbon, or platinum, etc.) print. Not entirely though; a long time color printer, I'll never make another C print. I will scan the film and print it on an exquisite paper with my ink jet printer - because I like the prints better. That is a real improvement. Not so with black and white, which is most of my work these days. But, did I not say "I will scan the film"?
You know, not everyone can do this work. I can, and I do it pretty well. It's a rare thing, and it's what I am here to do. I have built myself to do it. It was a lot of work, a lot of love.
I did that. I'll stop when I stop everything else.
I just do what I love.
Recently I emerged from a one year and some odd months long hiatus from the magic of printing in a darkroom. Having been forced to employ film scanning and inkjet printing to make my prints it was a sigh of relief to not have to anymore. As much as I liked the results from the inkjet, I just couldn't bring myself to love the process.
I am sorry, but it is a stale, clinical, and boring way of making photographs, with much too much of the real knowledge behind what actually happens is left to reside with those that designed the machines. And, I am appalled at the cost for keeping such a system running. The cost, for me, to come up with a good print was at least twice what I can manage in the darkroom, especially if time is taken into account.
Not printing in the darkroom also meant that I couldn't see the full circle of what happens after I process my film. In the year that went by, I shot at least 300 rolls of film. None of them printed or even made contact sheets of. This meant I lost touch with my ability to consistently create negatives that print with ease at a single grade of paper, because the scanner lied to me about my exposures; I lost that edge.
Just do what you love. Forget about the rest.
"Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank
"Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh