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  1. #1

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    Has film and silver gelatin prints finally become marginalized?

    I guess I never thought it would come to this but I am coming to the conclusion that traditional photography is becoming marginalized to the point of becoming the poor step sister to digital and except for some 35 mm film and paper will be a thing of the past in a few years.

    Every new magazine issue, every blog I read, every forum brings forth another group of photographers ditching traditional for digital. I have talked to two photographers who are getting out of ULF, one who is going to scan film from MF and make digital ULF negatives for contact printing and the other who decided for the cost of 2 years worth of film he can get a top of the line epson printer and work from smaller negs.

    In a couple of years I would imagine that magazines such as B&W and the UK Black and White will carry 90% digital portfolios with the occasional nod to an old timer still working with film.

    As everything accelerates to digital, due to the rock bottom costs of production, almost all new images being sold will be a digital print.
    I never thought I would say it, but I can see a day when galleries, publications and photographers will ridicule gelatin silver (more so then already) as a flawed, inferior final product compared to a digital print. It is certainly a flawed methodology to produce a print in the eyes of the majority of photographers today.

    Now one can argue, "but what about archival standards"? Well, to be honest, in this day and age, I don't think anyone outside of another traditionalist really gives a rats ass about how long a print lasts. Regardless if it costs 20, 50 or 250 dollars.

    I had the idea that no matter how entrenched digtial becomes there would always be an appreciation for the tradition, the handcrafted nature of a "real" gelatin silver print. I just don't see it that way anymore. I just see the ever increasing push for digital in magazines and web sites basically poisoning the well for anyone new to even consider analog. At one of the local Barnes and Nobel stores they had one single book about darkroom printing, among at least 100 volumes and multiple copies about everything digital.

    With no new cameras being made for entry level photographers, no information in magazines, no books one can look at in the bookstore, who is going to buy the film and paper? I guess I need to not really care about availability of film and paper and when it finally runs its course I can start looking at DSLRs and printers. Untill then enjoy the ride while it lasts.

    Hate to be such a pessimist which I am usually not. I have been in a kind of funk the last couple of weeks which is probably clouding my thinking. Maybe some one can blow some sunshine my way.
    "Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
    Robert Adams

  2. #2

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    funk

    Jim-I wonder how the traditionalists felt when they stopped making Platinum paper? Wasn't it Clarence White who said he would quit photography when that happened? Yet we have an extremely strong website here which is basically a traditionalists haven. We still have film and paper and it looks like it will be around for quite awhile. There are some excellant choices of materials currently available. I see many postings on photonet by newbies. These kids grew up with computers and actually like the idea of working with film. We all have a responsibilty to further the education of people using film and traditional materials. My B+N has lots of books in different titles. Actually growing up it was harder to find these books 20 years ago than today. The net certainly has changed availabilty. If you want to find something out it is at your fingertips.
    Then go and do it!
    Just as an aside I was gallery hopping today in NYC and impressed by some nicely done color prints printed out on a matte paper. I liked them alot as they looked well done and no photoslopping added. For me that is interesting because I am NEVER going to do color work in a darkroom but I have a ton color slides on Kodachrome that I might one day want see up on a wall.
    Hey-it's just a thought.... meanwhile cheer the heck up!!!
    Best, Peter

  3. #3
    roteague's Avatar
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    Are you really surprised the way the market is going? We live in a world driven by technology, mainly digital technology. It isn't surprising that photography is going this way as well. It doesn't mean that digital technology is better, anymore than MP3s are better than CDs. Yes, it is sad to see those among us announce they are going to shoot digital, it is sad to see established companies like Kodak and Nikon getting out of the traditional market. In fact, I see traditional color work going all digital sometime within my lifetime. I don't think B&W will go for a while though, if anything, I think digital technology will make it easier to produce traditional materials, and will bring an acceptance to traditional photography.
    Robert M. Teague
    www.visionlandscapes.com
    www.apug.org/forums/portfolios.php?u=2235

    "A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist" -- Louis Nizer

  4. #4
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    There was a great photograph on the cover of the Hartford Courant, January 11, 2006, showing a line of photographers at the Alito hearings, all digital pretty much, maybe a few 35mm shooters, and in a corner Chris Maddaloni with a Crown Graphic. He's considerably younger than David Burnett, the other noted Graphic shooter among current photojournalists of national stature. One more and it'll be a trend.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  5. #5
    James Bleifus's Avatar
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    At the local photo store yesterday I met a photography professor who teaches at my old high school. This is the school where I learned photography 25 years ago. Some years after I left the photo department fell into disrepair and disappeared. A few years ago it was resurrected and sounds stronger than ever. The program is all traditional photography. How will people know about traditional work in a digital world? It'll still be taught in some schools and art centers and there will always be some niche magazines (can't wait for my issue of Emulsion) and books. Heck, it's hard to use my 8 X 10 in public now because it's so unusual. In five years I'll probably be mobbed with questions!

    Cheers, James

  6. #6
    jd callow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David A. Goldfarb
    There was a great photograph on the cover of the Hartford Courant, January 11, 2006, showing a line of photographers at the Alito hearings, all digital pretty much, maybe a few 35mm shooters, and in a corner Chris Maddaloni with a Crown Graphic. He's considerably younger than David Burnett, the other noted Graphic shooter among current photojournalists of national stature. One more and it'll be a trend.
    The beauty of these 'retro' photo journalists is that their work takes what we view as common and adds a richness that was, in a time gone by, taken for granted (viewed as common).

    *

  7. #7
    smieglitz's Avatar
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    Jim,

    I hear ya. I too think it inevitable that the great majority of imagemakers will soon be using digital equipment if they aren't already.

    In some ways I welcome that change although I dislike the impact it has on availability of traditional products. We will have fewer and fewer choices.

    Yet, acrylics didn't kill oil painting. Likewise, there will still be a dedicated group using traditional silver materials and other exotic photosensitive processes.

    As the great unwashed masses embrace digital, I hope the remaining conventional photographers might somehow obtain a cultural respect similar in concept to that awarded by the Japanese government to their "important intangible cultural properties," aka Living National Treasures.

    Master craftspersons will continue the tradition and the medium may be better off for it in the extended view.

    Joe

  8. #8
    Sean's Avatar
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    I focus on two things which I strongly believe:

    1. Traditional art work will ALWAYS have a higher intrinsic value than it's digital push button counterpart.
    2. There will always be a lot of people who DO NOT want to use computers to create their art work.

    APUG is proof that there are a lot of people who have no interest in using computers to create their art. Like many here I find using computers to create art to be a dead, sterile, and lifeless excercise. I need to catch light, pour chemicals, get my hands dirty and work an image into existence, not push pixels then push buttons. Our numbers are growing faster than ever before. Is it coincidence that digital's honeymoon phase is starting to end and our numbers are hitting record growth? I can accept that we will consolidate into a smaller entity but do not think the end times are near. Also, digital is impacting many art forms in a similar way which works to our advantage if you look at the big picture. For example digital tools can now create sculptures, paintings, sounds, etc. There will come a time when the art world has more appreciation for all things non-digital and photography will be a part of this movement along with sculpture and other traditional based art forms that refuse to assimilate.

  9. #9

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    I met the owner of one of our camera stores here in Phoenix. He has large format cameras on display. He sells large format film. He also teaches an advanced photography class at one of the local universities. He tells me that there is a fairly sizeable group of traditional photographers here in Phoenix...primarily large format or ultra large format.

    He doesn't see film going away very soon.

    It's nice to have a resource locally.

  10. #10
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrcallow
    The beauty of these 'retro' photo journalists is that their work takes what we view as common and adds a richness that was, in a time gone by, taken for granted (viewed as common).
    At the same time they're doing something completely contemporary. David Burnett's creative use of selective focus and available light is completely different from the photojournalism of the era when the Graphic was standard equipment. Instead of having to be descriptive, he can be interpretive. Maddaloni seems to be following in this path. And after all, interpretive is likely to be a lot more interesting than descriptive when faced with the task of photographing a judicial candidate giving testimony at a hearing, and trying to do something different from the 40 other photographers standing next to you.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

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