Sustainablity in Photography
I was listening to some old pod casts of Analog photo radio and heard the mention of sustainability in photography. It got me thinking about it in both an environmental point of view and in the "digital race" to keep up with the latest gear at what seems to be a ridicules cost. Isn't it easier, cheaper, and less environmentally damaging to just keep your old camera that worked fine last week and buy the new latest and greatest film for your upgrade? less landfill space used and raw materials. After all, the difference in the image is what the photographer brings to it and creates than what he/she shot it with right? You can see my other thoughts on my blog. What do you guys think about this new consumer driven model of photography? How is it sustainable? I just can't see how this can go on and be a good thing all the way around. Maybe I am missing something.
I don't think the data is out yet on digital cameras. The old days when everyone shot film, film was used of course and if you took it to a drug store to have it processed, they would print everyone. It's not so sustainable as folks shooting digital then erasing the out takes. On the flip side, people that shoot film cameras really don't upgrade their cameras while some digital cameras upgrade every few years. At least on the commercial side, it's mostly shot digitally. I don't think their are budgets for shooting and processing film anymore. On that front, commercial photography is greener. I'm interested in the analysis of how sustainable digital versus analog photography are.
I had a curve swung at me in a chat around the office yesterday on sustainability and I am not sure how to react to it.
We just had a beautiful early summer weekend of weather. I was at a scouts/cubs/beavers campout with my kids.
I mentioned that a guy I know - one of the other kids parents had gotten his motorcyle out for summer. After dropping the kids off he was going for a spin on the bike. His wife was working that weekend. When he picked up his kids he reported that he had cruised over 780km in the course of the day and two nights that the kids were at the campout. I said is did not get just cruising around in a vehicle.
My boss, a bit of a rev head, said that I likely put out more impact on the environment with the photos I will process from the weekend's shoot of the events than the guy riding his bike just for the sake of riding.
I'm not sure if that is a reasonable claim by my boss or not.
my real name, imagine that.
the funny thing is that digital commercial work isn't any less expensive than film ..
someone has to get paid to sit like a drone infront of the screen ...
to make the image look "perfect " or cherry pick a still out of the stream
if the images were shot on HD ... unless of course it is the unpaid intern
or new recruit / assistant that is getting paid very little to do that ...
in the end i am not sure "ewaste" is any less harmful that photochemistry or
the pollution made from making film and paper. lets not forget that
EK was listed as one of the largest polluters in the USA for years ...
and now that there are people doing more alternative / more toxic forms
of photography i wonder if the drips and dribbles of traditional wet plate fixer
for example are collectively adding up and going into the water supply ...
i am sure like everything else, a little bit isn't much,
but when everyone's "a little bit" is added up, it is probably not really a little bit.
I try to be sustainable with my processing, but I have hit a hitch. My Sru is at my studio, but so that I have finer control of temps when processing film, I do it at home. So, I have to haul spent fixer to my studio. Being the incredibly lazy person I am, I hardly ever take the holding vessel to the studio and empty it. So, despite my best efforts, I end up pouring spent fix down the drain. The thing is, I feel horrid about it.
Overall though, I run as green a shop as possible. I think that even more than chems, reusing things, fixing instead of replacing, and the use of rechargable cells goes much further than chemical supply and disposal. It is at this point that film pulls ahead of digital. My take is that the rapid disposal of equipment and the pollution caused by the manufacture of the equipment is at issue. I would be willing to wager that even at the height of Kodak's pollution, it still pales in comparison to the massive unregulated pollution of camera, sensor, chip, and battery manufacturers in lesser developed Asian and central American nations where regulation is lacking or officials can simply be paid off.
One more thing, have any of you tried the Eco friendly chems digital truth is selling?
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I have an economical take on the subject: "Pollution costs money, it doesn't grow on trees..."
If I buy a dollar's worth of product, I have made a dollars worth of pollution. If I pay someone a dollar, I have made a dollar's worth of pollution.
It's not exact, and there are exceptions, but I think in general it is a reasonable way to look at. If something is more expensive then it is, in general, more polluting: it costs more in labor, which means more workers, which means more pollution created by the workers; it costs more in materials, which means more workers producing the materials; it creates more profits, which means more money spent at Hammer Schlemmer by idiots which creates more pollution....
By my reckoning most products sold as 'green' and at twice the price are in fact twice as polluting. Obviously if the lower cost alternative makes radioactive waste and the high cost alternative pays a lot of Amish woodworkers then the $=pollution thing doesn't apply very well at all.
The average Hog gets about 50 mpg. Driving 500 miles uses 10 gallons of gas or $30 worth of pollution. I guess if you shot a couple rolls of Kodachrome and sent it to Dwayne's the thing's a wash; if it was a couple rolls of Tri-X developed in D-76 then I think the Hog made more garbage.
Black and white darkroom chemicals are pretty benign with the only exception being silver-laden fixer. But it all comes from the earth, it all returns to the earth, and the only harm comes from concentrating things that shouldn't be concentrated and from disposing of things that should be deactivated before disposal. Today's landfills will be tomorrows gold mines.
Neither is your boss. Don't worry about it.
Originally Posted by Mike Wilde
I think my photography workflow is pretty sustainable. I use highly dilute developer, re-use my stop bath, bulk-load film and only print the really good shots. I've taken steps to simplify my process to the maximum extent possible, not just for environmental, but mostly for financial reasons.
And I don't buy a new camera every year like some digital shooters do. Whenever I buy a camera, it's a used one. That sounds pretty sustainable, too.
Interesting perspective Derek. I just picked up my old copy of Mastery by George Leonard and began to re-read it for the .... time. It's a wonderful book and he talks about what you could call sustainability in the context of life, learning and becomming really good at something. It really applies to anything that we do.
While I agree that we all need to make as much effort as possible to reduce, re-use and recycle our waste, the "boom" in today's wet plate usage is still effectively zero. At the height of the wet plate era, there were folks washing their plates in streams that supplied drinking water. There were thousands of wet plate photographers across the US alone. Today, there might be a thousand wet plate photographers worldwide. In the 1890s, a single albumen paper manufacturer was using 6 million eggs per year. Think of the amount of poultry waste generated by all those chickens. And that was just ONE factory - there were several in Dresden, Germany alone. And then couple that with all the waste silver nitrate from the sensitization of all that paper. And god knows the paper industry in the 1860s to 1920s was not a paradigm of pollution-free production. So, by comparison, 21st century alt-process folks do not make a collective fly-speck on the planet relative to their contemporaries with the rare-earth heavy metals being used to make their computer chips, carbon consumed to power their devices, and inks, dyes and coatings to make inkjet prints.
Originally Posted by jnanian
My point is not to give alt-process folks a free pass to be careless with their chemistry, but rather to relieve any sense of guilt or doubt for those who wish to continue working in these processes today.