Friday, July 24, 2009

Analog "vs." Digital

My friend and fellow photographer, RTB, after telling him I was gonna start teaching a darkroom class asked, innocently enough: "How are you going to teach people who have only experience with digital cameras?" My exact response I don't remember but it was something akin to 'well they'll just have to accept that I find digital photography unacceptable' which was not only arrogant and defensive-sounding, but not even something I believe. Not sure why that popped outta my mouth. I don't find digital images unacceptable at all but I do find that they are a whole other animal. Not an entirely different discipline but certainly a different medium. Painting is allowed different mediums - oil, watercolor, even mixed media...And Photography is not so different...35mm, large format, medium format, polaroid manipulation...why not add digital exposure? Shouldn't art be supplemented insteada amended?

Processes: they aren't just different to me, they're downright foreign. Not estranged or divorced but, err, legally separated? I love you but I'm not in love with you.

But first: how are they similar? Lemme think. Both media are experienced visually. Both are two dimensional. When viewed on a computer screen, high res. images are pretty much indistinguishable from one another. Ditto color prints (provided that they are premium quality). Both require hardware-type-equipment that has a lens. No doubt digital camera prototypes were based on 35mm SLRs. Every new medium has to start somewhere, right? But I've never run out of memory, just film.

Experiences are real dissimilar to me. Digital: Compose, shoot, edit, adjust, compose, shoot, edit, adjust, etc. Even ad nauseum, if you ask this girl. Printing a .jpg is certainly optional. Film (documentary/street/punk) is: think, shoot, react, shoot, think, shoot, react, shoot, etc. and not necessarily in that order.

What I mean to say is that digital photography shoots its wad too soon for me...all deed and no foreplay. Which I understand totally if you're into convenience, speed, ease, and economy. True 'nuff, developing film isn't easy or interesting. What films there are left are expensive and endangered. Developing yourself takes a while and can be boring (if you're not in my kitchen playing records). But when I pull that soft, squishy, sensual negative off the reel, my heart starts beating real fast. Then, when I hold it up to the light to see if it came out I feel 1) elation just knowing that there's something there, or 2) my heart breaks when I discover I over/under exposed the damn thing. It's a private moment I don't have to share with anyone else. I need that kind of intimacy with my photography. Public (shooting), private (developing+printing+editing), public (sharing), in that order. When I shoot I'm hoping for the best while expecting the best. Faith and bravura. That's shooting with film.

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