Hitting the ‘Revert’ button!
I have had a strong urge lately to step back with my personal photography, to a time when control was more in my hands and exposures focused more on my intentions than the cameras willingness to take it off my hands. There seems to be a laziness creeping across photography. I am glad I did not discard tools once capable, and still today, of producing the images I seek. I applaud that 35mm film has been replaced by the new 35mm DSLR’s, but other formats still have a place in my tool box as a photojournalist and artist. I keep pace with today’s technology and am amazed at the advances made in this field and utilize it everyday. What I’m referring to is the passion for work I have yet to produce that signifies my style and approach. The feeling a craftsman has for their work rather than an operator.
Each time I open my freezer I am reminded of past adventures, dozens of rolls of exposed film and the anticipation of their return from the lab where my efforts would finally realized. Yes, I have many rolls of 120 and 4×5 sheet film, black and white and transparency, all waiting for their moment. I have sold some of my tools, a 645 Mamiya system, all my 35mm film cameras and one 67 Pentax body. Keeping in my arsenal a Pentax 67 system , a 4×5, an 8×10 large format camera and my Canon DSLR system. I feel lucky to have been able to experience and refine my photography skills before the digital camera revolution. Knowledge is wealth.
There was a aura of mystery surrounding the masters of great photograph in the past. Viewing the image immediately after exposure was not an option. There was still one more important process before the culmination of your efforts was complete. Developing the film. Photographers were more focused and methodical on the complete process from beginning to end and felt less rushed. Today’s generation of photographers, those who do not know old school, need immediate confirmation of their efforts. While this is advantageous and time saving in the field of news photography it has, in my opinion, weakened other fields of photography and has moved the focus away from what photography is meant to be, for me anyway
We are constantly shown the image on the back of a camera seconds after the photo was taken. Is this the only gratification sought after by the authors of these instant images? No editing, basic correcting, printing, or framing for a broader audience. Most won’t even take the time to rotate a photo when they upload it, that requires effort and time. The need for immediate results, has severely shortened the answer to ‘Where do you want your photography to go?’ I am always amazed at how stressed people can get today when technology, in their mind, is not fast enough. A signal sent to a satellite in space and back takes mere seconds, yet can produce frustrated reactions from people using laptops, phones or any wireless device when it takes a few seconds more. What is happened to society today spills over into every aspect of our lives, if you let it.
I converted my Pentax 67 body over to a pinhole camera recently and began the learning process behind this basic format. Calculating pinhole diameters, focal lengths, f/stops, angle of view and exposures. then adding time for reciprocity failure with long exposures. Why not just pop an SD card into my DSLR and shoot? Maybe I’m not sure the way the flock is veering is where I want to go with my projects. Knowing the effort and discipline it takes to produce even just one great analog image will give me the added satisfaction I’m missing now and see lacking in the digital jungle. It may set my photography apart from the mainstream again and actually feel like art throughout the entire process. There are distinct advantages for a photographer today with computers, software and printing inks and papers but the omission of a sense of participation, other than pushing the button, does not give me the feeling that I really created something anymore. Processing film, editing the images, scanning and digital workflow all contribute to the final work and may be my answer to finding a balance between the new and the old. I miss sliding my loop across a strip of 120 slide film and seeing that one frame reveal itself, days or even weeks after the initial exposure was made That sense of accomplishment, experience and the reaffirmation of your designation as ‘professional’ all rolled into one. I like the anxious feeling I get as I load and check an analog camera, calculate exposures, filter and finally begin the meticulous collaboration between the photographer and his tools. Accomplished void of immediate confirmation, but from experience, instinct and faith in your ability. While good composition, lighting and timing are skills still necessary to the final outcome of any great photograph, sometimes it is necessary to immerse yourself into the process fully to get an inner feeling revived.
I’m searching for a new large format lens to work with and eager to expose a few sheets of 4×5 soon. I have a few ideas that will lend themselves to this format. Reverting to tried and true photography formats from my past while still utilizing all that digital photography and technology can offer, gives new meaning and feeling to my work. The passion and love for what I do was never in question, just the process.
“They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” Andy Warhol