Photography has been around since 1855, so for me to believe that I am beginning to understand this artistic medium would be pretentious or delusional. But I am still shocked at how quickly my perspective and understanding of photography can be altered with a simple phrase or idea. This happens so often I have actually named the process as a "Instant Conceptual Breakthrough" and they can be profound.
The first time I recall this happening was a couple of years ago, when I read an article where someone articulated something I had been feeling for awhile. This is in reference to digital photography versus film where the author, whose name escapes me, explained that so many digital pictures are made through the computer it stops being about photography and is more about computer animation. This simple sentence explains my embrace of film as a medium.
Another recent phrase that has got me thinking was written by David Company several years ago, when he was referring to the photography of Lewis Baltz in his essay "Fast World, Slow Photography: Lewis Baltz". First of all David has a very remarkable perspective of photography and its place in modern society that I have not seen since Susan Sontag.
Here, David explains that our "Fast World" changes things.
"industrialism leads to the standardizing of appearances. Architecture steadily morphed into the plain, geometric box. Production lines made identical commodities. Advertising created shared desires. Eventually, the things that were once mechanical began to be replaced by electronic equivalents that offered less to the eye and camera"
What I take away from David's writing in the the world is advancing quickly and that speed creates the need for industrialization which removes a great deal of beauty. I have mentioned my love for old typewriters and telephones, I consider them wonderful works of art, but I do not feel the same way about laptops and cell phones.
These two concepts, so eloquently distilled into simple English is why I turn to Film Photography. I have explained this using much less precise language by saying that I stare at computer screens all day for work, why do I want to bring that same approach to my hobby? But the truth is deeper than that. I want to push back agains the "Fast World".
The world is moving fast, and digital photography is struggling to keep up with it. Consider that the Smartphone as a camera is quickly overtaking dedicated cameras. Sure their quality has improved but it is still no where near that of dedicated DSLR or dedicated mirrorless cameras. But they offer speed, take the picture and upload it to Facebook, Instagram or whichever social media account you are using.
The need or desire to print pictures is quickly disappearing and people are focused on the immediate gratification of sharing an image. Even professional photographers are forced to use social media more and their turn around time has to reduce as well. Speaking to one recently I found out that he uses Lightroom CC on his iPad to start working on some images in the parking lot of the venue. He can then send it to the bride and groom immediately to buy him some time to work on the full set of pictures.
Speed is overtaking quality in photography and this is what I am trying to push back from. I take a roll of film and put it into the camera. I feel a world of possibilities right before me. These 36 images can take me anywhere. With them I can capture the big and the small of the world around me. I cannot manipulate or alter the images. I have to use my instrument correctly, I have to have the final image visualized before bringing the camera up to my face and I know that once taken it may be months before I see the final result.
I have a roll of film that was used to shoot in London, Buenos Aires Argentina and Jakarta Indonesia. All on the same roll and all developed months later.
This image, taken on a Leica M6 using HP5 film, is an example of Fast World and Slow Photography. Here I am taking a careful picture, framing two very different worlds. The high buildings of first world finance in the background, with a bubble maker having timeless fun with kids in the foreground. My careful composition, patient waiting and decisive selection of moment all captured through chemistry on a film that was developed weeks later and printed months after that are a rebellion against the fast world we live in.
It took David's clear thought and spectacular command of the English language to articulate the way I have been feeling all along.
Patrick...confirmed film & digital photography addict.