I am tired with this Photoshopped filtered solution to digital. Where everyone wants to portray an image of perfection, look at Instagram to see what I mean. We always wanted to be better but now we want to appear perfect. Film is my exploration into the fucked up, into the shadow under the eyes, sweat stained shirt, fat roll and grey hair that is us. It is about the mistake, the untucked shirt and the not-level horizon.
Film, exposed on an old camera, developed in a tank with chemicals and reproduced in a darkroom brings an analog truth to the artistic process. This is not about absolute image quality that can only be mathematically calculated. It is about capturing an emotion and as we are all painfully aware, emotion is not calculated or perfect.
I can only hope that hidden behind the grain, around the clipped highlights or too deep shadows, I am able to recreate something resembling a memory. So I shoot people, buildings and shapes. I shoot a great deal of crap but sometimes, hidden in the middle of a roll of crap, is a honest gesture, or an expression that tugs at a memory.
I can shoot a perfect image on digital, either through the camera’s help or some post processing magic, but my mind rejects it, I fight against that perfect image. I am immediately saturated by it, tired of it, insulted by it. The colors seem too rich, people seem too happy like a Hallmark movie. That is not my world, that is not your world. Our world is about the drunk uncle, the dirty car and the messy unkept life. That is what I wish to photograph.
We come into this world covered in shit and most of us will leave the same way, so why are we so driven to pretend otherwise in-between? Old age is wonderful, so why don’t we shoot it? Scars are evidence of survived battles so why must we hide them? Luggage gets lost, so why not show it?
When I look through a viewfinder of a camera made long before I was born, I am looking through the eyes of all the previous owners. I am looking through the same square inch of glass that they composed baby pictures, family vacations, grandparents visits and kids graduations. When I look through it I hear their voices whispering how wonderful life is, in all its ugliness. I choose to listen to them, to feel their finger on top of mine and I choose to snap that picture. And it is wonderful. Even devoid of talent, missed composition and poor exposure it is real. It is straight. It is simple. But it is as far from perfect.
Alfred Stieglitz started the photo secessionist movement in 1902, where pictorial photography was disdained and straight photography was embraced. This movement was about accepting photography as art without the heavy handed modifications to the image. A still life of harsh shadows that makes the image appear as something else was proof that impressionist art was not limited to paintings. Photography could be just as poetic, just as nuanced and it did not require post processing magic to do it.
We need a new secessionist movement. We need a group of artists that embrace reality. I don’t mean a conjured up, faux reality but an honest image of life, imperfect life. I don’t want to see a world of derelicts, the Diane Airbus of our modern era, I want to see the real. The overweight without a focus on the obesity, the short without the over dimensioned world of little people the cute girl without the Dovima.
We have been shown the way. We do not have to find it ourselves all we need to do is follow the map they left us. The maps of Robert Frank, Gerry Winogrand, Paul Strand, Henry Cartier Bresson and so many others. They have struggled, searched, gotten lost and found their way again. They filled up books and museums with the secrets of what they saw. They left us clues to follow and have shown us the way. All we have to do is listen. All we must do if follow. Then, when we have found their way we must make it our own, we must lose ourselves in their map and then make our own.
We need to show this world that there is a path away from the over saturated, the high dynamic range, the more perfect than perfect direction. We all know perfect, there is nothing to search for there. We have gone down that short path and reached the end and it is a dull, faceless end. How many colorful sunsets must we be subjected to? How many young perky breasted influencers in the middle of a flower field? How many perfect back lit images of planes on tarmacs? Is it not time to rebel? Is it not our time to rise up against these imposters and cry out against their influence.
Do not misunderstand me, I like digital, I love my digital cameras just as I do my film cameras. This is not a film versus digital but it is a rebellion against the over processing of digital files. A digital image can be just as honest as a film image, it does not have to be a marvel of Photoshop skill.
A film image is more difficult (not impossible) to alter making it much more about the image that was captured and less about what you want it to look like. My digital files now see less and less time in post processing. Now I just give my digital files the same processing I could give in a darkroom. Contrast, burn, dodge, exposure and cropping.
Patrick...confirmed film & digital photography addict.