View Full Version : Fade to Black-WSJ article

John Bailey
14-Mar-2006, 12:39
Today's Walls Street Journal has an article about film and digital written by Douglas Gantenbein, a writer and photographer living in Port Townsend, WA.

This link should allow the article to be viewed.



John Bailey

John Bailey
14-Mar-2006, 12:44
Please excuse the typo. Of course it should be 'today's Wall Street Journal'.

Steve Feldman
14-Mar-2006, 12:53
Will I make that leap? Not yet.

Well, maybe.

A digi P&S in my coat pocket. A Contessa in the other pocket.

Al Seyle
14-Mar-2006, 13:27
Dear Mr. Gantenbein,

All told, you seem to have made quite a strong case for sticking with film--- in spite of yourself.

14-Mar-2006, 13:44
"According to the Photo Marketing Association, digital cameras are likely to account for 90% of all
cameras sold in 2006."

This sounds like a ridiculously low underestimate to me, certainly for the U.S...

MIke Sherck
14-Mar-2006, 15:20
"We will not have a record of the individual stories that are told by families from one generation to another through pictures," Mr. Federman says. "That is a wealth of human history that will simply be lost."

Noting that the article is discussing 35mm, I can't help thinking back to the beginning of the last century. I recall that our photographic records of the era are either large format or things such as tintypes. 35mm came along later. Now, barely a century later, we may be looking at a time when what future historians will have to remember us by is... large format photographs and alternative process images (tintypes -- Go Calamity Jane! -- calotypes, etc.) Actually, I find that rather amusing in a twisted sort of way. Sorry, I can't help that, I was always over-impressed with symmetry.

Rob Vinnedge
14-Mar-2006, 15:38

I couldn't agree with you more about the symmetry.

You might be interested in an earlier thread on this site started by Tim Atherton regarding the latest issue of Artnews, which deals with current photographic trends. You might also be amused by the author's omission of large format and alternative photographic processes.

The thread is entitled: Contemporary Photographic Boom - digital or B&W?

14-Mar-2006, 15:48
That analysis is completely bogus. We don't save negatives or slides ( or CDs) for posterity. We save PRINTS. And they will be around from digital sources just as they were from film.

Terence McDonagh
14-Mar-2006, 16:01
I can't remember if I got this off of this site or Apug, so my apologies to uncredited sources, but it still cracks me up whenever people discuss about the longevity issues of digital photos :


Mind you, I'm one of apparently 10 folks (fact-checkers note: I counted all of the North America, Europe, Oceania and Asia) under the age of 40 who doesn't have a digital camera. And I recently found a hoard of metal (tintypes?) photos from "the old country" amongst my grandmother's former belongings. These are easily the oldest photos I've seen of my family. And indeed, they were in a shoe box.

14-Mar-2006, 16:04
As bad as the "digivangelists" who feel compelled to tell everyone within earshot how bad film was for them, are the wistful, wimpy columnists who combine innacurate information about the "death of film", with the theatrical gesture of throwing rose petals on its grave. The WSJ writer is of the latter type, and he is way below their usual standards.

Paul Metcalf
14-Mar-2006, 16:55
I find this so very pleasing:

"Film isn't dead yet--one billion rolls of the stuff will be used this year--but it's on the way out, save for the odd fine-art photographer, the technophobe, or a sentimentalist like me."

I like NOT being like the billions of digi-heads. Now I just need to find a rich sentimentalist who wants to buy one of my analog-derived, filament silver-based prints for $2.9M.

fred arnold
14-Mar-2006, 18:46
As morning fluff articles go, it wasn't bad, but I was ready to snort my coffee when they opened with repeated references to Tri-X in the past tense. I bought some recently, and I'm pretty sure it exists in the present (unless I missed a Kodak announcement last week).

Every time I read one of those articles, I can just hear the voice, "I'm not dead yet!" (you can fill in how that conversation ended)

Ralph Barker
14-Mar-2006, 19:02
I often get a chuckle out of these oh-my-god-we've-got-blank-space articles, too. You can almost hear the editor call out, "Who can give me 20 column inches on film vs. digital in an hour? We need to go to press!" Unfortunately, the shallowness of the articles is reflected in the minds of too many business and stock-market managers who take this one-or-the-other crap to heart. Personally, I like both technologies - for what each is good at.

I feel fortunate to have a good range of old family photos that enable me to connect with past generations. Mostly, they are smallish prints, few larger than 5x7, and, I'm sure, stored in a variety of shoe boxes over the decades. Almost none of the negatives have survived, though.


The young lad sitting on the ground is my grandfather, who died at the age of fifty-something in 1947 or so. The girl on the left was my great aunt, who I knew well as a reserved and elegant lady, never knowing she'd be devilish enough to shake her head during an exposure. I suspect few digital prints will last as well.

15-Mar-2006, 07:27
"I suspect few digital prints will last as well."

Do you also suspect that few color prints made on traditional color photographic paper will last as long? What's your point? B&W lasts longer than color (of any type)? Longevity isn't a digital only issue.

Ralph Barker
15-Mar-2006, 09:28
You are correct, Steve. The shoeboxed "traditional" color prints of the family I have from the '50s and '60s are pretty faded now, although the people are still recognizable. I believe the topic of the cited article, however, was digital specific, and related to how the advances in technology will supplant the historical aspect of digital images created by average people. If most average folks (after they've discarded their PCs and their CDs can no longer be read) rely on having digital prints, most of which are dye-based color, I don't think they will last even as long as the old color stuff. Most of these issues don't really apply to folks reading this forum, of course, as we probably fall into the "odd fine-art photographer" category mentioned in the article.

Pat Kearns
15-Mar-2006, 12:10
Photography changes with technology and we are in the 21 st century. I'm sure that William Henry Jackson thought that large glass plate negatives and cameras requiring pack mules to carry would ever disappear. I still love film and printing a beautiful B&W print. I'm still debating when will I purchase a digital camera and don't know when I will convince myself to take the plunge. I just got back from Seoul, Korea attending the wedding of my stepson. The photographer shot mainly digital but for the group shot of the entire family he used a Horseman 4x5. That's when he knew that the 4x5 tranny was not going to be matched. He didn't have to say cheese because I also had the biggest smile on my face. He stood with the dark slide in his hand, camera on a stand, lights turned up ready to take the picture...... and there were 20 people standing behind him in the audience holding up their camera-phones taking the picture at the same time. That is when I said, "Damn, I wish I had a camera phone so I could have gotten a picture of him and the crowd from where I was on the altar".

15-Mar-2006, 12:48
While Kodacolor prints have faded from the world, I have Kodachrome (yes, KodaCHROME) prints from the 50's which still look as good as the 4x5 Kodachrome trannies from which they were made (the Ektachromes, of couse, are long gone). Also, my Dye Transfers from the 50s, 60s, and 70s all seem perfect, even though they've hung on the walls of my Florida homes all these many years. Cibachromes from the 70s which were oversparyed with lacquor still look beautiful, although the ones which were not oversprayed have actually darkened a little (not faded).

Kerry L. Thalmann
15-Mar-2006, 12:58
I'm sure that William Henry Jackson thought that large glass plate negatives and cameras requiring pack mules to carry would ever disappear.

Actually, commercial celluse film was invented over 50 years before his death and quickly superseded glass plates and tin types as the dominant photographic media. While most people know Jackson from his early work with mammoth glass plate cameras in the 1870s and 1880s, they don't realize how long and extensive his life and career were. I think it's safe to say that during his long life (Jackson died at the age of 99 in 1942) and prolific career Jackson made many more photographs using film (no mules required) than he ever did using glass plates. During the height of his career, from 1898 to 1924 he worked for the Detroit Publishing Company and was intrumental in bringing the proprietary pioneering Photochrom color process to the masses. Jackson really had three separate careers - his early work photographing the American West with mammoth glass plates, his years with Detroit Publishing as a prolific worldwide travel photographer and publisher, and finally as a painter of Western landscapes. Given that Jackson was always eager to adopt new technologies (film, color photographic processes, etc.), I find your use of him as an example of someone clinging to the past and the use of obsolete processes extremely ironic. Jackson was an eager adopter of new technologies and seems like the sort who would have dived right into digital photography had it been invented during his lifetime.

Sorry, if it seems like I'm pick nits. I enjoyed the rest of your post. I'm a big fan of Jackson's and have read several books on him including both of his autobiographies (we should all live such long and productive lives that two autobiographies are required to detail our accomplishments). So, I'm just trying to set the record straight. Yes, Jackson lugged his heavy cameras, glass plates and darkroom tent around the unsettled American West, but he also did so much more during his life. He deserves credit for all his accompliments, not just those from the first half of his life.


15-Mar-2006, 18:15
Kerry, do you recommend "Time Exposure," or the other one (as a starter)? I first came across WHJ in the 1941 US Camera Annual. He was still alive and kicking at that time. Remarkable.

Pat Kearns
16-Mar-2006, 11:49
Kerry, I to am a big fan of William Henry Jackson and know well of his long life and career. There was a recent program on television that showcased a lot of Jackson's life from his early American West work to the end of his life. I just put his name into my post as a user mammoth plate cameras in the beginnings of photographic history to where it has progressed in less than 200 years. In the next 200 years there is no telling where photographic technology will lead.