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Thread: why I like film

  1. #1
    grumpy & miserable Joseph O'Neil's Avatar
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    why I like film

    This is not a film vs digitla debate - frankly, i use digital too,a nd in a commercial marketplace, to put food on the table, i think one is hard pressed *not* to use digital.

    But from a historian's perspective, i have always tried to point out to people that all digital media has inherent problems, especially for the long term archival record. One reason I love B&W film, it may not be perfect, but it's still miles ahead o other media in terms of being able to keep a record around for the next 100 or more years.

    neat article today that show's my concern better than i can say it. The link is here
    http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB113581938626033499-xNP7F7iqAatGMjivCNMuy6GOH2M_20061229.html?mod=blogs

    If you don't want to read the whole article, here's a quote
    "The rapid adoption of electronic communications technology in the last decade has created a major crisis for the Archives. For one thing, the amount of data to be preserved has exploded in recent years, thanks to the proliferation of high-tech tools such as personal computers and wireless email devices such as BlackBerries. At the same time, technology is becoming obsolete so fast that electronic documents created today may not be legible on tomorrow's devices, the equivalent of trying to play an eight-track tape on an iPod."

    The way i see things, 100 or 200 years from now, unless something changes, most of the pictorial record that we will ahve of our time will come form large format stills takes at this time. LF negatives and prints are increasingly unique - heck, i remember once seeing old glass plate negatives for for a dime a dozen at second hand shops when i was a kid, now they are collector's items. I can see that same thing for LF negatives, the way the world is going.

    joe
    eta gosha maaba, aaniish gaa zhiwebiziyin ?

  2. #2

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    why I like film

    What is tragic to one with a concern for historical records is that the film work being done now is unlikely to be what posterity needs to see. An awful lot of LF or MF work being done today is intentional vanity and "me too" stuff that gives very little historical information. Amateurs over the years accidently made important record because they did not narrow the scope of their snapshooting to suit a trendy esthetic; records of important things (background, etc.) were included regardless.

    Of course there are clear exceptions, even among some of the work by persons who frequent this site. One body of work that comes to mind is some of Paul Raphelson's (sp?) urban landscapes, "Wilderness". His photograph of a shoreline recovering or diminishing (it doesn't matter, the record later will show) with the Twin Towers in the background is just one of many I hope lasts. And if nobody else is doing film of the same, then Jorge's Mexican structures as well, while no historian will really care for more sunlight on water, a singluar wave, another emulation of (insert great name here) picture, or perfectly zoned image of just nothing.

  3. #3

    why I like film

    It would seem the bigger question here is what's worth preserving?
    Just because we make more records (historically significant or otherwise) doesn't mean it all needs to be catalogged and readily available to anyone at any point in the future. We have some great records of the past, but likely most artifacts/paintings/music etc. created throughout history are lost, regardless of the medium used to record it.
    You can't feed an 8-track into an iPod, but you also can't load the Rosetta Stone into Microsoft Word. So what? One has to work with the mediums of the time. Historians may later require some effort to recover records but that's hardly something I take into consideration whan I want to make an image here, now, today, to share with fellow (living) humans here, now, today.
    I'm confident that "important" (subjective) documentary images will be preserved and dilligently transferred from one medium to the next. Unlike film - digital data does not deteriorate when you make multiple copies of it or transfer it among different storage media. If anything it is much more versatile than film in that regard
    And why stop at film? If you want time-proven archivability - build a large pyramid in a dry desert and carve your images on its inner-most walls.

    Guy

  4. #4

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    why I like film

    I agree up to a point. Yes, there are problems with long term storage. Switching to digital is not just a change of image capture. One is then committed to long term technological change, including storage and data management, and this has major implications for archives. So it will not be a matter of keeping records in a particular format forever, but forever changing from one format to the next. For the forseeable future, that rate of change is relatively rapid.

    On a personal level, I choose to remain with traditional film materials for the most part (I scan colour and print it on an inkjet) since both the technology and techniques of image capture, printing, and storage are well-established and extremely stable. They are also not propriatary as so much of the digital world with its vendor indiosyncracies and competing "standards" (I guess the nice thing about a standard is that everybody can have one). For most modern professionals, there is little choice but to go digital. However, those of us who can still work with traditional black white sometimes feel like the calm centre at the eye of the hurricane.

  5. #5

    why I like film

    Joseph,

    The main difference for me, in terms of archiving is this:

    I can store exact replicas of a digital image in multiple locations. If one places burns down or is flooded, I can get the exact image from another location just fine. If that happens with film.....you're done......just ask Katrina victims. We've been reading about peoples' photos on film completely destroyed in the water.....but CD & DVD media being pulled out just fine.

    Now I do cheat somewhat and have scanned copies of my MF & LF films on gold CD & DVD.....but that is not quite an exact copy.

    The latest gold media holds up very well in stress tests. If it is a real concern, you can always recopy every decade or two.

  6. #6

    why I like film

    Preservation during a natural disaster???

    The 5x7 glass plate negative of this photograph

    http://www.rqriley.com/WrightImgs/Wright1stFlight.jpg

    and the entire collection of the brothers were stored in an outside shed and were under muddy water for several days during the 1913 flood in Dayton, Ohio. Fortunately, the glass plates survived the disaster.

  7. #7

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    why I like film

    Ho Hum. Does this stuff never stop?
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  8. #8

    why I like film

    An odd little side observation- more and more, workers in ultra-archival media such as platinum prints are turning to digital technology to make their large negatives. While few in number, these images may, ironically (in light of this thread's concern), be among the longest lasting.

  9. #9

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    why I like film

    An odd little side observation- more and more, workers in ultra-archival media such as platinum prints are turning to digital technology to make their large negatives.

    While at the same time archivists who receive only digital output are seeking to put that material on film.

  10. #10

    why I like film

    "While at the same time archivists who receive only digital output are seeking to put that material on film."

    jj,

    Who is doing that?

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