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Thread: Is the obsession with analogue gearing an obstacle to art?

  1. #1

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    Is the obsession with analogue gearing an obstacle to art?

    Let me try to explain myself.

    Analogue photography is slow, it is very slow (and expensive if not). I know to some extent that can be a good thing, as it forces one to slow down and think. However, I am starting to think that the amount of time spent on the peripherals of image taking (developing, printing, scanning) takes a lot of time and energy away from the bit which actually matters - the artistic aspect of the image making process. I understand that much can be done to manipulate and alter an image during the developing and printing process. But so much more can be done, and far more quickly, with the digital process. And in addition to that is the instant feedback, and the far better scope for experimentation.

    I like shooting with analogue gear. Mainly because I like old mechanical objects. I don't know why, but I do. But I am starting to think that they hamper one's progress as as a photographer, let alone an "artist", which in my view, few people can ultimately become anyway (and I doubt I will ever get there myself).

    The other issue is that, I am starting to think that using analogue gear when everyone else out there is using digital, is like taking a knife to a gun fight. They can take thousands and thousands of photos, experiment, think about what want to communicate with their image and create. While it takes me a good part of my weekend to shoot, develop and scan a couple of rolls of 35 mm. Am I every going to produce interesting photos, when I am spending half my brain power worrying about what developer to use, at what temperature and for how long to get the effect I want (or mostly, just not ruin the negative).

    I have not been doing analogue for particularly long, but in the brief time I have been doing it, I have developed an uneasy feeling that this is not the best way if I really want to do something "creative" rather than just producing images which are poor knock offs of those which may have been ground breaking in the past. It really hit me when I watch an interview with Pedro Meyer on the "Art of Photography" youtube channel. I don't particularly like Meyer's photography, but I think I agree with what he says about art and photography.

    PS: None of this has stopped me, as of this morning, acquiring my first LF camera. But I am a bit disheartened.

  2. #2

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    Re: Is the obsession with analogue gearing an obstacle to art?

    I take it that there are parts of the process that you don't appreciate or enjoy.

  3. #3

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    Re: Is the obsession with analogue gearing an obstacle to art?

    I like the process. Far more than digital. Though I have to admit that developing can be tedious. As can dealing with all the chemicals and equipment needed to develop and print. My point was that while I enjoy the process of shooting analogue considerably more than I ever enjoyed digital, I think that it makes it harder for one to develop ones's unique vision and to produce true art.

  4. #4

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    Re: Is the obsession with analogue gearing an obstacle to art?

    Art comes from working within restrictions. I remember when cheap motors came out for 35mm cameras. I was a newspaper photog at the time. I'd go to an event and there'd be tons of amateurs shooting "spray and pray", just hold your finger down and hope for the best. I bet that for every single photo I shot they shot 200 worse ones, because I had to think and build within the restrictions that the equipment imposed, and they weren't thinking at all. Too many choices to handle isn't freedom.
    Thanks, but I'd rather just watch:
    Large format: http://flickr.com/michaeldarnton
    Mostly 35mm: http://flickr.com/mdarnton
    You want digital, color, etc?: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stradofear

  5. #5

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    Re: Is the obsession with analogue gearing an obstacle to art?

    Quote Originally Posted by mdarnton View Post
    Art comes from working within restrictions. I remember when cheap motors came out for 35mm cameras. I was a newspaper photog at the time. I'd go to an event and there'd be tons of amateurs shooting "spray and pray", just hold your finger down and hope for the best. I bet that for every single photo I shot they shot 200 worse ones, because I had to think and build within the restrictions that the equipment imposed, and they weren't thinking at all. Too many choices to handle isn't freedom.
    I am not sure your example really supports your proposition. Your example supports the notion that when you value each shot you take you will think about it more and so produce better photos. So art requires effort, it requires exertion. I absolutely agree with that. The limits of your medium do create obstacles, and the way you deal with these obstacles can often give rise to art because it becomes a mode of expression unique to the medium. However, a medium which poses fewer limitation does not prevent the production of art. In fact, in my view, it creates greater opportunity for art. If you can do more in a shorter period of time (and I don't consider mindlessly shooting frame after frame on a digital camera), then you can go deeper into the image making process and create things and find new ways of expression that were either not possible, or would have taken you 10 times longer on a medium that had greater limitations.

  6. #6
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Is the obsession with analogue gearing an obstacle to art?

    The only answer is shoot more images with everything

    Use an iPhone, best camera I have, always ready

    Use 35mm

    use it all, X-Ray, big weird lenses, anything

    my time is shorter than it used to be

    I am also writing far more, not here, elsewhere, with a image I made above it

    I make digital slide shows with voice over for my Draft Age grand kids, they claim to like them...they are very fast, 2 seconds per, while I babble what I think is truth...

    live now and Rage

    do not go gentle into...
    where is the monolith

  7. #7

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    Re: Is the obsession with analogue gearing an obstacle to art?

    You know, IMHO "art" is kind of a weird thing. I'm not too sure it has anything to do with limitations or with convenience.

    I think it happens irrespective of what equipment we do or don't use. It happens with an I-Phone, just like it happens with a Holga, just like it happens with an ultra-large format camera. I don't think it matters whether or not you use a 500mm Wollaston Landscape Lens, or a Canon EF 50mm f1.2 L USM lens, or a Leitz 35mm Summicron.

    I'm not even too certain it has to be perfectly focused or sharp. It seems to happen whether your lens resolves every detail or not. Bokeh doesn't even seem to make that much difference.

    What seems to be the most important for me is that I truly see something and then remember what I saw. I need to see and remember the light the way it was when I captured the image. I need to remember what attracted my eye in the first place, what was important. Was it the people, was it the scene, was it the motion? Why did that particular moment seem so important? I usually shoot black and white but when I do shoot in color I have to remember the hues and the brightness of those colors. I need to remember all these things so I can try and recreate what was imprinted on my minds eye when I snapped the shutter or replaced the dark slide. What made that moment more than just a snapshot? If all those things come together, if I can remember why, I usually produce something in the darkroom or with the computer that came close to what I wanted.

    But my memory is imperfect so these moments are rare for me and it doesn't seem to matter whether it was a film moment or a digital second. I prefer film because I am most comfortable with the mechanics of producing in analog. But I have occasionally been successful with my digital camera as well. For me it is the moment, not the camera or the lens.

    The only time that the camera or the lens ever became important to me are those times when I could not capture what it was that I was looking at. I clearly remember as if it were yesterday an early morning in Peru when the peak of Huascaran was illuminated with a golden sun above a wreath of clouds and the camera I was using was too automated to do what I was trying to get it to do. For over half an hour I fought with that camera to make it do what I wanted and it never worked. Needless to say it was gone the moment I returned home.

    The really interesting thing for me is that when it all comes together and I look at the image I have created I rarely, if ever, remember the equipment. I do remember the moment that I recognized the image and was able to trap it and keep it. I can remember where I was and who I was with. I can remember what time of the day it was and whether the light was coming from behind me or from some other direction. A lot of times I can even remember whether or not it was a warm day or a cold evening. But it seems whenever someone asks me what I took that picture with, I often cannot remember. That part seems less important once the image is complete. Of course I remember some of the failures in the same way.

    I don't think digital or film has anything to do with it. It just has to do what I want in that moment.
    The Viewfinder is the Soul of the Camera

    If you don't believe it, look into an 8x10 viewfinder!

    Dan

  8. #8

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    Re: Is the obsession with analogue gearing an obstacle to art?

    We are not "doing analogue", we are exposing film and making prints. One at a time, by hand.

    Your idea is that the personal touch and interpretation is not worth it.

    Maybe your images aren't.

    Many are. One at a time, hand done with the soul of the Artist in each print. No "push a button and get 30,000 identical prints. That is Thomas Kinkade crap for those who deserve it.

    I'll take Michael Kenna, Tillman Crane, John Sexton and the like for prints that are worth viewing and owning.
    "My forumla for successful printing remains ordinary chemicals, an ordinary enlarger, music, a bottle of scotch - and stubbornness." W. Eugene Smith

  9. #9

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    Re: Is the obsession with analogue gearing an obstacle to art?

    Because you haven't developed a relationship with it yet...

    You can walk into a Target store and buy a camera, take it out of the box, put a battery and card into it, turn it on, and camera will (usually) expose a scene well... Machine gun a subject enough and you will get a shot (or few)... Run it through PS and ready for next step... What's wrong with that, it's a picture, right??? But the downside is the technically good images can be a bit soulless, so many folks lay heavily on the PS (like a pretty girl with too much make-up) that can cover the inherent beauty the materials can give...

    With film processes done well, there is a naked beauty possible with minimal corrections, but experiment and experience allows new possibilities, and we learn how the camera directly sees, and we learn to "dance" with our partner, and discover new places and ideas to discover... It becomes a very interesting journey!!!

    It may seem like a burden to have to know, practice, and use so much information to operate this system, but once one learns what these steps mean, it becomes intuitive, logical, and second nature with practice... And can be very rewarding to be able to zen-like guide a sheet through the start of seeing, to a statement print hanging on a wall to contemplate by yourself and others...

    It's maybe like playing a piano... Can be hard or easy for some folks, but amazing when it sounds good... ;-)

    Steve K

  10. #10
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Is the obsession with analogue gearing an obstacle to art?

    What is "analog photography''? Sounds like a demeaning expression coined by some minimum wage geeks in a consumer electronics store. Every time someone runs into me with a big camera and tripod set up, and asks me if I still do film photography, I simply reply, "Is there any other kind?" They sheepishly respond, "Well, uh, digital" ... Then I reply back, "Never heard of it". They get it, as they slink off with a smartphone in hand.

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