Analog vs digital photography
|a little essay i wrote for school this morning. i bet i have a few friends who will get it...
One thing I have been enjoying about this class is that it has helped to validate feelings and desires that I have experienced for many years.
I began shooting pictures as a means to an end. It was the family business and something that I grew up around. When I was quite young, I worked in my father’s darkroom alongside two of my three sisters. To put it simply, we worked together to accomplish a goal. At the time we all thought the goal was to satisfy the client who had hired my father. In time I came to realize that the real goal was to satisfy my father.
Working together was not all work. There was camaraderie and a feeling that we were very grown up. My oldest sister has ten years on me and my middle sister has six. For a ten year old to be actually contributing to an effort next to them made me feel special; Like an adult.
As I got older I learned to love working in the darkroom by myself. It was about the sour smells, the emergence of an image that appears slowly, through the chemicals, fading from nothing into something. It was magic. I could lose myself in there. It is hard to describe because it was everything I loved. There was an element of creation. There was an element of control. I loved the organization of it, the skill it took to produce great results and the culmination of all these things were realized right in front of me, in a plastic tray that was stained all different shades of brown and orange from the prints that came before. It was one part science, one part method and one part mystery. It took time and experience. It was an art, craft and meditation all put together.
I never realized, in those days as a young photographer, that one day, that room would be considered inefficient and out dated. I am not whining about the old days here. I love computers and technology. I get pleasure from learning new things and mastering tools. After all these years I still enjoy my job and consider myself a very lucky man to be able to support my family doing something I have invested a lifetime in learning. It gives me real satisfaction to please a client who has asked me to do something they cannot. I also enjoy the teamwork it takes to do the job well and with efficiency. Even with all of that, I still miss the magic that developed in that little room. I miss the time alone. I miss the process.
Today the results of actuating the shutter are instantaneous. It gives a false sense that what we do is a mechanical exercise that can be done by anyone with the right equipment. It belies the years of learning. The thousands of repetitions it takes to know the results before pressing the button. It diminishes the craft and the skill it takes to do it well and with predictable results. I used to feel like a mad scientist who was experimenting with every assignment. Today I feel like a cog in a machine.