January 26, 2009

Thoughts coming thru the Chaos

Music | April Grove by Martina Topley Bird

For the past 10 years, my photography has been consumed by digital. In that time, I went thru 6 different camera bodies - Unlike the Hasselblad which I used for over 15 years before I sold it. Now I wish I had it again. I think I went thru 5 computers as well, not to mention the technologies that have died off like various drives(floppy, zip, jazz), monitors and other costly upgrades...

I kept a working darkroom from 1983 to 1999... 16 years! With the various necessities I had to invest in, I also built by hand, darkroom sinks, tables, shelves, drying frames - rigged plumbing... Equipment was much more personal, was a part of me which in essence the final work felt so much more apart of me as well. I've got my high end digital printer, which is now all ready 2 generations old. I use some of the finest papers available. And though I feel I've created amazing photographic prints, I never felt the connection I had when pulling a print out of the developer or fix, or seeing the print that took over night to dry and view if for the first time in optimal light to see the subtle shadow details or creamy highlights. It took not only my hard earned artistic sensibilities, but years of achieving a level of skill - No purchasing a set of actions or filters or a box of packaged goods could suddenly create what I toiled after.

My peers have moved on, have embraced the digital realm and are making good livings. Like early in my digital career, learning and keeping up with the new and ever changing technologies was easy. Now I notice things don't come as easy and simple. I often feel like the old man who can't keep up, just comprehending the things that are even basic is difficult.

I'm finding it harder and harder to find the truth, my center. Photography, my salvation, my passion - I'm finding it hasn't been consoling for me. I am proud of the fact that I have been creating, shooting more in the last few years than I have ever before... I've created some photos that I am very proud of. But with this digital process, I know as well that some of my finest work aren't photographs... They are pixels on a screen. The are in essence, nothing. I've been more keen to photography that is nothing... I still manage to get feedback on them, but if all we have of the images is nothing, is there a point?

I'm not a child of pixels and bytes, zeroes and ones... Maybe that is why I am feeling so displaced...


Christopher Perez said...

Its a strange world where so little is actually physical. Can't touch it. Just 1's and 0's.

Difficult to embrace something so cold and distant, isn't it?

After making the switch myself I've noticed how productive I've become. Wasn't possible before.

What's important has really changed for me. In the past it was the tools and process. Now its been reduced to just the impact of the final print.

Sounds like you're going through similar challenges.

Rod said...

I actually felt that barrier with photography itself originally. This lead me to take up painting and an interest in other mediums.

It was a full circle in my mind that made me realize the medium is pretty much irrelevant - its what you are communicating that is important. To me, being wound up in the technique, something I can't honestly say ever really overtook me, is less important than being wound up in the moment.

Someone wisely pointed out to me along the way that most viewers are unaware of the finer nuances of our crafts. Most viewers do not care about pixels, grain size or much else. Images are bit like wine to them - if it tastes good - its good. If it looks good - it is. Viewers are not wound up in technique and really aren't as concerned about one medium or another.

I think the advise was sound - we produce first to satisfy ourselves and then others. If we are only concerned about satisfying ourselves and the technique or medium is everything - then by default, the subject is secondary. I don't know if that would be very gratifying.

The image on the wall is the prize. Once an image is printed and on a wall it is tangible. It is revered, cherished, admired, discussed, proudly shown off, posessed, communicated. Images on negatives or in digital files are as good as each other - unseen. It is understandable that both varieties provide little satisfaction to their creators.

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