Saturday, May 10, 2008

Foster City, CA

I went out last night with the wife to take pictures. We had a blast. She wanted to know if I got the shot. I told her I had no idea. When was the last time that happened? With polaroid and digital it has been years since there was any question whether I got the picture I wanted. You always knew right away. Now it feels a little like shooting with a blindfold on and makes that moment when I open the package from the lab exciting again.

It is like when I first starting shooting with my Nikon EM when I was fifteen. It took the Riteaid a week to process the film and there was always at least one gift: a photograph I didn't remember shooting that seemed to be shot by some other person. It was always better than anything I had planned and I was always grateful for it.


Anonymous said...

i noticed that same thing and wrote this about three weeks ago. it's a bit cheesy, thus the anonymity. (and i'm sure it's spaltered with typos)

It didn’t take me long to realize that a life of photography was a life of faith. I was maybe two years into it when I started calling my photographic career a “faith based profession.” I wore it as a badge of honor in a way, but I sincerely felt that the major aspects of what I was doing had to be moved forward by faith. From the everyday to the glances to the future, I relied on faith.

Many a day was spent trekking about with my camera and a few sheets of film. I would search for whatever interested me and then try to make sense of it, organize it in my own way upon a sheet of film. I loved the feeling of making sense out of what lay before me. There was a commitment with each exposure. I was selective, I had to be, I had but only limited amount of sheets, and when I shot through my last holder, I went home.

Each time I went through the process of finding a location, setting up the camera, composing, metering, and exposing a sheet of film, I went through a process of faith.
Faith that the combination of the light, the lens, and the film would actually create an image. Faith that what I went out to capture actually existed on the film and that this process of creation, created something. Faith that what the camera was seeing, what I was seeing, was actually worth something and actually meant something, if only to me. It was all an exercise in faith, but did not end there.

Some of this faith was rewarded when the film got processed and the contact sheets were reviewed, and I sighed a sigh of relief. We photographers would joke about it, that it was a surprise that an image actually appeared on the film, that the film actually turned out. But in reality we were often surprised, and that was some of the beauty. Because when we packed up our gear and headed home, we did not “know” what we had on film. We had a strong hope, a faith, but we did not know.

In my earlier years I basically only shot for myself, the simple reason was because noone was hiring me. In looking back, I shot for two reasons. One because I loved it, I insanely loved it. I almost had to shoot something, anything. It gave me purpose, which leads into the number two reason. I took pictures because I had faith that these pictures would lead to something greater. I am still deciding whether the pictures lead to something greater or the process lead me to something greater. In any case, the faith was in me that taking pictures would make me successful as a photographer.

I spread this out because I think digital is beginning to take the faith out of photography. We no more need to have faith that we have actually captured an image, because we can see it immediately on our camera backs. We no more need to have faith that what we see, the camera sees. No more packing up and going home with faith that we got the image, because we will know that we got the image. No more limited number of sheets, no more commitment to the exposure, for we can literally fit hundreds of images on cards which for into our pockets. No more sighs of relief when our film is developed, less beauty, less awe, just more mega pixels.

I wonder if the day is already here that a photography student will never realize the magic of their first print coming to life in the developer. I wonder if they are more concerned with immediacy then development time, more willing to fix it later in post then capturing it all on film.

Believe me, I am fully integrated into the digital world, I have mega pixels to spare. I have computers and computer back ups I have digital lenses, digital backs, digital techs, digital proofs, and drawers full of external hard drives. I can shoot faster, easier, and more confidently then ever before, yet I am able to sense that something is beginning to be left behind. Something that most others probably never even realized was there. I know there are benefits with going digital, I am just wondering if they are all worth it.

Justin R. said...

to respond to the end of that comment, the day is - unfortunately - here indeed. I wrote not too long ago about NEU closing down it's film darkroom altogether and expanding it's digital darkroom. I doubt that's the case everywhere, but it certainly seems like an inevitability.

I went back to film from digital about a year ago and I don't miss it at all. It really is like opening a package when you see the film and compare it with the memory of the shoot.

Anonymous said...

I shoot around that area (Dumbarton Bridge) sometimes. It was very, very windy yesterday. If your images come out tack sharp, that alone is an achievement to be proud of.

Jeff Singer said...

I guess its just me, but when the best photo is one that I didn't plan on taking and almost "magically" appears amongst my planned shots I almost feel like a hack. I feel like the best shot SHOULD be the planned ones.

Sadly, based on my current portfolio I'm 100% hack. (for more reasons than the above I'm sure)

Maybe I just need to get this mentality out of my head.