Saturday, January 31, 2009

Film is dead!

For several years now, this has been the warning of the digital masses. Yet, Kodak has continued to provide improved versions of their films over the past couple years. Kind of makes you think, eh? Often we are easily led to believe that newer technology is always the best way to go. But there are clear pros and cons to both film and digital. For example, because I don't have the "freedom" to chimp while shooting film, the shooting experience has become more enjoyable. Inititally, it requires an adjustment period, surrending to no longer getting that instant feedback that digital provides. The late street photographer Garry Winogrand often would not look at his exposed film for months or even years after the pictures had been taken. I think this "separation period" allows the photographer to escape from the emotional ties that often make it difficult to objectively edit our own work. I've also realized that the process of shooting pictures have now become more enjoyable. It has been easier for me to become part of the scene, a participant of the event, rather than an outsider looking in.

When it comes to color pictures, I will almost always chose digital over film. But I have to honestly say that I have yet to see an inkjet B&W that can rival the quality of a "well conducted" gelatin-silver wetprint. It's clear that silver prints have become a rarity with the everyday photographer, and have found their niche among art photographers. Considering that, it's possible that medium format might always be the strongest supporter of film. But one thing that appeals to me as a B&W 35mm photographer, is that I still prefer the grain of film over the noise of digital. And with the genre of photography that I presently participate in, the natural grain of film is often a welcome participant of the picture, rather than an unwelcomed party crasher.

What matters most is not which medium is better than the other, but that we chose the right one for what we are trying to achieve. We're living in an age when photographers have a greater freedom that ever before in the history of this craft. We can choose the medium not only for the final results we envision, but also for the process of picture making itself.

Film is no where near dead. It has only found a new neighborhood, making new friends who really appreciate it's specific character.

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