Saturday, December 15, 2007

Manual Pleasure

I am not a great photographer. I know only how to point and shoot an auto-everything camera. My photographs are plain, prosaic. I'm often frustrated that I don't know how use a camera the way I use a brush or a pencil (although, recently, inspired by Peter Beard, I've taken to using both on my photos). I have neither control over nor insight into how my camera functions, other than pushing its shutter button. Sadly, more and more cameras are operated by pushing just one button.
As my interest in real photography develops, the availability of traditional photographic materials is diminishing. Manual SLR and range-finder cameras are becoming fetish items while quality films and fibre-based papers are disappearing. Some are no longer manufactured. In Australia, it's difficult to find my favorite black-and-white 35mm film from Ilford
and there's only one Sydney-based photo-finisher who will process it and custom print the negatives 'by hand' rather than with digital media.
Digital cameras are easy to use but their images always seem flat to me, as if each shape has been cut-and-pasted into the frame. I'm so not a fan of computer-based photography. Using computers for photography is like using them for painting and drawing. It can be done, but the results are remote, artificial, and even the best works lack richness, let alone humanity and heart. They never make me feel anything.
In the traditional photographic works that interest me most – by people such as Edward Weston, Tina Modotti, Brassai, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Robert Frank, Larry Clark, Penny Smith, and others – the camera becomes eye, mind, subconscious, and heart all at once. Ironically, as it's such an old, mechanical technology, it allows the viewer to experience the result more fully and realistically because there is something more than the image itself. And isn't that what real art is about?


Mark Biskeborn Blog said...

I love your drawings, paintings, and Divan Diva water color.
When I sell more of my novels I'll buy some of your works.

Anonymous said...

You should look into digital more, it has come a long way in the last few years. People are creating amazing works with it that would rival any traditional photography.

Descartes said...

I do think that it takes a bit more work, and maybe a bit more talent, to work with film. However, digital has come a long way.

If George Hurrell and Ansel Adams-my personal favorites from the good old days-were alive today, I think they would be using digital. High end digital cameras are every bit as good as film. And CCDs in the 10 to 20 megapixel range are getting cheaper and easier to use all the time.

Good luck with the film though, it is a challenging and fun medium.

Mike Wood said...

Interesting you linked to this. I shot film for the first time in a long time on the weekend - and had a tough time finding film. I think that if you shoot digital and review the image data after the fact, you would get to know what the settings did as you mucked around with camera controls. Later should you want to try an SLR you would be well equipped then to go all manual and mechanical and art with your photos. :)