Working at The Camera Company (http://cameracompany.com/) in downtown Madison, I have had the opportunity to discuss cameras and photography more than I ever thought possible, and it has all led me to one conclusion: I don’t like digital cameras.
Allow me to explain, I love cameras and I love photography. I have sat at the camera store playing with every digital camera the company stocks, getting to know each one inside and out and deciding what kind of customer would benefit most from it. I have experimented with all the lenses we offer (my favorite being Tamron for the exceptional quality at an affordable price) and have wondered at the many advances in technology. It seems as though every week the store brings in a new compact camera that allows for manual controls, DSLR quality, and also shoots in RAW! But there is one thing that always stays in the back of my mind, repeating constantly – that the perfection the digital camera strives to achieve is the quality of film photography, something we’d like to leave in the past, or at least only associate with the past.
This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while now, and this morning happened to read an article in line with my thoughts. The piece, “Gorgeous Nude Portrait Project Aims To Resurrect Rare Polaroid Film” posted on November 1, 2013 to HuffPost Arts & Culture is a short article about the photographer, Jeff Enlow, who is raising money to photograph multiple exposures of nudes onto 20 x 24 Polaroid film, a type of film I dream of using one day. The article states, “It might seem like eons ago, but there was a time when instant film reigned supreme in the world of photography, bringing a sense of physical and unpredictable wonder to image creation. Enlow has reason to wax nostalgic about the days of yore, particularly when the medium of one-of-a-kind imagery is so crucial to his work.”
The point of using Polaroid film, or any film, is not completely tied to the aesthetic of the final image, though that is always a factor. It is also about creating an image for the sake of the image – not to immediately have it multiplied and copied and easily accessible. True, I can – and will – copy and paste a few of the digital files of his prints onto my blog, but those will only ever be representations of the real pieces.
The article has received many critical comments on the Huffington Post website, but I don’t know if they deserve to be acknowledged or just dismissed. Because I have such mixed feelings at this time, I will acknowledge the comments in bulk but you may read them freely. I don’t think it’s fair to photographers to have to justify their use of film when it is a superior method of capturing an image, offering an incredible variety of aesthetic choices when used with a specific camera, instead of (yes!) cheating by taking a digital image and layering on filters to achieve the same look. I am clearly not attacking digital art, only those attempting to recreate the effect of film photography and passing it off as a photo shot “as is.” For that reason alone I refuse to apply an digital filters to my Instagram photos required for this class.
Yes, film is expensive. We have the digital industry to partially thank for that. As an artist I do not appreciate reading about how this photographer uses more expensive materials just to make “artsy fartsy statements to get people to pay him money for mediocre product.” While I admit that these images on their own don’t make me want to worship Jeff Enlow as “the next great photographer” and he should work on his composition before resorting to the most expensive film in existence, I appreciate the resurgence in the use of film and film cameras.
Watching the sales of rolls of film at the store grow makes me a little happier every day. Maybe we will eventually reach a point where the quality of digital cameras reaches film, and the two could exist side by side.