Visual Arts » 2D

Focus Shift

by

1 comment

With an oversaturation of amateur photographers gracing the front pages of social media, I've been wondering about how technology has affected the art form of photography itself. Just as the invention of photography undermined the importance of photorealism in painting, the relationship between artist and process has been simplified to the point where digital photographers seem to have few similarities on the surface to their film-toting ancestors.

Carla Hutchinson captured these photos with an old-school 35mm single lens reflex camera. - PHOTO BY CARLA HUTCHINSON
  • Photo by Carla Hutchinson
  • Carla Hutchinson captured these photos with an old-school 35mm single lens reflex camera.

Modern-day hobbyist film photographer, Romain Taravella, on the other hand, explains things from the other side. Everything seemed peaceful while he had dinner with his wife. They sat overlooking the Lake of the Seven Colors (or Lago Bacalar) in the Yucatan peninsular jungle. His Leica M6 35mm camera sat at the table, ready to capture the breathtaking views.

"Suddenly, this tall bear of a man passed by and my camera caught his eye," Taravella recalls. "He looked at the camera and grabbed it, as if we were not complete strangers, and started an eternal conversation. 'I can shoot 300 pictures a day with this camera and have them ready in no time!' He, of course, assumed that I took my films to be developed," remembers the photographer. "In a somewhat proud and romantic tone, I explained to him that I actually do the developing myself -- in my own bathroom-turned-darkroom. The man put my camera back on the table, and just said with a smug smile and a short laugh: 'That's fairytale photography!'"

We are experiencing a shift in the medium of photography. It has become an interesting hobby to shoot film, whereas everyone has the ability to shoot and edit their own photos, all without setting down their cell phone.

"Back when digital cameras were first introduced for amateur use in the late 1990s, most experts predicted that it would be 20 years or more before digital reached the point where it would be widely accepted for professional use. It actually took less than half of that time," says Bob Kilbourn, owner of CameraRepairs.com, (his past ventures include Bob's Camera Repair and Bob's One-Hour Photo).

Bob is one of Indiana's last camera repair technicians with more than 42 years of experience. "Now, it would be difficult to find a photographer who still uses film as their main medium," he says.

Digital photographers often work to recapture the ethereal analogue quality of typical film prints. - PHOTO BY CARLA HUTCHINSON
  • Photo by Carla Hutchinson
  • Digital photographers often work to recapture the ethereal analogue quality of typical film prints.

Just like the man who interrupted Taravella's dinner, many professional photographers take the "machine gun" approach of mindlessly shooting hundreds of pictures. The good shots are not even discovered until the photographer sifts through the rows of repetitive images. There is also the question of how much cropping and digital editing is acceptable before the photographer actually becomes a graphic designer instead.

But my sentiment is something Kilbourn is familiar with, "I have heard several people bemoaning the passage of film, saying that photography is just not the same anymore," he explains. "Although a digital photographer has the added advantage to enhance their photos in a computer, many renowned photographers of the past used similar techniques in the darkroom to make their photos better than just straight out of the camera."

A keen photographic vision can transform a meat counter into a work of art with the right composition, depth of field and exposure time. - PHOTO BY CARLA HUTCHINSON
  • Photo by Carla Hutchinson
  • A keen photographic vision can transform a meat counter into a work of art with the right composition, depth of field and exposure time.

It is true that many, if not all, film artists have spent numerous hours working inside darkrooms dodging and burning to get the right exposure. "Today's photographers do not have to get out all the chemical-filled trays and work in the dark to make their images better," says Kilbourn.

Still, this Hoosier camera repairman doesn't believe people with fancy cameras can get away with passing their work as art without the chops, "I don't think the evolution from film to digital has really changed photography that much," he says. "The talents and abilities needed to capture a good photograph on film are still necessary to capture an image digitally."

In other words: Without the ability to compose and properly expose a photo, you'll have to keep shooting for that fairytale ending.

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

 

Add a comment