Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Film, Digital, Whatever

In sailboat racing we do fairly absurd things to make our boat faster. We might sand the hull with 1500 grit sandpaper, for instance. The difference in actual boat speed is minuscule and in essentially no circumstances will make the slightest difference over using, say, 800 grit sandpaper. We do it anyways. The reason, I like to say, is that while it does not make the boat faster, it makes us faster. Rituals like these give us confidence, they connect us to the processes of sailboat racing, they help us get tuned into the boat.

In the same way, using film over digital, or using sheet film rather than roll film, or using a insanely expensive medium format digital back instead of wet-plate, or anything whatsoever that we choose, makes us better photographers. Film doesn't inherently make a better picture than digital, or vice versa. What makes a better picture is a better photographer. What makes a better photographer, in part, is a photographer who is happy and in tune with his or her methods and materials. A photographer who loves mucking around in photoshop will make better pictures with a digital process. A photographer who really likes messing with poisonous chemicals will do better work in wet-plate.

Just as sailboat racing isn't all about getting in tune with your boat, just as sailboat racing is mostly about mastering a suite of complex and interrelated skills, photographer isn't all about methods and materials. You still have to put things into the frame well, you still have to expose the ... whatever it is you're using .. . properly, there's still a mass of technique to master. Still, without being in love with your methods and materials, you'll never fully realize your potential, whatever that is.

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