Mahesh Venkitachalam's "What Slide Film Taught Me" on tat tvam asi.
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Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Tom Kwas: "...Actually many things to love in this article, and I certainly feel a companionship with the idea that going from film to digital is going from discipline to confusion. As a professional, it was certainly easier and cheaper, at least from an equipment investment standpoint, to shoot and 'nail' color transparency than is is to shoot digital. And there was more 'joy' in seeing the result. What I realized from going to digital is it wasn't just getting a beautiful or impactful image that made it for me, it was getting that and viewing it on transparency or in a full-scale black and white print. Viewing it on a computer screen? Not so much....
"And therein lies the 'rub.' If Mahesh is not a professional photographer, or using his work in some sort of media capacity for his employment, why change at all? If he is shooting for his own joy, there will be someplace, at least for the rest of the time they make transparency film, that will do pro processing for him.
"I only got involved in digital years ago at the behest of my clients and because I wanted to keep shooting professionally, if I hadn't been a pro photographer, believe me, I would have never stopped shooting transparency, and in fact, I still shoot it today on certain projects that I deem 'legacy' projects: where it would be important to have the physical film in perpetuity.
"One only wonders how many pro photographers fell off the edge of employment during the film/digital change-over. How many were at an age where they just figured it wasn't worth the trouble, or expenses, to end up with that image on a computer screen. How many ended up looking for that Home Depot retirement job in their mid-late fifties rather than go back to a far steeper—and moving—learning curve, and start over again, like they did in their late teens/early twenties.
"Even for me, I'm one interesting job offer away from never taking a professional photo again; mostly because with the change-over from film to digital, it just isn't fun anymore. Everything I interact with other photographers about now has nothing to do with looking at someones photos and oohing and ahhing about composition or 'decisive moment,' and everything to do with digital equipment speak and trying to fix some sort of digital-related problem.
"It reminds me of an art director I knew once back in the late '80s early '90s. She told me that one day she showed up at work, and there was a computer on her desk, and the production department was gone. From that day forward, she spent her time learning and relearning design programs and the constant change in the design programs; and never again went to a paper warehouse to dig through old stock to find the perfect surface to print on, and look through old books and magazines at a library to try and find beautiful but forgotten type-styles. She was now never again paid for her taste, inquisitiveness, or enthusiasm. She was paid to do 10% of what she used to do and 90% of what the production department used to do."
Mike replies: My son's grandfather, and old studio partner—and onetime teacher—quit photography when digital came along. He is badly dyslexic and has a real feel (almost a genius) for physical and mechanical things, but couldn't cope with computers. He used to have a good business as a professional in Washington, D.C.
As far as "why change at all?", I've given this matter a great deal of thought and I think the reason most people don't shoot film any more is: we don't have to. That sounds very simplistic but that's what it comes down to for me. On the other hand, like Mahesh, I'm very glad I had to shoot film for a couple of decades first. (I do wish I'd been more focused about it, but that's just me—that is, it's characterological.)
Featured Comment by David Bostedo: "If it weren't for digital coming along, I'm pretty sure I'd have never gotten into photography. Not being able to play with exposure settings and see instant results would have killed it for me. So it's likely that for every photographer that laments the loss of film, there's a whole new generation of photographers who are only doing it because digital exists. I do wonder if shooting film would help me become better in some way...but it just seems so painfully slow and error prone."
Mike replies: I'm sure a lot of photographers agree with that.
Featured Comment by Steve Jones: "I pretty much avoided photography for nearly four decades, partially because the process, particularly the thought of the seemingly arcane darkroom, appeared intimidating. Digital changed that, and as a learning tool, its cost effective and forgiving character (with a histogram to boot!) was certainly beneficial.
"However, less then three years in, I switched to film, and this also proved instructive, albeit in a different way. I'm glad digital was around to draw me into photography, helping me get a grip on the fundamentals, but moving over to film helped bolster the visualization process; it slowed me down. I believe I would have acquired such skill through digital, but film, by its restrictive nature, expedited the process. Anyway, I enjoy shooting film more so than digital, and I have no plans to return to digital cameras...although I still use digital scanners."
Featured Comment by Mahesh Venkitachalam: "Thank you all, for the kind comments. Unfortunately, shooting film is no longer an option for me, since I live in India and I don't see any local labs that sell or process slide film. The costs are also exorbitant."