Some of the responses I got to the "#1 Problem With Film" post (privately too) astonished me. It's as if every time "film" is mentioned, it pushes buttons which launch canned comments (or arguments, or diatribes) of one sort or another. It seems that many people assume whenever I mention film in any context that a) I need to hear why they like, or have chosen, one or the other; or b) I need to be advised of the faults of whichever one they didn't choose; or c) they assume I'm "deciding" between the two...and need help.
It seems to me that we're well past the era in which the problem was (some) film photographers acting reflexively superior. (That era certainly existed.) Now we're into an era where (some) digital photographers are acting reflexively insecure.
Several people launched extended apologias for digital, heaping scorn on film. What is this, 2005? Digital is image capture these days, folks. The fight is over. Digital won. About as thoroughly as can be imagined. And about as quickly as could be imagined, too. The swiftness of the decline of film's hegemony has been impressive.
Despite this, here at my little soapbox on the street corner we're going to continue to cover film according to my interest in it and according to the percentage of our readers who like it. About 10% of TOP readers use film mainly or exclusively, and 35 or 40% use it occasionally. A larger proportion—numbers unknown—used to use it, and at least have memories of it one way or another. And a good proportion of the work we're interested in—exact numbers likewise unknown—was done on it, whether that matters or no.
And, take my word for it, I'm not deciding. I use both, and I'll be using both until the last nail goes into either my coffin or film's. Ctein, as you know, has switched entirely to digital and won't be using film again; I use both. That's not because I'm "deciding." That is my decision. Really.
So: film shooters welcome here. Digital shooters welcome here. No bias against either, no favor extended toward either. Posts about one are not implicit criticisms of the other; posts about either are not automatic invitations to "film versus digital" debates no matter the topic.
And no need to feel insecure!
P.S. Of course, as we all know, film is better.
I'm kidding, I'm kidding!!!
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A book of interest today:
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Dave: "'The fight is over. Digital won.'
"Right. Except in the art market.
"Dealers, curators, and collectors still show an arguably strong preference for work that originated on film.
"The proof, in my opinion, is in the large percentage of recent MFA portfolios that continue to be shot on film. When you browse the web, take some time to make a mental note of the process that's called out for the portfolios you see. Then read the photographer's CV. Many of these recent grads were born in the digital age. By the time they were old enough to afford a camera, film was already on the way out. Yet, a large percentage of them are shooting film.
"I'd argue that it's not because there's any intrinsic advantage or superiority in the process, but that they've made a choice to work in a medium that's more highly valued by their target market. Maybe someday the typical art dealer, curator, or collector will become media-agnostic, but I don't think it will happen in my lifetime. I suspect that factors other than the ability of an image to affect the viewer will always take precedence in the art market. It is after all, a market."
William Barnett-Lewis: "Love my Oly E-PL1 but I'd go nuts without the Rolliecord III I got recently. There is much that the little digital camera does so much better. I can live without 35mm film now. But there is remains a hole in my world that only a 6x6 cm square of write-once flexible memory strip can fill."
Chris: "What a privilege and a pleasure it is to be a photographer, and to be able to learn from colleagues. I mainly shoot black and white, and I like film best for that. For colour, digital seems unbeatable to me. I'd like to hear from colleagues what they use film/digital for, and why, with examples if possible—this would help me to improve my own use of two superb media."
Stan B.: "If anyone should feel insecure, it's film users—we're dinosaurs (and we know it). It's a sinking ship we've happily chosen to keep playing on, but only the fool wouldn't pay attention to the digital waters fast closing in around us."
Daniel S. (partial comment): "...Your attempt at brokering peace might be well-intentioned, but people will be people so I'm afraid your quest was doomed from the start. Better to just smile and nod, smile and nod no matter what people say. Easier to keep your head attached to your neck, that way."
Nicholas Condon: "For my part, my distaste for the costs and annoyances of film made me give up photography for two decades; you couldn't make me use 35mm film again without a gun to my head. And yet I still find myself deeply interested in the articles on film photography. It almost seems like it's possible to be interested in learning about something that others have done (and do) well, even if one is not interested in doing it oneself...."
Ken White: "Need more traffic? Stir the pot. Sorry I have my marketing hat on today."
Mike replies: Actually, Ken, what I do to stimulate traffic is write posts about gear. That's what reliably brings in the eyes. Too many posts about photographs, aesthetics, working methods, monograph books, photographers, or photo history and the traffic starts to decline. I won't deny making efforts to attract traffic on occasion, but in this case this really is just what I happened to be thinking about when I wrote it.
Phil Maus: "I will continue to shoot film for many reasons and I make no apologies to anyone—Craft, Substance, Aesthetics, Value, Tradition, Exclusivity, Tactility (if that's a word)...for the love of beautiful, all mechanical cameras built to last a lifetime, for the quiet, contemplative time spent under the darkcloth and in the darkroom, for the beautiful, valuable prints rendered in pure silver, for the way my perception and vision changes and becomes more intense and more acute when I'm out photographing (as opposed to seeing a potential image and releasing the shutter 400 times from 400 different angles—I release the shutter once or twice) for the look of a gorgeous 8x10 silver negative, that I 100% made myself, through a loupe on a lightboard and for the way that same negative makes a contact print that nothing else in this world can match...for the fact that the negative will be right there, in a file that I can retrieve for years without worrying about power failures, drive corruption or 'bit rot.' (despite the risks of an airplane crashing into my darkroom and destroying everything). For these reasons and many more that can't be laid down in words, I make no apologies for my love affair with film."
Clay Olmstead: "Digital gear makes you insecure. If you're not on the bleeding edge, you're envying those who are. If you've just bought the latest body, your lenses aren't up to the job any more. If you upgraded lens and body, you paid way too much. It's no wonder that some people go around all bent out of shape."