So, to continue from the previous post:
Choosing something based on simply liking it, as opposed to what's "supposed" to be the "best," is an issue that interests me.
When I got into photography (here comes a digression, but bear with me), I tried various films and picked one based on the tonality and grain I liked best, even though it wasn't the "sharpest." I remember experimenting with D-76 and Rodinal and picking D-76. Rodinal was renowned for "acutance," or edge contrast, and was beloved of hobbyists; but I thought D-76 yielded better tonality and was subjectively better at rendering the volume of spaces...Rodinal looked a little "layered" to me. I learned more as I went along, picking papers and enlarger light sources and so forth based not on what was "best" in the estimation of some guru or according to general consensus, but just because it was what I liked.
The details here don't matter, really. The point is just that I tried things, looked at the results, and, as I went along, picked whatever most appealed to me. It was all done by taste. Of course I did read and do research, but where reading, product research, and learning had the most effect was in identifying things to experiment with. But my own experiments always outvoted anyone else's conclusions.
When digital came along we inadvertently created a strong culture of technical evaluation and comparison. Was X better than Y? Was Y as good as Z? That made a lot of sense in the beginning, when digital was a) insufficient and b) competing with film, and c) improving drastically and quickly. Now, many people think we've passed the point of "good enough," where we can look at pictures for what they are and not necessarily be wowed by the technique or disappointed by the lack of it. We've gotten to the point where we can go back to picking gear and techniques based on taste, and on the technical qualities that appeal to each of us, individually.
And I tend to like photographers who have a strong, recognizable taste that shows up in their pictures, too, even if their technique is not exactly my own. Street photographer Juan Buhler likes B&W tonality that looks a lot like the aforementioned Rodinal, with the middle values moved lower on the scale. It's not a look I like for my work, but he makes it work for him and it's how he sees. I take it at face value from him and I like his work a lot. Rodger Kingston's "found" photography (Rodger is a major collector of vernacular photography) uses bold colors that work together with the longer lenses he likes, to "flatten" the images into a suggestion of two-dimensionality, which lets the viewer relate the colors to each other more readily. His color palette is far beyond what I would consider—it would be excessive if I used it—but he makes it work, and in fact his pictures wouldn't work without it. Kenneth Tanaka's clean, classic technique suits the almost architectural quality many of his pictures share, their strong sense of design, and complements the appreciative, appraising quality of his observation of cities.
All three of these photographers use techniques that are very different from each other's, but in each case their technique is subservient to the work and maybe even indivisible from it. Is any of them "right" or "better" than the others? Of course not. We just accept the work for what it is, and we wouldn't want it any other way. Whether someone uses a 1" sensor camera like Kirk Tuck has been enamored of recently, or a Phase One back, the resulting work will either work for us or it won't—but not necessarily because of technical choices. What matters is their taste in technique based on what they're trying to do and say.
What matters for each of us now is not what's "best." It's more like what each of us happens to like.
In other words, it's getting back to the way it should be.
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