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Thursday, 13 November 2014


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I may never be old enough to watch kids that age without cringing with embarrassment.

It was ultimately unsatisfying, because the subjects never see (and react) to the negatives or prints of photos that they have taken. It's like the script was written by someone who has fallen into the same limited mindset as the gurning kids he is filming; the director is gratuitous, yet incomplete. I can only take so much navel-gazing about the YouTube generation and the always-on, never-unplugged culture it has spawned, even when it does pertain to an avocation that I enjoy.

They're not real children.

Thanks Mike,

You started my morning off with smiles and lotsa laughs. The best way to start the day.

I've got to be honest - I kind of agree with the kids.

I'm in my late 30's. I grew up with film. I liked taking photos. But I hated the waiting.

Those poor kids didn't even cover my main gripe with film - that you have to use all 24/36 shots before you get them developed (or you're wasting money).

That was what I really hated - you buy a roll of film, you take a few photos you really want to see, and you now not only have a wait but you have to take more photos.
Precious photos, that cost money. I like taking more photos, so shouldn't mind - but the fact that film imposes it upon me can feel crushingly onerous. It creates a curious obligation to take more photos, simply in order to see the first fruits of the film.
If you're on a budget, it's awful.

Oh, and that obligation to take more photos? Well, remember old albums and film? Organising it all was impractical, to say the least. A professional photographer uses whole rolls for one shoot, but a hobbyist might have multiple events & subjects on one roll of film. Finding photos a couple of years after you've taken them becomes a burden, too...
Digital photography gave us so many more options there, all more usable and effective than the days of film. (And all optional, too.)

I got back into photography because it went digital. Being able to take just one photo, or 100 photos - and have them all available the moment I got home - was the main reason I came back.

What I didn't expect when I came back to photography is that these days, I find myself taking more photos with my phone. Not photos that matter - not what I'd call my "photography for expressing myself". But my phone has freed up my camera to do the photography I want to do, rather than the casual photography I feel socially compelled to do. And it's also become a great tool for photos that I want to take to be used in reviews/discussions on the internet, because auto-upload features mean the photos are on Flickr/Google Photos/Facebook/$YourPoison within seconds of me taking them. That handling of the transfer process for less important photos leaves me more time for the important ones.

I couldn't go back to film. Not permanently. Maybe as a brief experiment, but not permanently.

The convenience of digital is insidiously attractive...

Mike, terrific post.

"so when did real cameras come out?"

Cute kids. I saw the episode they did with manual typewriters...it was quite funny, especially to me for I type letters regularly using those old machines and prefer film cameras over digital.

Joe C.

My favorite line:
"When did real cameras come out where you didn't have to do all this??"

A wonderful commentary on how the definition of "normal" changes, and changes quickly!

Makes me sad to think of all the time and energy I wasted on trying so hard to make portraits on film... Oh, wait!!! That's all there was. If I hadn't used film I would have nothing from those thirty five years of looking and appreciating what was in front of my eyes. Only memories. Okay, I'm happy with my bargain.

I find myself with more than a certain measure of sympathy for these kids' reaction to the idea of having to take film to be developed.

Well, after all digital cameras are more convenient...

From a kid standpoint, there is indeed very little that can be of any interest in an old film camera.
And for a grown up too. Otherwise we wouldn't be talking about this right now.
In the movie the kids haven't been exposed to any of the advantages of film, and have no clue about how to relate to it. Cameras used to come with manuals that people would actually read. And they were not meant for kids.

But I find that the movie raises a whole bunch of interesting questions. A few random ones:

What is the real "advantage" of film? Does it help in a specific creative process? Does it contribute in establishing a mindset that helps the photographer?

What is a Photographer? What is Creative? How does a kid relate to that?
Is there anything in digital technology that is specially hindering a creative process?

Does a creative process require discipline? Is restraint to the instant gratification of our impulses a help to creativity? How?

Does everybody need to be creative? Is that why most people take pictures?

- Fabio

Geee, thanks Mike!!! You and the kids make me feel even older than I am (if possible). At 13 I was taking pictures, processing them, and loading cassettes from 100' rolls. Signed: your friendly ancient photographer.

My daughter might not know how to load film, but has seen slides, negatives and a variety of old film cameras, so she wouldn't be as funny as these kids.

But I do remember showing her an old rotary phone we keep in the basement for power outages.
"What do I do ?"
"Just dial 1 ..."
She puts her finger in the hole over the 1 and looks at me.
Since then, she's asked me to bring up the old phone to show a number of friends, and has one friend in particular who always finds an excuse to make a call from our house (and asks to use "that old phone").

Only an hour to get it developed? I used to mail mine in and wait at least a couple of weeks to get my pictures back.

I suppose the old cameras are just for us old timers.

Disappointing, the video never described how you make a phone call.

"The devil camera." That was awsum!

I could just imagine the kids trying to figure out a 1920's folding Kodak with 616 film.
Or trying to load a Leica 111c
Or getting the film on a Nikkor reel, in the dark.
What joys they have missed.

One step forward and two steps backward. We've got phones now that can take and send pictures around the world in an instant, yet they're being used to text; an activity that requires full attention and both hands to do. I think George Eastman would get it, but Alexander Graham Bell would be very confused.

"How many pictures do I have that I can actually hold? None."

At least they didn't have to coat the plates and make 10-minute exposures.

"This magical roll..." I tottaly agree.

I know exactly how those kids felt. I grew up with a Bakelite Brownie and 620; on seeing my first 35, I couldn't for the life of me figure out how you were supposed to get the film out of that stupid can and into the camera. (I was seven at the time.)

Instant gratification vs anticipated expectation. They don't know what they are missing!

Interesting (and fun). I've come to digital technology from middle-age onwards (and i do love it); my daughters adapted to it in their late teens and early twenties, although I suspect their thought processes were set in the pre-digital age; but these kids have never known anything other than digital.

Give those kids the chance to make a pinhole camera and take a picture with it, I bet they'd love it.

Yes, they are not real children they are drama school types pretending to be cute and disingenuous. In fact they seem so highly coached and edited that very little of this rings true.

Very retro--looks like Kodak film.

The nice thing about kids (and adults) being initially disappointed that they can't see the pics I just took of them with my film cameras is that the process of getting to know them and taking pictures of them isn't sidetracked or derailed or distorted by them looking at the pictures I just took of them.

Apparently Keira Knightley feels the same way

Insidious business, this digital stuff.

I was a photojournalist for a daily newspaper in NJ starting in 1987, so I have a lot of film experience and changed over to digital when that change came about.

I find digital to be a great medium for recording, like commercial work and other event photos.

I find film to be what I like to shoot, especially a Rolleiflex or Hasselblad, for photos of friends that I want to keep. Moments that matter. Special images.

They both have a place, but film is definitely a more cherished medium of the two. And the cameras are much more of a delight to shoot with.

I consider myself an artist, and not really a working photographer, but over the years my hard drive is now home to about 4TB of photographs. Since I am not working, I tend to shoot in bursts as my inspirational level rises and falls. Since my favorites are always "in my head", it is quite easy to find them using Lightroom. I never discard anything—not even my junk. One of my great pleasures in life is looking at old images that I thought were useless a few years ago and seeing them in an entirely different way. I love that feeling of re-discovery and it makes the hassle of keeping every frame more than worthwhile.

Painters said the same things about (film) photography. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

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