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Film and Digital Photographers

September 08, 2013  •  Leave a Comment


Written by CJC

Way before the debate started on film vs. digital, when digital cameras were not even invented yet, painting vs. photography was the topic of the day. Painters at first claimed that photographers were ruining the visual art medium. Little did those elitist snobs know, that photography was actually broadening the scope of what they defined as visual art.

Like any developing visual art medium in its infancy, it is almost certain to stumble upon a few hiccups before it truly develops. Painters then claimed that photographers were just snap happy idiots going around the world taking pictures of objects of all sorts, sizes and shapes, without ever slowing down and asking themselves, if it’s artistic? Painting was and is a tedious art form, not to mention expensive and very time consuming.

Well fast forward to the early 2000’s and replace painters with film photographers, and replace film photographers with digital snappers. It’s the same old story rehashed and labeled differently. Now the photography purists, usually middle aged men that long for the good old days, say the exact same things as the snobbish painters of before. They say, “ Film is a more pure and authentic process, shooting film requires more thought, technique and talent “. People never learn do they?

The whole visual art community should embrace every development that passes its way, because at the end of the day, it will all be for the better. Both camps can learn a lot and implement techniques to their advantage.

Digital photography has made photography accessible to everyone, this comes with the disadvantage that people endlessly snap away at whatever they see. What these budding photographers can learn from the dusty old farts is, that patience is a virtue in photography.

Learn to take your time and observe, in all the chaos of snapping away at everything you see, you might miss capturing that fickle moment when all elements are just right. One great shot is worth more than a 100 mediocre pictures. Train yourself to think like a film photographer, that even though you may have a memory card that exceeds 10 gigabytes; limit yourself to 36 shots when you are out and about. Film photographers also have a knack of predicting the future, pause and observe your subject and its environment, compose and then frame the picture in your head and you will know in an instant when to press the shutter button. By just training yourself to keep such things in mind, I am certain you will improve in no time.

Famed street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson (HCB) fostered his profession on patience and capturing the decisive moments. Not by running about like a madman taking pictures of everything. Photographers today have all the luxuries in the world, imagine the magic HCB could produce if he had the latest Leica M to his disposal, or better yet imagine Ansel Adams with a smartphone, live weather updates, and a full frame PhaseOne camera. Looking back can teach us a lot and I suggest you do so. The latest DSLR’s can fire up to more than 8 frames a second now a day, if you manage to get a keeper, I would simply call it luck. Learn from photography’s founding fathers and how they could do so much with so little. The discipline, passion and patience of these legendary photographers are what set them apart from todays’ crop of photographers. Their ability to create magic with so little is certainly admirable; sadly it’s a trait that has not passed on to most of today’s photographers. These traits which came inherent to film photographers are things we should admire and learn from in order to better our skills.

I am sure we will revisit a similar topic akin to this in the near future, another heated debate about art and its artistic value, only this time it will be the stuck up digital photographers vs. smartphone photographers. Till then, embrace all aspects of photography, the old is capable of learning from the new and certainly vice versa as well.






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