Photo by Ray Potes

After writing about darkroom stuff it made me think about when I started to cross over from shooting film to digital. I found this thing I wrote in 2013 about experiencing psychosis from the switch. Click here to read that.

For me, when I started hanging prints from digital cameras next to prints from hi res scans next to prints from the darkroom and pretty much no one could tell or didn’t care to notice, that’s when I started thinking it was ok.

Sure maybe people did notice and didn’t want to say, but at that time people around me had no problems telling me a photo I made didn’t work, or if I should have chosen a different cover for a zine, or if I printed something too dark or too light, or whatever. I always invited comments and criticisms. Yet no one ever asked what cameras or film stocks. Those conversations happened at coffee shops and bars with other photographers.

I would think at least the gallery people wanted to know. When you sell these things you always put down the paper stock which sort of implies the process. Like this, “Silver Gelatin Print” or “Digital C-Print”. Technically, you could use “silver print” for C-Print because there is silver in a chromogenic print. But no, it wasn’t a big deal what you shot it on, no one cares. I guess that’s what goes in the “Artist Statement” but I never had one of those.

Maybe some folks just assumed that we were all film and all darkroom. I could see how that assumption was made because we published black and white zines and had our own black and white lab.

Also, some of the photographers in our early issues like Vic Blue and Brian David Stevens were submitting digital photos. I didn’t know till years later and published them with the same assumptions as every body else.

I am not telling you to cross over. Do whatever it is you love to do. But the game has changed. When people say they love film, sometimes they are referring to camera mistakes and darkroom misshaps and imperfections. When I was in school, that was an F grade. F for fail. We had to make perfect negs and perfect prints. Same when working in commercial labs. So for some the switch to digital meant getting closer to that perfection, easier.

Just saying and sharing my thoughts. I know some will want to battle about it. For me there is also cost and convenience factors. What do you think?

8 responses to “Crossing the Chasm”

  1. Tom Souzer Avatar

    I haven’t shot film in years…I guess I’m someone who embraced the digital technology with open arms. The last time I was shooting film was in college like 10 years ago. After that I got an iPhone and that became
    my everyday camera. I kind of dropped out of photography after that and when I came back to it 5 years ago and I couldn’t believe how far digital photography had come. I had thought about shooting film and developing at home but tbh I didn’t have the time to do all of that. Any free time I had I wanted to be shooting. I didn’t want to spend time scanning and cleaning the negs etc. once I found out about silverFX I was completely blown away and super happy with how images turned out. Big props to people out their still shooting film, making prints, and taking awesome photos. It’s super rad that people are doing that. Much respect. it’s great photographers are out their using what they want to make a photo whether it be digital or analog. It’ll never matter to me what was used as long as the photo makes me feel something. Nice post Ray, I’ll stop rambling now haha.

  2. Steve Hampton Avatar
    Steve Hampton

    For myself and many this commitment to analogue photography is all about one thing, process. One can argue that in the art of photography there are 2 main elements, the finished product and the journey you took to get there. Not saying that digital photography doesnt have a journey to get to a finished product but there is no denying the increased tactile and skillful process that is required to achieve a beautiful Silver or Chromogenic print. This being said it is very obvious that shooting film has become a “trendy” thing and has increased in popularity in the past years, which is great. But remember the most fulfilling aspect of analogue photography is the process from releasing the shutter to hanging you dark room print. If your workflow is just shooting a roll and having it processed and scanned by a lab and then only viewing it digitally, well, then, you’d be better off just shooting digital.

  3. RZZ Avatar

    Haha thanks Tom. I think there is something to be said about th action of shooting vs. crafting. Also something about being in the business of communications and the speed of getting ideas out. Now I am rambling again.

  4. RZZ Avatar

    Steve, thanks for your comment and I totally agree. The main reason I kinda went overboard when writing about darkroom stuff was because of the fact that a lot of photographers have never been in the darkroom. Even 10 years ago when working at a commercial lab, some of these big name photographers I was working with somehow have never processed a roll of film or used an enlarger before. I also met this girl recently who only shoots black and white and only shoots 120 film. She gets it processed at a lab, no proofs or prints, just a CD of scans. Then it goes to Tumblr or Flickr or Instagram.

    I cannot tell anyone how to run there life, but I told her she might get more out of it if she tried printing one time. She says she didn’t have time. I mentioned digital cameras and photoshop filters, she didn’t want to hear it. That’s when I got confused.

    I guess that is the point of these 2 posts. I wanted to say what “photography” was for me years ago, and what it is now today for me. I know it is different for everyone. And it will always continue to evolve.

  5. Andy Avatar

    I agree with Steve… process is the reason I shoot film. Like many, I started out shooting film, and as digital came to fruition I switched over… almost unintentionally. Many many years later, I found myself shooting for a living… but something was missing. I was spending a lot of time in post making my digital photos look like film and thought… why not just shoot film again? What I found was that film brought the process back that I thought was missing… and a level of complication back to photography that my creativity was thirsty for. It just felt right.

    However I have to shoot digital for work. There is no way around it. Things happen too fast, and everyone needs these images yesterday, always. So I dual-shoot a lot of the time. What I’ve learned though… is that for me personally… it comes down to how I want to remember the moment… or how I want that moment remembered. Oddly enough, I wrote an article about it on my site last week. It was an epiphany for me, my creative process, and how I want to try and tell a story. I realized it’s okay to navigate between both worlds the strengthen your visual narrative. I think the fact that Hamburger Eyes has been using both is a testament to that argument.

  6. Andy Avatar

    In case you’d like to read more about my take on it…

  7. RZZ Avatar

    Awesome Andy! Thanks for your comments and your article is great with great photo examples.

    That is how I transitioned too. I started shooting digital for clients. But still shot film for myself. I started figuring out how to make my digital photos look like film. But it does feel disingenuous. Just shoot film for film look, right? This is why I don’t spend as much time on post processing any more.

    I will say I stopped shooting film when I lost my darkroom in late 2014. We couldn’t afford rent anymore, so there is some heartbreak involved and I just embraced digital as a personal evolution. Maybe one day I will go back to it.

    I also wanna say that I still haven’t found a good pace or stride exactly with digital. For film, I always had a point and shoot as my side arm and a collection of Nikon bodies for my main shooters. Once the F100 came out, that became my main.

    For digital it’s not the same. The dslr is too big, and the point and shoots are not much better than your phone nowadays. So it goes phone as the point and shoot, a micro 43 camera for cruising, and a dslr for work work. I like it for now, but I know this is not the perfect set up.

    I think it will soon be mirrorless full frame for everything and then phone. More on this later.

  8. Reuben Radding Avatar

    Hey, coming to this conversation late, sorry…

    Back when Ray shared my conversation with him about “new questions,” this is exactly what I was reacting against. Maybe it’s because I’ve already been through this in the music world (magnetic tape vs digital audio recording) but I see this as a really unimportant issue. Use whatever you need to use to do your thing, or to stay productive. In my case, as pleasurable as it is to be a film photographer, I don’t need it in order to do what I do, and shooting digital helps me be productive. Not having the inhibition of cost per frame, or the drudgery of scanning, or labor of the wet darkroom keep me shooting prolifically. I need things simple. I need one workflow. My client work and personal work can be done with the same cameras and workflow.

    I agree with Ray about the mistakes or vulnerabilities we see in a lot of new analog work. Sometimes I really miss the weird mistakes or surprises of the analog process, but my intention was always to make good craft, and I get close to it more easily and more expediently in digital.

    But to get back to what I was saying in the opening paragraph, to me the question is sort of self-evidently answered, and the more we stay locked in dilemmas about format we stay stuck in surface issues when maybe there are deeper things to consider. Thinking about what my pictures can say and how sequences of them can offer something new, even to me, is where I’m trying to put my energy. But, it’s way easier to argue about formats and focal lengths.