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G Dan Mitchell
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"One thing that we must remember. No one leaps from the womb a stellar print maker. I'll bet all of us worked a few years perfecting our abilities. We tried films, papers, grades, filters, chemical combos, compensating development, etc, etc. Why is digital any different? Why do we think that it doesn't take time, testing, studying to perfect this medium..." This is a key observation and is one of the most important among the reasons that some who cling to film say bad things (that often are quite untrue) about digital photography and printing. It is also a good reason for some who are masters of film-based photography and printing to just go ahead and continue to do their wonderful work in the way they have learned to do it. When you present a person who has completely mastered one medium to the point that he/she virtually thinks in that medium with an alternative that might arguably be "better," this person must first both unlearn their hard-bought instincts with the old medium (at least many of them) and then become a beginner in a field in which they are already an expert. I've seen photographers (and practitioners in other fields also affected by the digital revolution) come up against this challenge and deal with it in several ways. Some simply take one look at all the "technical mumbo jumbo" and say "no thanks" or dig in their heels and state emphatically that the old will always be better than the new. (This despite plenty of evidence in human history that such a point of view is very rarely correct in the end.) Others decide that they either must or want to give it a try and they dig in and give themselves over to "being beginners" as they deal with the new approach. Some don't make it. They try, they become frustrated, they give up. ("Why the hell should I buy a new digital camera, get a computer I don't understand, learn photoshop and all the rest, and pay thousands of dollars for a great printer when I can already make great photographs with the setup I know?!") Some persist and eventually develop instincts for the new process that are as sophisticated as those they had for the old, and the majority of them make the switch, don't look back, and produce truly marvelous work. It is clear that wonderful work can be produced with a variety of technologies including film and digital. As a thought experiment I like to imagine the following scenario: Photography does not exist. By some miracle, two photographic technologies appear simultaneously on our planet. One is the film/chemical photography as it exists in the year 2011. The other is digital photography/printing as it exists in the year 2011. Without the baggage of prior experience or history, it is hard for me to imagine that many would believe that the film methods were vastly superior to the digital. In fact, it is hard for me to believe that many at all would select film photography. So much of this is history. Yes, digital does not "look exactly like film" and a darkroom print looks different from an ink jet print. But different does not always mean better or worse - sometimes it simply means different. And old is not always better than new. Sometimes old is simply what we are comfortable with. Dan
Toggle Commented Jun 4, 2011 on Perfect Ambivalence at The Online Photographer
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Jan 22, 2011