Posts Tagged ‘film’

I was reading quotes from famous artists, and one of them said something to the effect: “When I go to the canvas with a preconceived idea, those are usually not as good as the ones where I go with no idea what I will paint, and just paint.”

Effectively, going to the sandbox to play.  Because creativity is play.  Creative activity.  The ability to make something out of nothing.

I’ve been taking that to heart and using it for a photography project.  The idea is I have a model, I have outfits, and I have a camera, but I don’t have a subject in mind to shoot.  I can create anything I want.  And so far, what I’ve created isn’t at all what I would have thought to create.  It’s in the creation that they came to be.

I’m working on the photographs for a book project, so won’t post any here, but there is certainly a way to work, as this old photojournalist has to break his thought process and just get in the sand.  And play.

And play.

Sometimes the first photo doesn’t seem so inspired.  Shoot it anyway.  It may lead to another photo.  And that one may be the inspired one.  The inspiration may come when you stop thinking, stop looking for it.

It’s crazy magical that way, the way it works, the way it manifests.

There’s something to it, when the muse is allowed to play.  Pick up the camera, look through the viewfinder, and shoot something you’ve never shot before.

Create a scene.  Play with light and your subject.  See what you come up with.

I’m using a vintage Mamiya C330S twin-lens reflex medium format film camera, just to add to the process, on a tripod, carefully framing and exposing the negative.

Oh, let the muse play!

 

I asked my Father today if he remembered life before television.  He said he did, and it was a world where a lot of people read books and newspapers, played games and got together with friends and a barrel of beer.

The reason I asked is because I realize that since the invention of TV, and people watching hours a day, we’ve now become a society that lives on screens.  I wake up to my iPhone and iPad.  I read the iPad with coffee, then off to a computer where I work editing photographs and marketing photography.

Or I have a photo shoot, and I make the photographs and check them on the camera’s screen.  Finally, import them to the computer for editing tomorrow.

I wrap up the day, and it’s back to the iPad.  Or I write at night, like this post here, on my laptop either at a pub or at home.

I’m not a TV watcher, but if I were, I would probably switch that on when I got done writing, and finish up the day with an iPad in bed.

What happened to us?  We live on screens.

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I think that’s why I’m drawn to film photography–I get to create with a simple ground glass for viewing the image (on a 4×5 or 8×10 view camera, a Rolleiflex or a Leica 35mm).  It has no electronics.  It’s physical, just light being focused onto film.

Same with hand-printing photographs in a darkroom, it’s hands on, and nothing electronic to it.

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I’m betting that’s why some people like gardening (I am not one of those people) but it gives them the chance to work with their hands and dirt to create something beautiful.  Can’t get more “down to earth” than that!

Same thing with nature lovers and landscape photographers (I am not one of those either).  Staring at the sky and trees is a welcome past-time in this digitally screened-in world.

Anyway, I wonder what all these screens, with living in a screen world, is doing to us, how it’s affecting our culture, our friendships, our lives.

Are we better off than 80 years ago, when all we needed were friends and a barrel of beer?kids1 (2)

True story happened yesterday.

I met a young couple, mid-20s, and we were talking about film photography. I told them how they could get one roll of black and white film from Mike’s Camera and shoot one photo a month in an old Minolta SLR they had, and after three years they’d have a wonderful surprise waiting for them–all the photographs they forgot but the moments they got to relive.

ml-mom-car1That’s the power of film and removing the immediacy of the results. You have a chance to step away and come back to the moment later, it’s not all complete right now.

(To me, that’s what makes photography special, and why I still shoot film for portraits of family and friends, and what’s missing in today’s phone-snappy world.)

So, they said they wanted to do that, shoot some black and whites and print the photographs.

The couple said they were recently married, and they have exactly three photographs from the wedding, and a hard drive of all the photos, which they said has several hundred pics–too many and that they never look at. They wish they just had a photo album like their parents do.

How many wedding couples want “all the photos”? Why? What are you ever going to do with them? Get some prints, put them in an album, lay it on your coffee table. Done!

More is not better. Printed photographs can be shared without screens, and are more fun as real photographs, just like holding a book still has appeal in the days of e-readers.

Print your memories. Share your stories.

If you need help, have a hard drive of useless images and want some prints, let me know: FamilyPhotoAlbums.net

Here’s what one North Carolina photojournalist created by going back to one roll of black and white film.

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LA Friends: I have a photograph in the Lucie Foundation Analogue Project with a gallery opening Thursday April 11, 6-9pm at ROW DTLA. It’d be great to see you there.
 
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Unless they can see the difference.

Many people cannot see the difference.

So, many people don’t care what camera you use.

The camera doesn’t define you, or make your work.  You do!

You define your work.  Here’s proof.  This photographer shot 100 different cameras, and yet the work all looks similar.  Because it’s not the camera.  It’s the vision.  It’s the person behind the camera.

Photographers tell us as much about themselves as they do the subject they are showing.  For essentially they are saying, “This is what I photographed, this is what I made.  This is what I like, what I value.”

Look at the photos, ideally on a big monitor and hit full screen at lower right.  It’s such a great display.

When I show my street photographs, they are a reflection of what I see and think are storytelling images.  To you, they may mean something entirely different or nothing at all, based on your life experiences, what you like and what you relate with.

We all get to finish the art for ourselves.

At a talk about a book, someone commented to the author their take on what the book meant to them, and the author corrected them, saying that’s not correct.  The person commenting protested, “Who are you to say what it means just because you wrote it?”

Another good collection of photographs is by Jason Lee, who I recently found out about online.  I knew him as an actor from My Name is Earl, but not as a photographer.  He shoots several types of film, from 35mm up to large Polaroids.

 

From the work I see, I’d suggest he’s a romantic, into nostalgia, and maybe a bit of a historian.  He likes things that are incongruous.  The work certainly has a theme.  Many of the images share a similar look–do you agree?

I see a big difference in the look of film versus the look of digital.  And I get lulled at times to just use the Nikon DSLR and a 20mm–I feel I can do anything with that, it’s quick and easy.  It’s always ready to make an image.

Except it can’t make film images.

And what I make–that also defines me.  And you.

This spring, I will be shooting more film than I have been this winter.  Both 120 and 4×5. Because that’s what I like.  That’s something about me.  And you’ll be able to notice that about me in the work.

Or maybe you won’t.  But I will.  And some will.   Regardless, it all comes down to the story I’m telling–what is it I did with that film medium.  Photography is a vehicle to take someone somewhere.

We have to take them somewhere interesting, while revealing a bit about ourselves.

I traveled this month, a road trip from Colorado to California, and if you know me, I pack a variety of cameras.  I don’t go anywhere without at least one Leica.  And I brought a Rolleiflex for some portraits, and at the last minute put a 4×5 camera and some film and a changing bag into the car.

Plus the Nikon DSLR and three lenses, because I knew I would be picking up some freelance shoots in Los Angeles.

So, film, what is it good for?  On this trip, absolutely nothing / listen to me!

Because I was shooting street photos in Vegas and LA, and all along the way through Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah, and the Nikon with a 50mm or 20mm is perfect for that.  Quick and nimble.  Grab shots.  Instantly ready and can keep on shooting.

I came back home and put all the film back in the fridge.  Hopefully it enjoyed its trip.  But I thought about why I didn’t shoot any.  And it comes down to purpose.  I shoot film to MAKE photos.  To create a photo story on film or a portrait.  Film is for those family members and stories I want to make that are the most important to me.

For me, digital is best for grabbing shots–not making them, but TAKING them.  They are in front of me as a documentary photographer.  I’m not one to wait at one location for planets to align–elements to form a perfect composition in front of a mural, for example–that’s not my style of street photography.  I don’t stand still at all–I walk and watch and shoot when something grabs my attention.  When I see a story.  Then I grab a shot.

So, I guess you can tell what happened–I didn’t make any photographs.  I took images of the scenes before me.  Good documentary photos, but not made, taken.

That’s what digital excels at.

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A funny photo, a good street photo, but a documentary photograph taken, not made.  I was at the right place at the right time.  And had the reflexes to grab the shot.  But I didn’t create it.  Hence the use of digital medium, not film. (Nikon F610 50mm f1.2)

Film is for, I realize, creating something.  I don’t just pull out the 4×5 and see what catches my fancy.  Not at all.  I have to go out and create something.  That’s what that beautiful large negative is for.  Purposeful photography.  And photographs made on film take planning.  I can’t just show up in a town I don’t know and see something I can make a photograph of.

So, I end up taking photos of the scenes before me.

I’ve been working on some fine art images the last few months, and I realize the difference between a nature photo by an artist Sally Mann and one by a nature photographer John Fielder is that one is made, and one is taken.  To me, there is a world of a difference.

The artist must make something out of the materials at hand.  It’s about vision.  And how they turn their creation into their finished piece.  It may not be literal.  It may not be fully realistic.  Artists are visionaries.  What they show tells us about them.

The nature photographer captures the magic in the natural world, and depicts it in all its full wondrous splendor, colors saturated for maximum impact (and sales).  Technically perfect, bursting with color, nature taking all the credit for the display, the photographer taking all the credit for capturing it.  But it’s not fine art.  It’s commercial art.  What they show is a wonderful display piece in a family room that tells us about nature.

Most people would rather hang a Fielder.  I can appreciate that.  But there’s no denying the mastery of Mann’s artistry.  There’s currently a landscape exhibit at the Denver Art Museum through September 16th featuring a couple of her hand-printed images that are quite beautiful and the exhibit is well worth seeing.

For me, film is Mann.  Digital is Fielder.  One is for making art.  The other for creating a salable product. Mann’s may hang in galleries and museums, and private galleries of those who collect her work, but ultimately, Fielder has the image that most people would like over their mantle in their mountain home.  (If you want one, they’re available at his online gallery.)

It’s just that I don’t have a mountain home.  If I did, and I could afford it, I’d choose Mann’s.  (She’s also made a wonderful body of work photographing her family with a large format camera, and all her work inspires!  I don’t think digital could’ve made those photographs.)

Guess that’s why I bring film with me.  I never know what I may find to make.  And there is an amazing sense of accomplishment when the opportunity arises.   When the picture lends itself to film.  Film photography takes a plan.  I need to make better plans, because next time, I’m sure I will take the film cameras again.

There’s such a joy to making a Rolleiflex portrait.  Or one on 4×5.

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My Father, on film with my Rolleiflex, out to breakfast with me on my last road trip home.

Film, what is it good for, absolutely something–photographs I make!  But I have to have a goal and a plan to make them, otherwise, the film and film cameras are just along for the ride.

Portrait of a neighbor, at 100 years old.  Leica M2, Summarit f1.5 Lens, Kodak Tri-X Film.  The Wise Photo Project

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