I grew up with a dark room in my house. My dad was (and continues to be) a black and white film photographer. He hasn't sold many of his prints (by choice - he says that he knows himself and that his passion for the medium would be greatly diminished if it became a job or obligation), but he takes it very seriously. And although he owns a digital camera and a phone capable of taking pictures, he refuses to use them for anything beyond capturing everyday photos of family and "non-serious" occasions. In his opinion, when you're creating art, you use film. Period. I'm not sure if he knows what Instagram is, but I'm 100% certain that he would laugh it off. He respects my love for digital photography (which includes my iPhone), but also feels that it's a completely different medium, full of short cuts that can too easily take away from the photographer's vision. The process of developing film, alone in his darkroom with his work, is meditation to him, and the act of over-editing by digitally manipulating images or (gasp!) quickly applying Instagram filters will never be something he practices.
Many film photographers share this opinion. And when it comes to using phones instead of DSLRs, many serious digital photographers feel similarly. But where is the line drawn? Where do we make the decision to look beyond the equipment and processing to the simple fact that perhaps capturing an image is an art in itself - a way to save a moment, through the eyes only of the person snapping the picture, and to evoke human emotion through an image?
The rush of new technology that has enveloped our society, and the endless platforms where we can instantly share photos, may seem incredibly modern. But it's really not new. Throughout the last century advances in equipment (like the first affordable Kodak cameras 100 year ago, or Polaroids in the 1970s) has made the art of being a photographer available to everyone. Amateur photographers have even evolved into professionals because of this easy access. And even though taking, editing and sharing a photo with thousands in a matter of minutes (or less) may be individual to the present time, it's a concept that has, in various ways, been around well before most of our lifetimes.
All of this said, I recently came across a very interesting video put together by an iPhone photographer by the name of Richard Koci Hernandez. The video is 10 minutes along, but I highly suggest watching at least a few minutes of it. Hernandez states that we should "embrace photography, as it exists now. And let's continue to find our individual voice, perspectives, stories and style, regardless of the medium." Hernandez has a huge following on Instagram. But he's also a serious photographer who spent 15 years working as a photojournalist. Oh yeah, and he also won an Emmy award for his multimedia production work, and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize twice. No big deal. Although I have a profound respect and admiration for film photography, sincerely hope that it never becomes a lost art, and do feel that it is its own medium, I agree with Hernandez's views.
click here to watch directly on youtube
What are your thoughts on film vs digital vs phone photography? Do you think they should be equally respected, or is one better than the others?
(All photographs © John Baswell. That's my pops! All rights reserved.)