Sunday, May 18, 2008

Analog Wonders and Woes

I sometimes get discouraged by the slow pace of working with film and chemistry. I am tempted by the quick and seemingly painless process of digital photography. I envy the thought of immediate feedback and the comfort of computer work. But, then I think about the process I work through and the product I create. In terms of the latter, as a predominantly medium format photographer, digital cameras still can't offer me a better "negative" than a 6x7 camera. While there may be post-production digital tools to enhance and sharpen the raw data, my negative will always have more information, and this makes a difference when creating 16x20 prints. While the product obviously matters, the real reason I don't switch to digital is much more complicated and inextricably tied to the process. Although I get frustrated by the time it takes to process film and print in the darkroom, a slower approach allows me the space to think about my vision in greater depth, to refine my ideas and thoughts. It makes it more challenging to be as prolific as someone shooting digitally, but I think the process I go through may in the end lend greater depth to my work. I guess it ultimately comes down to what I am trying to do or say. For me personally, digital represents rapid change and new technology. The intangible elements I strive to capture through my photography are less obvious, slow changes and universal threads that run through our spiritual and emotional existence. These threads are the things that ground our lives, they take time to uncover and understand. While in a technical sense I may be able to capture quite similar images with a digital camera, the process would be entirely different and thus the course and direction of my work would change with this change in process. For now, the digital process seems at odds with the subject I hope to capture. Perhaps tangentially, part of this process is learning accept and embrace a slower pace; I must be comfortable with progress and ideas whizzing by me as I take a slower, less direct path. After all, the circuitous path is where I am comfortable and where the inexplicable and wondrous are more likely to occur.