Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Photographic Preservation

I like taking pictures. I like being able to freeze a moment and show that moment in a way that was unknown to you until you saw it with the intent on taking its picture. I think objects in pictures are like people. When you know someone is taking your picture, you change. You smile. Or try to smile. You move your body. Adjust. Re-adjust. Objects are the same way. I believe that an object is just an object until you take its picture. You have captured a moment and suddenly the subject has a story. It has meaning. Its stillness is what makes it alive. This paradox is what makes photography so thrilling.

The life in pictures is one of the reasons I am so critical of my own photography. I hate any picture that I take that looks like a postcard instead of what my eye saw or what I felt at that very moment. A building is a building is a building. But when you take its picture, you are giving it a chance to pose. To change. To make itself look thinner, the light shine brighter, even maybe that it has a better personality than is really showing on the outside. You want to capture that moment when your object posed for you.

I firmly believe that the integrity of a photograph is captured the moment the shutter closes. The integrity gives the photograph its soul. And without that soul, your photograph is empty, lifeless. The photograph is created through a camera and the emotions of the photographer, not a computer. There are many modern avenues by which to give your photograph a false sense of soul. You can make your skies bluer. Make someone's eyes greener. Make stars twinkle. Add objects/people that weren't in the initial shot. But this is not integrity.

This attitude is one that I have been struggling with since the beginning of the digital photography age. I resisted the digital change for quite some time. It never felt as "real" to me as film. I began my photography in middle school learning on a manual Minolta. We learned about composition, f-stop, shutter speed, focus and light. We learned to take a picture with 100% responsibility for how that picture turned out. We spent hours developing film and photographs in a dark room and learned to love the smell of developer chemicals because it reminded us that we were creating these images with our own hands.

The more I study photography, the more excited I get with the aspirations of becoming a better photographer but am also saddened by the amount of artificial work that is now included and expected out of "good" photography. Digital photography itself is a fantastic revolution. It has brought the ability to take really great pictures much closer to mediocre photographers all over. But just as me behind the wheel of a Maserati may be super sexy, it doesn't make me a good drive, the average person behind the lens of 2 grand digital camera doesn't make them an artist. There is still much to be learned, and that learning is not done in front of a computer. The emotional aspects of a photograph are lost when there is evidence of how much it has changed. That object or that person or that moment is no longer yours, but has been masked and diluted into something flat and artificial.

For this reason, I was fantastically excited when I saw my dear friend Laura's camera. I researched all about this camera and bought myself one for Christmas. It's a 120 format film camera. It's called a Holga (read the reviews). I have yet to take any photographs with it, mainly because I'm so used to digital photography that the 16 frame limit makes me a little nervous. I have to choose my images more carefully instead of snapping 30 identical pictures of one flower. Also, I wouldn't be able to show you any photos at this point anyway since I don't have a scanner. But stay tuned as I'm really jazzed about using this camera. It brings photography back to where it should be (for me anyway) instead of mindlessly sitting in front of a computer editing photos. Computers give me headaches. I'd rather get a headache from taking pictures in the sun all day.

I would like to end this really long opinion piece with a disclaimer. I do not hate digital photography. I love the ease and practicality of digital photography. And I'm in love with my digital Canon SLR. I do not hate the ability to touch up a picture. But I think it should be restricted to minimal functions like black-n-white or cropping or red-eye removal and not be used as a basis for artistic ability (unless you are creating blatantly digital designs, that's okay). So if I've offended anyone, that's fine. You can opine on your own blog too.


  1. It's awesome that you got a Holga! Since beginning my obsession with the Rockstar Diaries, I have been looking into analog cameras. I told Christian I want one for my birthday {although he didn't seem to understand why I want a camera when we already have one, not to mention one that requires special film}.

    I'm excited to see your pictures.

  2. That is amazing! I've been toying with the idea of getting a pinhole camera and seeing what I can do with that. I can't WAIT to see your pictures with the new camera, I bet they're going to look fabulous!

  3. Very interesting thoughts. And i think i like what you are saying - and agree.
    Good luck with the new pictures and camera. it'll be awesome to see what you can do with it!!

  4. I came here through a link on David Smith's blog from last year. I am so thankful to hear someone else put digital photography in the same place a I do. I tried to explain my position a few weeks ago, but was not nearly as well spoken as you. Thank you for putting this out there.
    The true art is in the Photography.


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