Posts Tagged With: art

Photography: The Craft

I made a recent observation the other day, almost an epiphany. It changed the way I saw photography as a craft, and not just a medium. For the past several years, I’ve found myself in a creative rut. I tried shooting new subjects, new cameras, even tried different art forms like drawing and painting. Nothing pulled me out of this rut. I did shoot some film during this period, but only developed the rolls, and only turned some of the image into digital files for editing. I then realized what I was missing, the actual craft involved in photography.

I am “classically” trained in photography, with a BFA in photography. I went to college when film was still the defacto standard, and digital was not something to be taken seriously. Oddly, at the time, I suggested that as artists, we should embrace the digital format. I was the only one to hand in projects completely done in a digital workflow. But I also spent hundreds of hours in a darkroom, developing film, and using enlargers to create prints. It was this process, that I equated to the physical craft of photography. And I realize today, it is what is missing in my art.

I don’t believe it is nostalgia, as I continue to return to film every year or so. The look and feeling of film is unmatched. The physicality of holding a fibre print, with deep blacks that are not based on inkjet technology, is wonderful. The entire flow with a 35mm or medium format camera is slowed down and seems more deliberate. The process of loading film, shooting manually, envisioning the image in your head before pressing the shutter, even the decision to push or pull the film, choice of emulsion or developer, all add variables to an image you would not see, till after the final wash. It was this physical, hands-on approach to photography, that made me feel as if I was creating art.

With digital, it all seems too simple. Not to say there is no room for digital photography in fine art, there absolutely is. For better or worse, digital makes photography accessible to everybody. Anybody can press a button and have a nice digital image. The problem for me, artistically speaking, is that it requires less hands-on time. Shooting, and composing is the same between the two, but there is no developing, or in the case of actual darkroom prints, the manipulation of light. Modern photographers push pixels, and have instantaneous results. To me, to be a photographer, you have to play with light.  Know how to manipulate it, anticipate it, and read it. Plus, a film-based workflow leaves you with a physical negative, something that is good for at least 100 years. There is something very satisfying about that; a permanence in a physical object, which can be seen generations from now. Unfortunately, digital has not reached a point where it is truly archival.

It is in these little negatives that I think the magic of art is created. The emulsion captures a specific time and place, the light changing the physical form and shape of the emulsion, to give us an image. A negative truly is an actual record of an event, touched by the light itself. Whereas digital is a machine’s interpretation of light, removing us further from the creation process.

For myself, I need to feel physically connected to my work, to make both cognitive and subconscious decisions throughout the creation process, before I can say a piece is truly unique and personal. Digital will continue to dominate what I do, but film will be there, to allow me to practice the craft I learned, and the true art medium I work in.

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Re-visiting the Old

It is ironic that I find myself drawn (again), to film photography. There will always be something about film, something magical for me. The discovery of toy cameras, makes this discovery of serendipitous images, even more alluring. It’s like finding a little treasure in a pile of images. It also ties into this post, and a new direction for my blog.

As my last post indicated (3 years ago!), I’ve been busy settling into a new home. I’ve also been busy exploring other art forms, both photography and otherwise. After this divergence, I’ve returned back to photography, with the lessons of this experimentation. Much of the time has been spent understanding the concept of “art for the sake of art.” But, also, trying to create meaning with art. I’ve found that the discovery of meaning, can be found through creation. And sometimes, art can be just that. Art.

So I hope to return to this blog, and talk less about the technical, and more about the process of creating art, showcasing what projects I am working on, and new discoveries I’ve made as an artist.

The biggest realization recently, has been the creation of prints. Photographers don’t print anymore. They post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, and that is their only medium to showcase their images. Unfortunately, the computer screen does not match the fidelity of a masterfully printed photograph. And you really can’t hang a computer up on a wall.

I’ve decided to start printing my images again. I used to use an Epson 2200 printer, but ink was becoming cost prohibitive. (I was able to create a series of brightly colored 13″x19″ prints, which I still enjoy today) Instead, I’ve decided to outsource my printing to a couple different candidates (BayPhoto, ProDPI, and possibly, Adorama). I hope to continue to build up my print library, and keep an ever changing photo display in my home studio.

Here’s to a new direction in my work, and a new direction for this blog!

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