I haven’t really reached the point in my life where I would say I’m an experienced photographer, but I would say my knowledge extends that of a point and shoot camera. Photography, despite what some have told me, is an absolute art, but the digital world has taken something away from that art that I miss, even though I’m not really old enough to miss it, per se. Thankfully I have the awesome opportunity of being in my third film photography course (one being from high school, and now I’m in my second here at Roberts) and I think I have figured out what’s been missing.
Film photography is the closest thing I do to what I would say is real art. Real art takes technique, knowledge, and a certain appreciation for its history, what ever it may be. Lots of people have asked me why I put so much time into learning film photography when I can just take the same picture with a digital camera and skip the pain of developing the film and all that. I always have the same answer: you really can’t understand how to take a good picture digitally until you fully appreciate all the work and care that should go into taking that same picture on film. This knowledge of how to handle film in the camera and in the darkroom is really what makes the difference between Joe Somebody’s “Vacation Pix” from their trip to Yosemite and Ansel Adams.
With a digital camera, it doesn’t matter if 80% of your shots are blurry, too dark or too light, or you just forgot to take off the lens cap (which I do frequently). You still have good pictures that you can filter out at no cost to you. That’s why digital is so convenient, it doesn’t matter if your not a fantastic photographer. If you take 1000 photos without really composing a shot or adjusting your settings, you are still bound to end up with some pretty nice looking pictures. If you had a film camera and you tried the same thing, you would just be throwing away money and time. You don’t get a re-do with your film camera. You can’t just “delete” the photo. That’s it, and if its blurry, Photoshop is going to be pretty useless.
When you use film, you have to take your time, decide if what you are shooting is worth using a whole frame for. If it is, then you need to figure out the lighting, do you need a tripod, can i get this shot focused properly? Once all that has been thought of and the shot has been taken, its time for the dark room. Once your there, hopefully the developing goes well, and a few hours later you might have one excellent print. I’m inclined to think that anything that takes that much time, skill and patience is more art than anything else. That’s not to say every print is astoundingly beautiful but it holds a certain value, if only to the photographer.
That’s why I do film. Film has taught me how to take better pictures and that more does not mean better. I’ve figured out how to take an everyday hobby and turn it in to a passion and that, I think, is what makes all those hours in the dark worth it.