Feb 25, 2005

Man Ray he ain't

Having been a celluloid and f-stop sort of photographer for years, I find it interesting and repulsive that I own a digital camera.

See, it's like this--my eldest daughter had an interest in photography while she was getting thru the landmines and grief of college, and while I had always snapped pictures as a child on up, I never got seriously into photography. At the time I could have had the money to invest in a good camera and go that route I was learning to paint, and the camera never took off for me until years and years later, watching the daughter fiddle around with hers, and going with her on what we called "photo safaris." We never found any big game, rhinos and such being rare in the Mississippi Delta, but we did take pictures of old buildings, abandoned machinery, bridges, you name it. And that planted the seed.

I bought a brand new Ricoh manual from my local camera shop, fully manual, because that was what I could afford at the time, and for what puttering around I do it's plenty good. A few filters, an ugly strap, and I was in business. Hundreds of rolls of film later I count myself as a neophyte still, but I really genuinely enjoy a good sunny day and a stroll around with the camera.

Along came the digital revolution, and me being the sort of atavistic knee-jerk reactionary that I am, I declared all digital cameras as complete bunk, decried them for having poor resolution and inadequate prints, and so forth and so on. Having fulfilled my instincts to downgrade anything new, I returned to my manual camera and my fedora. Well, nothing is perfect. Loki stepped in, and chance happened along, and I bought a little Nikkon 2.something megapixel digital from work for about $25.

And I like it.

The thing that has sucked me in is it's sheer disposability factor, which is good and bad. I can snap hundreds of pictures on it and never use a single square inch of film, and if I wish I can delete them all off just as easily. I can snap without guilt, because as a struggling middle-class artist I cannot afford to go through paints and canvases like a fool, nor can I afford to buy dozens and dozens of rolls of film to simply snap away. With my manual camera I have always been acutely aware of the need to 'get it right the first time, every time,' and I think that reflects in my photographs. You can tell that I have put thought into the f-stop, the film speed, lighting, framing, interplay of the design elements, the whole thing. I want a fully-produced well-designed photograph when I push that button, because I know I can't go into the computer and edit it.

My digital pics however show that sort of neophyte abandon that characterises so many people's holiday snaps and etc. I take pictures of fog, the cats, the fish, my truck, the kitchen before, during, and after a floor recovering, whatever and whenever the need to record a moment strikes me. And they reflect that instant gratification--most often poorly framed, blurred, ill-lit, you name it, they suffer from it. And they've been edited, too. Cropped, cut, adjusted, rotated, colourised, whatever I can do to it has likely been done, so it's not at all the picture I first took. It's cheating.

So I accept that there is good and bad in the digital revolution. I love the point-and-shoot ease and speed of my little cheapie Nikkon digital, and I like the fact that I can take dozens of pictures of my cats standing around in the office window talking to Dannon outside, but I understand the fact that the rest of me knows that I'm not taking 'real' pictures. And I would never dream of taking important pictures with it, both because of the poor resolution and the fact that the prints will not be as good nor as long lasting as the for-real-deal on Fuji paper from the developers. I know equally that if i wanted to I could go out with a credit card and purchase an 8 or 9mp Nikkon that would be top end professional grade, would cost me about 2 grand, and take pictures probably better than my Ricoh, but that impact would still be there--point and shoot and point and shoot and shoot, shoot, shoot, then throw away the images.


What scares me the most is that one of my major excuses for not using digital was that you could not do black and white with a digital, but now you can. What excites me most is that digital black and white still SUX. *lol* Manual rules! Long live manual!

So. Having said all that, I'm going to go write something with my fountain pen now, maybe wear my fedora while I do so, smoke a pipe the whole time, then take the whole shebang on the road in my antique truck.

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