Everyone is different.
I feel so old sometimes saying it... But when I was a kid (said in shaky old grandpa voice) we had film and developers, you had to be part craftsman, part magician, and part artist to be a photographer. None of this digital mumbo jumbo.
Ok, snap to back to reality.
I LOVE digital! I will never shoot another piece of film in my life. I shed not a single tear over that. It taught me SO MUCH, but I have absolutely no regrets about tearing out my darkroom. Over the years of working in labs and doing my own work, I can't even guess how many thousands of rolls of film I've processed. Not having to smell those chemicals, not having to spend a day developing sheets, or rolls of film, not having to use a zillion gallons of water to wash prints, etc. etc. etc. is liberating.
It was indeed an art. The one thing that I do regret seeing more of is prints. People don't print out as much of their work now, so much just lives on screens, so little is made, well, real... for lack of a better term.
For a long time I thought of image making much like music making. The photographer Ansel Adams famously said, "The negative is comparable to the composer's score and the print to its performance." Sure it can live on a screen, it can be a bunch of zeros and ones on a hard drive somewhere, but it never felt real to me that way. Maybe real, but not finished.
When you get a handwritten letter in the mail from a friend, does it not have more value than the flood of messages and emails we receive daily?
I think my appreciation for works on paper is to blame. There is something about holding a print in your hands, not a tablet, or a phone, something delicate, that IS the thing, not the display of the thing, that holds a special place to me. I like good paper. The weight of it, the crisp feeling, the sheen and surface characteristics. So when you craft something that is then printed, made real, and you see all of your work come together... There is that WOW moment again.
There's that romantic feeling back to the darkroom days of the print coming up in the developer, seeing it come to life, then going from the safe light to the room lights and seeing that shiny wet print hanging from the end of the tongs glistening with new life. I remember those moments, that WOW, that realization that I created this image. There were a lot of those moments over the years. With my return to school, change of careers, growing family and photography on hold, that magic was put away. In the last year, I've begun printing again. Almost all of my printing was for jobs. Portraits and commercial work mostly, sure some art things for myself, but little prints here and there to test things and see what they looked like in print.
This past week, I had a meeting at an art gallery. I had to prepare samples of my work for review. Now before, I was a small print kinda guy. Even shooting large format film back in the day, I would almost always make these tiny intimate little pictures on 8"x10" paper. For this review, I was printing in multiple sizes but many were on 17"x22" paper this time. Seeing my work printed on a larger size brought back those WOW moments and got me thinking about going bigger and bigger in the future. But more than anything else, it really reminded me that at the end of the day, I still view myself as a craftsman, an artist, as well as a photographer. I love creating things, especially beautiful things. To take a bunch of materials and turn them into something beautiful that will be cherished, is really a powerful experience for me.
So here I am, holding one of my 17"x22" prints. I haven't shown this series of underwater images yet, but thought I'd share this one for now. Seeing it on the screen was something, but seeing it brought to life, made real, was better.
Now go make something that inspires you...
Have an inspired week! :)
p.s. If there's something you make or have a story to share, I'd love to read about it in the comments box below. If you enjoyed this post, I'd appreciate knowing it by hitting the little like button in the bottom right hand corner over there. >>>