Exploration


Last night I went to my daughter’s high school ‘back to school night.’ School started about two days ago so it was really early this year. One of the classes she’s taking is photo one. We were told that the kids will be using film cameras and “getting wet” learning about photography.

I have to say there was a time I believed this was the route to go if one really wanted to learn about the art but as I’ve thought more about what photography is as either a journalistic medium or artistic medium I feel less and less that using film and a wet darkroom has much value at all unless it is artistically justified.

I’ve been shooting pictures for over 40 years so I have shot a lot (and I mean a lot) of film and spent 100s of hours in a darkroom. I still have a wet darkroom but only use it for things like Palladium printing.

Why is film necessary to learn the nuts and bolts? I use manual on my digital camera all the time setting the f-stop or shutter speed. I think depth of field and focus are not film related. Negatives use to be made on glass or prints made directly on tin.

Film photography is expensive with the rise in silver prices and the chemicals are toxic presenting a safety hazard and a pollution problem. Learning “How to See” is not a product of the medium being used it is a product of the mind. Brain wiring is made stronger by repetition. Practice. Shooting a 100 photos will advance you better in the art than 24 shots at a time.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love film cameras. They themselves are works of art but is its use necessary to learning the art? I think not.  Art isn’t about cameras or paints or film or paper. Art is about seeing what is real and interpreting that for others to see. When the camera clicks you are trying to create a statement that may or may not be directly in front of you.

Take for instance this tree photo. When I took the photo I really didn’t “see” what I was shooting. I never used it so it sat on a hard drive for a few years until one day the art exposed itself to me. That’s one reason I say, “Never delete a single image, it just may take awhile to process.”

A few weeks ago as I was working on a piece of writing this tree opened up to me. Now I see what is real so I can show it to you. Maybe it’s time to think about new ways to teach this art. You think? I mean, I’m just saying…

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