Saturday, June 16, 2007

Traditionalist in digital

This almost sounds an oxymoron at worst and a contradiction at best, but really, it's very possible. Ok, well, sort of possible. Really? It's done by a lot of photographers who started with film and moved to digital camera systems, and continued their photographic style. Some of these continued the two mediums demonstrating the differences in their work. And some photographers who have never used film have begun to try to replicate film or add film to their work.

And then there are the film photographers who never left and stayed with film, never touching a digital camera, even to the extreme of still using darkroom printing techniques over digital printing. That's the nice thing about photography today, even as film and darkroom printing is fading because companies don't have the interest to continue to provide the products - they're still marketable and profitable, just not enough. But it still raises the question, in my mind anyway, can you be a traditionalist in digital?

First, I need to describe or define what I mean by traditionalist. A traditionalist, in my view, is a photographer who essentially continues the artistic expression of the past, namely the same look and feel in their style that has been the mark of photographers before digital cameras came along. And I would extend it to the time before even modern single lens reflex cameras with newer film became the mainstay in photography.

To me, a traditionalist is a photographer who simply continues to produce the same style and type of images they've always done, only different, and sometimes better, with the next technology of cameras, computers and printers. And for me, it's about doing the same photography I've been doing for decades, namely walking around photography and scenes of ordinary. Nothing artistic in many senses but simply what I see and like, and try to capture.

The difference now is that I have two mediums, film and digital, and three technologies, a series of Minolta's manual focus cameras from the SRT-series to the X-700 series, a Horseman 4x5 with several lenses, and a Canon EOS 5D digital and a EOS 1N film system. Sometimes it makes the decision of what to take a little difficult, but it's nice having the choices. Mostly, though it's either the Horseman or Canon system depending on what results I want for the situation, place(s), or events.

And my point on this rambling thought? Not much really except I get upset at the anti-film folks or the critical because it's not digital folks, and all the rest who espouse the virtues of digital technology as "the" photography. Sorry, digital is relatively new. Film and its predecessor have been around for a century-plus. And while digitial has a lot of advantages and capabilities, it's not a replacement for film, but a compliment to film.

And this is my point, digital has some really neat features, some of its own and some that can replicate film in some ways. Photographers who haven't shot film forget there are a variety of films, both black and white and color transparency and negative, from neutral to super saturated. Digital has a lot of capabilites to do similar things, black and white with built-in filters, and color with different picture styles and white/color balances.

And? Ok, not a very clear statement about being a traditionalist in digital. My point is simply about the diversity of digital, and someone like me can continue my photograhy interest, namely capture what I see, and use what gets me there, and explore new technology to add interests and express my photography in new ways. It's about keeping the old while adding the new.

And I can do that with my Canon system while learning 4x5 system. And I can still use my old manual focus system when those times inspire. Tradition and the new. Not a bad choice to have these days.

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