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This letter was sent to me by darkroom expert
Dunstan Perera. It's very cutting and should,
hopefully create a stir among you
photographers. Add your comments please.
When I load a new roll of film into a 35 mm
Camera, I shoot off the first few frames. They
are blurred and shaken. Now I wish I had kept
these images. Judging by what we see, this is
in Fashion. Not only are they in Fashion, they
are blown up 3ft. square and shown in
Galleries as works of Art.
The Emperor has no clothes but no one dare
Now, more than ever before in the History of
Photography, we are producing images that
are lifeless, unemotional and downright
empty. Technique, Knowledge and Quality
went out when the last tray of developer was
thrown down the sink. What we are left with is
a new way to produce images. It is neither
Photography nor Art. It belongs to the family of
fast-food and makeover programmes on
Television. Are we entering a World empty of
emotion and feeling or at worst are we
entering a World where we are unable to
judge for ourselves.
Afraid to be individuals we follow the
"collective herd". The naked Emperor walks by
and no one dares question. It only took 150
years to kill off a priceless legacy. How clever
What does it take to be a Member of the new
Movement? A Digital Camera, an Eye, a Hand
and Computer. These are the tools of the
trade - Point, Shoot, Print! That is all it takes.
Oh Yes! There are Photographers who call
themselves Printers, when all they do is press
a button on a Keyboard and watch a piece of
paper come out of a machine.
If we are to follow this present trend, in the very
near future, kindergartens will be given
Once we decide to ignore the Emperor
anything is possible.
For the 50 years I have been in Photography, I
have seen many changes - from Glass Plates
to the present day. I learnt my craft by getting
my fingers wet, and it is still the same. I have
seen what is new, and I am not convinced. I
see what we have lost and sadness fills me.
The only hope left is to know that Photography
is practised by a dedicated few.
A profoundly beautiful craft has been
exterminated. We have to thank the "Dead
Photographer's Society" for what they left.
Their timeless images remain a testament to
their Passion and Dedication. Maybe one day
in the near future someone will open an old
book, blow the dust away and say "Is this how
they did it?" The lunatics have not taken over
the asylum. They are outside, watching the
children play with toys.
A student said "Oh yes, Fox Talbot - he is the
guy who owns the Camera Shop on the
Strand - is he still alive? A Course Leader in
an Art School said "I would love you to give a
few Workshops but we cannot pay. "If you
employ teachers who know their job, you will
not need outside Lecturers" was my reply.
We are eager to make claim to the invention of
Photography. That is as far as it goes. What
have we done to honour this legacy.
Do we love or respect what we claim? Are we
proud of it, and do we look after it. At the end,
all the hard work of the past was futile. We
have replaced Music with Noise, Art with Hype,
Beauty with Ugliness.
The only worthwhile gift we can give the next
generation is to rediscover what we have lost.
It is getting late, I must go. Have fun. Make
certain you know where the batteries go. If you
do surrender your brain, make sure you keep
the receipt, you may need it to claim the
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In short Dunstan's letter raises a very important question: Do we have a responsibility to save the photography legacy for the next generation, or are we entitled to move to digital, leaving behind all the processes our forefathers' shared with us.
Isn't this the same argument that artists (painters)used in the 1840s at the advent of photography? Yet we still have artists around, they did not all die off just because photography arrived! Just because a new medium arrives, it does not mean the death of the current medium. Live and let live, let those who enjoy digital imaging do so, and let those who prefer the old ways, be they painters or wet-process photographers also do so.
So, if I discard my digital camera, get out my old Olympus OM1 and dust down the enlarger and buy some fresh chemicals I will save the human race from a surge into ugliness.
If I throw away my digital camera I can stand tall cast off my dirty raincoat and proclaim to be an artist...
mmmmm interesting thought...........
OK I have thought long enough.....A load of old cobblers.
Sorry mate, but you are talking nonsence. Do you drive a car or do you ride a horse?
Presumably you still gather firewood from the forest too as central heating is a product of an instant ugly world.
Equipment, process is all irelavent it is the end result that counts and you as a darkroom expert must know that.
There is another thought, you have been manipulating images for 50 years so why is it quality work and art for you, but now crass and awful that it can be done easier, and very often far better via other means.
Lets agree to disagree eh!
I too have been in photogrphy for almost 50years but unlike the writter I am not stuck at the start point of my interest. I use all forms of cameras from 5x4 to digital and love them all. My job involves archiving images from the very start of photography to the present day - DIGITALLY. I am no distroying the integrity of the sometimes beautiful images by doing this am I? Come on! Wake up and smell the coffee. Not all digital photography is rubbish. Take a look at the 4 images in my readers gallery. Not over manipulated - but is it photography or is it art. I rest my case!
Having read Dunstan's letter I'm sure I hear the whispering of "Witchcraft". I am not a student of photography, more a happy snapper and one who's interest has been re-kindled through the advent of digital photography. I salute people like Dunstan who wish to continue in the old ways of chemicals....I just hope he is sufficiently tolerant to allow people like me the same latitude of choice.
If we stood side by side and looked through our camera lens, framed the shot and pressed the button we would both get the same image. You would then go and mix chemicals I would insert smart media card into computer. But we would still have the same image, yours would not show any more emotion or depth than mine, if it is lifeless and empty then we must have captured it so.
And another thought............
I lecture a bit around Camera clubs and it is always the conventional photographers that need to have an argument and want to make an issue of comparing digital to 35mm.
First it was quality, but when I pulled out a pin sharp 30*20 print from a digital file without a pixel to be seen, that tended to end that debate.
Then the anti's turned to the old chestnut "It's cheating"
In my experience the anti digital brigade fall into 3 broad categories.
1. Those who have just managed to get together a bag full of 35mm kit and a fully equipped darkroom only to find things have moved on a bit too quickly. I have some sympathy with them as I can recall the effort it took me to get the equipment together when money was tight.
2. Those who are techno phobes who think they can bring forth the end of the world by pressing the wrong key on the computer. They just need a helping hand over the basics. If my mother at 72 can find her way round emails and the internet anyone can.
3. Those who are far more interested in winning competitions and can't bear the digital upstarts from producing the same (or better) prints than them by digital means. So the obvious answer is to claim it's all unfair. I suppose I should have claimed that in my early Camera club days when my second hand Fujica SLR at 35 was up against the guy with 2000 of Nikon cameras. After all it was hardly fair was it?
I suppose there may be a 4th reason and that is the professional fear that anyone with a PC can put them out of business by taking their own home portraits and there may be some truth in that.
I really don't know why we have this debate and why Camera clubs (most do now) don't just enbrace digital as just another form of a great hobby.
Why is it the conventional photographers always start this argument. You would think they were worried about something. ! !
I got me a few camera's and I have enjoyed the challenge and sense of acheivment when , after trying to get the correct exposures and the light just right, I have finally got the image just as i want it. I'm not particularly good at this photography lark but i do enjoy it. I got a D30 and a printer just before christmas . one day over the christmas period I went up London with the camera to just wander around with a mate, visit a few hostelrys and sample the wares and perhaps to take a few piccys. This would normally result in a film or two being reeled off. 268 frames later i went home. I veiwed them on screen and printed off the ones i liked (4!) I would never have taken as many in the past but it was free, no processing to do or pay for. If digital sounds the death knell of conventional photography the long may it rest. The "new" medium has freed me from the financial constraints of burning silver film. Its a bloody marvelous feeling to just shoot frame after frame AND preview the shot a second or so later and see that you need and extra stop of the london eye at night. I would further submit that the writer of the above letter has not tried digital. P.S. EOS 3 for sale one careful owner........
Since practically the dawn of photography, photographs have been taking photos while hundreds or thousands of people have been happy taking snap. The only real difference with digital images is how easy it is to publish your snaps or photographs for the entire world to see.
If the author sees no beauty in other peoples pictures may be he should remember that beauty comes from within maybe its not the photos that are bereft of life and joy
Why have so many people put so much stock in to the art of photography being wet darkroom based? or computer light room based? Have they forgotten the pleasure of looking for and seeing an image in front of them, working out how best to frame it and at what exposure, then finally taking the photo. you can have the best dark room skills in the world but it still comes down to the latent image you put on the film or chip? Surely if you have to spend so much time manipulating the image in the darkroom to get the final photo to look right you are no different or better than the person who does it with a digital camera and computer.
Forget how it was taken and get back to the fun of seeing it, taking it and printing it. If the photo gives you a feeling of satisfaction of a job well done then it does not matter how you produced it. Digital, Computer, Film, Enlarger who cares? did you enjoy doing it if yes then great. Do you like the final print? then even better.
So come on lets all start getting back out there and just enjoy taking photos.
i suppose a good clssical photographe could do great b/w pure classic artistic photos with the newest digital camera.shouldnt he?
are we really talking about gear or about the aesthetics of the craft itself?
of course some new digital work is alike fastfood,and i dont mean it in a bad way...au contraire,what about warhol?can you imagine what andy would be doing with a mac?
art is suppose to break boundaries,to enhance posiblilities...to go beyond.
but there is also style,personal view.
i mean classical music sounds great in a compact dis,doesnit?
digital is just starting,weve seeing nothing yet
but someday digital art will equal jazz.
Actually I find it disappointing that more creativity has not been released into the world with the technical means available.
Just goes to show that being a camera owner is not a qualification.
Patience: we can't all be artists.The main thing is the fun derived from what has always been a rich man's hobby.
Methods of approach are traditionally passed on from one photographer to another.
How these are put into practice technically is not really the most important part.
Getting one's fingers wet is already a promotion; usually one starts out cleaning the studio floor (unpaid) in order to learn.
I think the guy is a luddite. I use film mostly but digital pays my wages.
Pete asks: "are we entitled to move to digital" ??
Of course - we are entitled to do whatever we want. Use what you want. If this guy wants to stay in his darkroom, fine, but I don't have ROOM for a darkroom and I don't want to spend my evenings mixing chemicals and if I want to manipulate an image on my PC and print it, I'll damn well do it.
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