Film Photography and Bishop

In part of the reading of Bishop’s Art forum article a reference to film photography came up. This was brought up as an example of the trend of modern day artist to a fetishization of retro and what is perceived to be mediums that inherently oppose the digital.

“THE FASCINATION WITH ANALOG MEDIA is an obvious starting point for an

examination of contemporary art’s repressed relationship to the digital. Manon

de Boer, Matthew Buckingham, Tacita Dean, Rodney Graham, Rosalind

Nashashibi, and Fiona Tan are just a few names from a long roll call of artists

attracted to the materiality of predigital film and photography. Today, no

exhibition is complete without some form of bulky, obsolete technology—the

gently clunking carousel of a slide projector or the whirring of an 8-mm or 16-

mm film reel. The sudden attraction of “old media” for contemporary artists in

the late 1990s coincided with the rise of “new media,” particularly the

introduction of the DVD in 1997. Overnight, VHS became obsolete, rendering its

own aesthetic and projection equipment open to nostalgic reuse, but the older

technology of celluloid was and remains the favorite. Today, film’s soft warmth

feels intimate compared with the cold, hard digital image, with its excess of

visual information (each still contains far more detail than the human eye could

ever need)”

My ears struck up with this as I am one of the very people she is referencing on this topic. Growing up I liked photography, it wasn’t until the summer before freshman year of high school did I have a real camera. I received a Nikon D3200 from my grandmother, a fine DSLR that I took everywhere with me and spent hours learning. I would go to the library and flip through famous photobooks and try to copy the styles.

At a certain point I felt what was holding me back was the gear that I had. It was entry level and surely it was taking away from the quality of my photos. I acquired more hardware and lenses. But as it progressed I couldn’t afford at my age to go beyond the prosumer level to the professional gear. This was around the time I felt that for so many of my favorite photographers especially street photographers that certainly there was some magic to film.

From here began a long journey collecting many many old analog cameras, shooting countless rolls of film. Each format was not enough, 35mm soon felt too restrictive, I moved to 6×4.5 medium format. Then to a 6×6 hasselblad format, to a 6×7 and 6×8. I soon aqured a large format camera, a 40lb behemoth from 1988 I gladly wielded, that was wherever I could pull my car up to. No doubt the use of film improved my photography, there is a certain patience that you develop, the sense of unknowing when you shoot.

There is little between you and the scene, you don’t look down to view what you just shot all the time. When you do get to see your imagery you have developed a distance from the image. The ability to evaluate it beyond the moment you shot it. 

All this not even to mention the quality of the way it takes up the light. The hues and warmths….blah blah blah. Look it made me a better photographer, and the images I took may not have been able to be achieved on something else, something digital. But what was I making art? I mean it was self expression, but was it art of today? I am using an old process to make imagery, to craft a scene with light! No, it is art of the past.

Nobody taking film shots no matter how talented today will push the art cannon forward. It is looking back it is already done. It doesnt make me not enjoy shooting or viewing film images any less, but if one wants to make a statement to push new topics they must adopt new ways of creating imagery. The shitty point and shoot, fuzzy far away shots on a iPhone of some distant ‘thing’. Screenshots and broken pixels, corrupted videos these are the mediums of today. I agree with Butler, if we are not using the items today we will be forever incapable of making art that is for tommorow.