Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I went back to cross process film!

My title is a lie. I am trying to give you a wrong impression that I am a veteran in film photography. However, I know you won't be easily fooled like many others. Just to share a little about my background, I've never used a film camera in my entire life and I have absolutely no passion in film photography. Basically, I've never owned a film camera myself or load a roll of film or process any B&W film before. It was until 2003(I could be wrong) that I bought my first digital camera. If you want to categorize me, you can safely call me a digital photographer.

There are a whole lot of debating articles in photography available in the internet. Such debating articles revolves around issues such as "Film vs Digital", "Nikon vs Canon", "Rangefinder vs SLR", "Artistic vs Non-artistic" and so on & so forth. I have both read the articles & have also been personally involved in discussions with friends regarding all these debates. After digesting others' opinions & experiencing this hobby myself, I have since reached my own conclusion.

Lately, the debate on "Film vs Digital" bothers me most. It bothers me that many film shooters conclude that shooting with film is far much closer to being an artist compared with shooting in the digital format. The shocking truth is, never have I expected to see the effect of this debate worsen to the extent of even breaking up friendships. Friendships are broken just because of the differences being shared. I have consulted & befriended a few photographers who still persistently use film. I must say I truly admire their experience in film & their humility. The beautiful porfolios they produced 10-20 years ago while digital cameras were not available then,are simply stunning & really put many present day digital photographers to shame. In my opinion, these friends who produced beautiful film shots simply let their works sing out the loudest about the beauty of film photography. Their discipline in carefully composing & metering each shot is what seems lacking in today's digital photographers. With such convincing works I see from them, never has it stirred me to go into the argument of "film vs digital". These are humble and quiet photographers who just enjoy their photography hobby or profession without emphasizing on film being better than digital, or film photographers being more artistic than digital photographers.

On the other hand, I have also encountered photographers who professed overly loud about their experience in film. They mimically claimed that they used to shoot film, that they are the veterans in photography, and that they have recently gone back to shooting film again, just because they see some real veterans doing so. They boldly commented on the tone, the grain & the high latitude of film as if they really know. They talked about "true" photography only if you are carefully metering a scene, intensively manual-focusing & pre-visualizing each shot before pressing the shutter. They complained & insulted digital photographers for having a lack of discipline & concentrating too much on the gears & so on....... Yet, the pictures they produced, whether it's from their film cameras or digital cameras today, are so weak to back up their claims.

What went wrong here? The answer is, they do not have convincing portfolios to back them up. On the surface, they do look & sound like an artist who is so stubborn in shooting film, but the real difference is, they are lousy film shooters or even lousy photographers, film or digital. Instead of earning respect by producing convincing portfolios, they used their lips to force their opinions regarding film and photography as art on to others. Still, to me, the saddest thing is, they actually really think they are "good" in film photography or they are the true artists.

Film = Arts? Not necessarily. The beautiful pictures shot in film that contained so much sentiments and moods that words can't describe it all, actually requires more skill to master than what these lousy photographers can achieve. A lousy digital photographer will not overnight turn into an artist just because he starts shooting film. A photographer who sucks at digital photography is likely to suck at film photography too. It is all the same. This is true. If you are a film shooter, be humble. Before you go about ranting film is more superior than digital, you better come out with impressive & convincing portfolios. If not, you will most likely become a joke in others' eyes and you don't even realized it.

I am sharing my thoughts here out of spontaneity. I do not mean to put film above digital, digital above film or give higher regards to film than it already is. My reason of sharing my opinion is to remind myself not to let my lips sing about photography louder than my works. If you don't like my pictures, it's alright. I have never claimed to be an excellent photographer in the first place. But I do have many happy clients. If you find me bias & you have a different opinion, that's ok too. We are all entitled to that freedom.


David Chua said...

Great post! You truly n accurately pointed out the delusion of some self-claimed photographic artists who only look down on others but themselves. It is foolish to let so-called arts affect friendships.

Anonymous said...

As a photographer who learnt on film, processing and printing his own pictures who then went to digital and is now dabbling back in film, I am 100% behind your views. In the end, it doesn't matter if it's film, digital or any technology. The picture is what matters in the end. I've seen stunning pictures taken with an iPhone, a disposable film camera, toy film cameras, EOS 1DMkIIIs and cheapo digital point and shoots.

Some equipment is more geared towards a kind of pictures, but it's the person who makes the picture in the end. A good photographer can make pictures with practically anything... all gear does is to make it easier/better.

For that matter, although I enjoy manual photography because it slows me down to make more considered pictures, I also acknowledge, use and appreciate it when I stick my digital on Intelligent Auto and let it make the technical decisions and I concentrate on the composition and timing.

Lee said...

Well said!