The image above is important for a couple reasons, first and foremost it is an homage, albeit one of coincidence and convenience, to a college professor of mine and a series of photos he has being doing for a number of years. If you’d like to scratch the surface of some of his amazing work click on Stephen DiRado’s link to the right, and checkout his dinner series. My image is on many levels inferior, in quality and depth of meaning, to that of Stephen’s images, but it is novel in that it is the first image I have made on my “new” camera, the second reason. I recently acquired a 4×5 wood field camera(photo of camera below), and a few lenses for a good deal. Think of the kind of camera where the photographer has his head stuck under a black hood. I just couldn’t pass it up. It uses 4×5 inch sheets of film providing a wealth of photographic information, to create, what I hope will be wonderful and rich imagery. Many fellow photographers have shaken their heads at me as to why I would invest in such a camera, when the world of film is slowly becoming extinct, as evidenced by the recent retirement of Kodachrome. To which I have two responses:
- Digital simply hasn’t shown to match the quality and depth of a 4×5 or larger negative. Well perhaps it has, but I can’t afford to drop 30k on such a camera system. I have yet to see prints made from a digital camera that match the quality and richness of photos/portraits taken by the likes of Richard Avedon, Ansel Adams, or Stephen DiRado. I might add that the aforementioned photographers used/use 8×10 view cameras. Imagine looking at a negative as large as the biggest print the average person makes from their digital camera.
- To simply slow down. The simple act of taking a photograph with the camera takes minutes not milliseconds. I can take a hundred photos with my Nikon in the time it takes me just to set the thing up. Although I’m still getting use to sticking my head under a hood and focusing, tilting, swinging, and changing film backs; the act of using the camera forces me to connect on a different level with the image and or subject; rather than framing, zooming and pushing a button. It’s a reductionistic correlation, but a necessary one to help rid me of my habit of overshooting assignments.
That said, I still wouldn’t give up my digital cameras in a million years, or turn my back on its ability to let me create images that would be impossible with a large format camera. Each is simply a tool to which I turn when trying to practice my craft of capturing light. Just as I add lenses and flashes to my camera bag to add depth to my photographs and expand my photographic vision, I also need to combine and return to the roots and traditions of the photographic process, and fuse it with modern digital techniques and processes.
I hope to add more images in the near future, but I must now wait to develop the film myself, with B&W, or mail it off and wait a minimum of a week between clicking the shutter and seeing the image. With the removal of the instantaneous feedback of a digital-LCD to see my photos; I now get this upwelling and sense of wonder and excitement with having to wait and deal with the anticipation of getting to see a developed negative or slide. Not to say that photographers didn’t use to have that, but try finding Polaroid film; and if you do, you won’t want to pay the insane asking price.
In the mean time I will continue to be entertained by relearning how to take a photo…stay tuned.