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Camera Sense Archives
Old-tech Photo Buzz Kill?
by Richard Rivera
Whenever I hear photographers mourn the loss of the craft of photography or the fact that students don’t know how to use film, I wonder if the tech of digital is a greater obstacle in learning photography than the drudgery of processing film ever was.
Or is the “real” tech of digital just ignored because it is so easy to aim and press the button?
Today's camera or smartphone does so much automatically—no need to measure with a light meter or adjust shutter speed, aperture, and focus accurately to obtain an excellent exposure—that it is easy to assume that the craft of photography is being lost to time because of technological “advances.” But ask yourself, how many master printers did you know in the days of the photochemical process? Was every photographer an excellent darkroom printer producing outstanding prints? Or were they just good enough? I would venture to say that although many dabbled in photography and “messed around” in the darkroom, few were able to produce amazing prints exactly as they visualized them. And although we did have a great deal of respect for the craft of photography, for many of us producing a remarkable print was often just out of reach.
There is a joke amongst professional photographers today—actually more lament than joke—that everyone with a smartphone is a “photographer.” The ones most cursed by this phenomenon (and who have my sympathy) are wedding photographers, who work hard to fulfill their client’s wish only to have a horde of standing guests with smartphones commandeering their view.
To put it plainly, shooting with a smartphone does not necessarily diminish your images, nor does creating images with a Nikon D4S necessarily endow us with godlike powers. They are merely tools. One will clearly produce better images, technically—but that says nothing about the power of the image. I don’t say this in defense of, or opposition to, smartphones or digital photography. In this era of high-speed communications and high-speed results, photography has also fallen victim to the faster-is-better way of thinking. It is the zeitgeist. What is consistently true, however, is that in using either methodology—photochemical or digital—it takes time, hard work, and dedication to achieve outstanding results that not only masters the technology, but also fulfills an artistic vision.
June 30, 2015
Plate, 2015 by Richard Rivera. Taken with an iPhone
Dishrack, 2015 by Richard Rivera. Taken with an iPhone
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