So yeah, I got the opportunity to kick it at the Iowa City Arts Festival this weekend. It was the motivational kick in the rump I’ve been desperately needing. There were tons of beautiful bits of photographic excellence I had to pry my eyeballs away from. But I have to be honest, as far as the photographic art was concerned, I was completely drawn to all things analog!
Certainly we stumbled across beautiful, vibrant, yet somehow obviously digital images that blew me away. And as I study them I can sort of see and sense the “fakestagram” type app or filter or plugin or whatever that was used to “create” the feel of an old skewl print. Admittedly, I’m drawn to the imagery as I should be; the style, the form and the look is familiar and inviting. And of course I’m not about to say there is anything at all wrong with this approach. The expression of the artist comes across easily. And even us mere mortals clicking away with our cool phones and compact digital cameras can mimic this look. The classic style is, well . . . classic, and needless to say, it’s intriguing.
But then we stumbled upon a special booth. It was populated with all highly detailed scenic landscape and cityscape imagery. We found intimate spaces around urban corners where light was caught flirting with texture. Content that could be captured with film or digital. BUT all of this brought to us in beautiful ANALOG. That’s right folks, silver based black and white hand printed on fiber paper. Then in another booth we found similar compositions, but even larger and selenium and brown toned to boot.
Understanding the darkroom printing process; the devotion, the attention, the patience, the love that went into those pieces takes me back. Long nights, red lights, fixer on your fingers, an idea in your mind and that music in your ear that brings it all together. Please understand there is value in this artistic approach. A purity that is hard to quantify.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the Photoshop and the reality of digital. Digital is practical. Digital is fast. Digital is easy. Digital allows us to bring our very own art into our individual worlds, and it has never been more simple! Every single day technology brings us closer to emulating the old masters that pioneered this ability to stop time and capture light; to hold it in our hands and share with those who care to see it.
I ask you simply to recognize this fact:
FILM IS NOT DEAD! Nor do I believe film is irrelevant. Sure film is on life support as the manufacturers discontinue emulsions, but it hasn’t flatlined yet. Film is a process that mates conception with image acquisition and delivers a moment in time frozen and presented in a way that can never truly be duplicated. There is beauty in that. Yeah, we can generate a copy, but the original hand print speaks to me . . .
Instagram is a fun phone application that renders images similar to the camera that is tucked away in your parents closet. It’s a cool look, it’s fun, it’s easy,and you should take advantage of this awesome technology. But don’t forget, THERE IS A COOL RETRO CAMERA IN YOUR PARENT’S CLOSET that can be even more fun when you’re ready! Porter’s staff is ready, willing and able to show you the way.
Here is a sample of the cool old cameras I have found and attempted to return to service . . . I know, I know, I probably have a camera hoarding problem!
So, for those of you out there who took the time to read this far, what have we learned?
- Find inspiration in your community by attending and supporting local arts events.
- Acknowledge and appreciate traditional print process and accept their unique value.
- Have fun with nostalgia, and give film a chance (it makes you slow down)!