9 February, 2006
(This grew in the middle of my previous post, but I think it’s its own thing.)
When I picked up the camera this time around, I came with a few biases. One is a preference for film. One thing that sold me to get back into it all last year was someone telling me about holgas. I knew from my Paris Canon shots that even a crap camera could do cool things with film, and hey a $20 medium format camera? Hook me up. (How lazy am I though, I still haven’t picked one up….)
Another is a bias against modern cameras. I remember learning in junior high to meter with my palm, set my own aperture and shtter speed and focus for every shot, develop my own film and make my own prints. (Thanks for teaching us all that, Mr. Lieberman! Although I bet even you use digital now.) Having a camera do that for me (at the artistic level; snapshots? whatever) feels dishonest as a result. I mean, I’ll take it, cause I don’t remember anything from what I learned then 😉 but I have been making an effort to get inside my camera’s head.
Related to this is a bias against Photoshop. (Question for my photographer/sysadmin readership: which is worse, sendmail or photoshop?) I don’t feel I have the time to learn a big bloated software program for my already-lots-of-time-wasting hobby, and more seriously, it falls in the same category for me as everything that’s not the “M” setting. (However, I will say that now that I’m actually USING Photoshop via the simplified interface of Elements, I see it more as the digital darkroom than I did before, and have even used it for visualizing some abstract ideas.
These biases may read as snobbery, but they’re not rooted in some perception that Things Were Better In The Old Days, or Digital Is So Cheap It’s For The Unwashed, or anything like that. It’s about reliance on electronics being a shortcut to mastering machinery. I was a late convert to mp3s (hell–a late convert to compilation CDs vs mix tapes) and while I don’t have the resources to fix my own cars, I am more comfortable owning a car that can be fixed with a minimum of electrical gadgets. (Also, I drive a manual.) I trust mechanical controls because I can see them and manipulate them myself with far less expertise and equipment than the equivalent ability in electroncs would require. Maybe I’d feel differently if I were a programmer or electrical engineer. But I’m not.
I certainly don’t feel that the world would be better if more people had my attitude. This is not about what anyone else should do, but about me and what I do and why. It seems to me that pro photographers are very excited about digital and the things it makes easier, and were I doing this for money I’d very likely feel the same. But I’m doing it for love, and because I love using my hands. Electronics can make me feel like I’m only using my index finger.