I just uploaded my first pic for the self-portrait series on Flickr…I know, it’s not exactly new. I can’t even lie and say I’m wearing a wig and put on a bunch of makeup to appear 7 years younger. The excuse for the moment….it’s been two really late nights this week, my camera battery is dead and charging for tomorrow, i don’t have one of those fancy fruit computers with the built-in camera, and I gotta go to bed soon so I can be half-way awake when I return to corporate America tomorrow.
But, there’s something important about this picture despite its silly content – I connect to it, I have memories of creating it… I spent hours upon hours working on it, and watched it come to life before me. I took picture after picture of myself, not knowing how it would look once developed, and hours in the darkroom manipulating it to my liking.
When I studied photography in college, it was much different that what that means to study photography today. While composition and Adam’s Zone System was discussed, time in the dark room was one of the most critical aspects of bringing a successful picture to life. I did not want to study photography at first, but it was required for my major. However, I fell in love the first time I took a blank piece of paper, dipped it in developer, and saw it come to life. After spending time just developing the film, I ( not some technician!) was now able to produce an image, right in front of me! It was an amazing feeling. I loved the lack of control my archaic darkroom gave me, as I never knew what to expect when my pictures started to appear. Who knew how all the images I had just shot would come out? The standing, timing, waiting, and anticipating – the beauty was in the struggle and I loved it.
Needless to say, today I could prep that picture in a quarter of the time. Crank up my first born child Nikon D80, set the timer, view the result, drop into photoshop, change levels and all else, hit print. Done, ready for the next.
Anyway, the point I was getting at to tie it all in – I think I really put a lot more thought, love and pride into my photographs when it was less automated, and there was something great about holding it in my hands as it came to life. Don’t get me wrong, digital is great – more affordable and much better on the lungs, and the instant gratification of knowing what you have captured and how it turned out…but still, I miss a little the days of mystery and surprise, and little bits of joy in the process. I will continue to shoot digital as now I love knowing if I’ve captured a shot, but a little piece thinks how things everywhere are leaving our hands and going to the screen.
As Jessica said, she will always have books. She’ll continue to read online – it’s an amaziing source for stuff beyond words…but some of us gotta hold that book, smell it, and leave it on the floor to trip over late at night (I don’t collect books, I amass mounds of them). Likewise, I eventually bought a collection of dark room equipment. I’m not using it, but someday when I want to watch all that silver-gelitin stuff bring something to life, I’ll have the choice…and as long as I can choose, I’m at peace with digital and the world of the past.