Rambling Notes


According to Wikipedia, Harry Callahan "... left behind 100,000 negatives and over 10,000 proof prints." 
And Garry Winogrand "left behind nearly 300,000 unedited images, and more than 2,500 undeveloped rolls of film."

Compared to the older, chemical-based process, digital photography places no rational limit on the number of pictures that may be taken. The only real expense is a minuscule amount to store the digital files. And there is no limit to how many pictures you can post on the Web; the only cost there being access to a computer connected to the Internet.

So we are all making pictures, storing them away, posting them on the Web—and leaving them there to accumulate. One of the more popular picture sites, Flickr, says it now has over four five billion images that people have hosted there, and in all languages, it is estimated that there are over one billion blogs.

Now I'm as guilty as anyone: since switching from film to digital in 1999, I now have more than 5,500 finished, good pictures stored (but not printed)—easily more than the total of my good stuff on film from the previous forty years and more.

As I mentioned in my Paris 2007 blog post, people rarely take the time to fully digest a photographic image, most often no more than identifying the major objects in the photograph. Others have noted this as well, including David Hockney in his book, Cameraworks. However, Hockney blames the medium and tries to modify the process to force viewers to spend more time looking, while I believe the problem—and the solution—lies strictly with the viewer: they/you/we must learn to see with our eyes, not with our minds (i.e., words), and slow down.

But we, the profligatographers, aren't helping matters by flooding the blog-o-sphere.

So I periodically rip up my blogs, deleting all or most of the images I posted there. You, the viewer, will have the responsibility of taking the time to really look at the pictures that are up, because they will be gone before long.

Yet sometimes I put previously posted pictures back up, because I want to look at them again. Never can tell...

Progress Interrupted, Then Resumed…Differently

From the time I developed my first roll of film in 1957 (I was 12), photography was the primary interest in my life. I studied it, practiced it, made my living in various aspects of it… and then, about 1987, I stopped.

I haven't developed a roll of film or even been in a darkroom for the past 25 years.

I didn't stop seeing pictures but stopped the camera/film/darkroom/paper process because, by that time, I could look at something, visualize how it would appear as a photographic print, and that was sufficient.

I have never been interested in showing or selling what I did to others.

By 1980 I had begun exploring computers. Usable digital photography was still almost 20 years away but I could see where it could go, and I watched and waited with growing excitement, because that is where I wanted to be. During that time, I moved into two-dimensional graphics on the computer (scanning, vector drawing, et cetera). Everything then was crude, hard, and very expensive, but it kept moving forward. In 1988, I shifted my work-life from jobs related to aspects of photography to computer graphics, word processing, and editing, where I stayed until I retired in 2007.

In 1999, I bought my first digital camera and dove back into photography, but this time the computer was my [virtual] darkroom. The early cameras required both color and digital chicanery in order to pull out images that pleased me. As the technology—both in the cameras and computers—expanded, I had to do less, but could do ever so much more, and with far greater subtlety.

I have found my nirvana.

Now, many photographers (and camera-enthusiasts) seem most reluctant to accept, much less embrace, the technical and creative advantages that digital photography offers. The reasons are theirs, and I don't think it would be polite for me to guess, but I did wonder why I wasn't with them.

Then I got to thinking about what I'd done, as I've described above, and I realized that perhaps I am no longer a traditional photographer—but a person who uses the camera as simply another tool in the process of making pictures. In truth, I now find that most of my creative effort takes place in the virtual darkroom, with the camera work more a gathering of raw material.

Well, that isn't exactly right, but what I have been able to do is to take full advantage of the technical excellence in the modern digital camera to the point where I can all but forget about process—eliminating nearly all conscious thought and concentrating on observation and unconscious reaction with the camera. Not perfect yet, but very, very close.

Interesting quotation from W. Eugene Smith:
"Negatives are the notebooks, the jottings, the false starts, the whims, the poor drafts, and the good draft but never the completed version of the work…"

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