I heard that question, well, I heard this particular paraphrased statement, recently: “I wish film photographers would take photos with substance.” Well, we largely did over the last 150+ years. For the last 20, it’s largely been digital photographers dropping garbage work all over the Internet. Once-great photography sharing apps like Instagram are now littered with shitty digital work. Don’t believe me? Search for HDR Sunsets. Hell, search HDR anything in the last 20 years. No film. Just digital.
Let’s not pick on dige too hard. I shoot a Leica M240 and a Nikon Df. I’m not afraid of the digital medium. I am not ashamed to admit that even on a good day, on a good camera, film or digital, I’m likely to make a series of unfortunate shots out of a series of fortunate events. It’s the nature of the beast. The difference between me with a film camera and somebody else with a dige is that I’m less likely to bracket, shoot continuous, or chimp. Yeah, I said it. No back screen chimping! So, we’re actually more likely to make good photos; we’re limited on shots, film isn’t cheap, and we have to do a lot of work behind the camera.
I watched a video where somebody opined that film photogs shoot way too much old stuff, like we’re in control of antique equipment so we photograph other antiques. That is just idiotic and untrue. The last photo of an antique I took was of an old truck and I took it with my Fujifilm X100T! Most film photographers photograph the same subjects as everyone else, we’re just often more deliberate as cost considerations influence our shutter presses. That’s a good thing and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Sifting through 36 unique shots for keepers is much easier than sifting through 36 of the same image to find a keeper. Now, in fairness, the digital photographer doesn’t spray and pray. I can confirm. When I’m shooting digital, I am certainly more cognizant of the freedom of the tech, but I’m also aware that I don’t want to spend half a day in post looking for and editing photos. I’ve rarely taken multiple photos of anything. It’s just too confusing in the darkroom (or Lightroom) to have to pick favorites of duplicates.
So why this nonsense about substance? I feel it’s multi-faceted. First, the lomo community has largely eschewed traditional photography discipline to live a “Don’t think, just shoot” life. It’s amazing. Yes, there are a plethora of really banal photos, but there are exponentially more amazing, beautiful photos with light leaks, light streaks, alternative films, double-exposures, film pushing, pre/post dipping of the film in other alternative processing chemicals, the list is almost endless. Second, I believe the issue is they eye of the beholder. The person shooting digital and shitting on film isn’t interested in film as a medium. In fact, quite a few folks I’ve spoken to have flatly rejected film as a dead medium and a waste of time. Obscene observation and insulting to us film photographers, fine. The photography that turns off one person may, in truth, be inspirational to another. William Eggleston is a prime example. His work, panned at the time by critics as banal, vacation style photography was the first color photography at the Museum of Modern Art! Also, he shot film. * drops mic *
Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is all a film-vs-digital argument. There are plenty of those on the Web already. This is more of my take on the film-vs-digital debate and why it’s (a) fucking stupid and (b) fucking stupid.
Go. Make. Photos. If you like dige, go shoot dige. If you like film, go shoot film. Either way, shut the fuck up and worry about your own crappy photography, and I’ll worry about mine. We are all into the same hobby. If you want to argue, pick religion or politics and leave photography out of it.