C'mon Man: Part I - RJ Wilner

This post is the first of what is likely to be a handful of OpEd type posts I'll make about things fairly commonly heard from photographers that strike me as a bit odd and deserving of a smidgeon of ridicule.....which almost assuredly will ruffle the feathers of a few photographers who say such things. But please understand, I am a devout social libertarian...i.e, as long as what you do/say/believe doesn't adversely impact others, have at it. If I had the gift of gab of the writers for The Onion, that is the tone for which I'm shooting  with these posts. But I don't, so all I can say for each premise that strikes me a bit odd is...…"C'mon Man".

This first post is directed at the following premise I've heard multiple photogs say...

"Shooting film will make one a better photographer because it forces us to slow down in the field and think about the image more deliberately" (or some similar rationale). 

The irony of this one is that virtually every photographer has, at one time or another, had someone say to them....'Your images sure are awesome. You must have a really nice camera'  , or some variation thereof. And almost invariably, we'll all mutter some sarcastic retort (half under our breath) along the lines of 'Yeah, it's the camera that makes the image.  I have nothing to do with it.'  And if we haven't actually said it out loud, we've almost certainly had the the thought pass through our minds. As well we should!!

The camera is nothing more than a tool....no different than a hammer for a carpenter or a brush and a tube of Burnt Sienna is for a painter. Granted, the camera is a more complex tool, but simply a tool nonetheless. The camera doesn't 'know' diddly squat. And it matters little whether the tool used is a contemporary DSLR, an iPhone , an 8x10 view camera, or a 1970's model 35mm film camera. They're ALL nothing more than that...tools. The camera doesn't know to be out early in the am to capture the wonder of Mother Nature's glorious sunrise. The camera doesn't 'know' how to frame a composition, etc. It's up to 'we the photographers' to garner the skill to make those things happen to capture a quality image.

Thus far, I suspect I'm on pretty safe ground in thinking most all photographers reading this will be nodding in agreement to everything said above. But here comes the irony.....

While we all might agree the camera is just a tool, it seems to becoming more and more common for a number of photographers to spout the 'films forces me....' premise  of this post. And all I can say is.....C'mon Man! 

You're telling me that, if an 'outsider' mistakenly attributes the quality of an image to the quality of the device used, that we're perfectly correct in getting our dander up in pointing out the "it's just a tool" hypothesis. But when gathered in our own little discussion groups, it's also appropriate to suggest the shooting of film will make us better photographers than shooting digital.(?) Seriously?!?!?!

Let's be honest here. A process (workflow, whatever) is also just a tool. The process of shooting film doesn't 'force' us to do anything. There is absolutely NO reason we can't take every bit as much time, and be every bit as deliberate, about setting up the gear and lining up a composition while shooting with a DLSR or iPhone as we might be 'forced' to do when shooting film. If we choose not to do so, it's purely on us and has absolutely nothing to do with the tools used to capture the image. The entire premise just 'does not compute'.

I am in no way knocking the shooting of film. Back in the day, I shot film for a long time, learned a heckuva lot, and enjoyed every minute of it. The featured image for this post is a (poorly) scanned reproduction of a film shot I captured in, I don't know...probably 1980ish (+ or - a couple yr). It was big fun at the time.

If you want to shoot film, I say great...go for it. It's not my thing any longer, but can certainly understand why others enjoy it. And there's no reason to rationalize it. 'I want to' is all the reason needed.

Just don't try to sell the world on the idea that the road to becoming a better photographer is paved with Tri-X rather than any contemporary DSLR. To that I can only say....C'mon Man!  What controls becoming a better photographer is the 8 or so inches behind the viewfinder...not the process or equipment utilized. Anything learned shooting film can be learned equally well shooting digital. If slowing down the image capture process and capturing fewer images helps you learn more efficiently....DO IT...with your DSLR. There's nothing stopping you from doing so. It's simply your choice! And you can learn every bit as much, and become every bit as good a photographer, with a digital device in hand as you can with a Minolta SRT-101...or whatever film based device you choose to shoot.


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