Transmission from JC, Class of 1988 (via f/book)

JC: As I sit here in awe of this digital machine

The beast stares back at me… and I return to a hidden voice.

The voice says: “Just shoot.”

And so, to you… I shoot, but still wonder…

How the ____ does this thing work?

JD: No way out, no way out: ya hasta read the manual-all three languages.

I ain’t no Luddite (there’s a film-free camera in my house, and the school ponied up for DSLRs for the AP teachers, and my phone… never mind that one), but I got me a 8×10. Simplicity itself, plus logical optical options.

JC: There is something tactile missing from the whole experience. Yes, it’s great that I can see my results immediately. And I never was good at keeping dust out of the film chamber, so it cuts down on having to retouch things… which I can do in Photoshop anyway (I’ll leave that for a separate rant).

Then there is the lack of cumbersome equipment and chemicals, not to mention the even more cumbersome cost associated with those things.

But…

Where are my happy accidents? Where is my reticulation- the Noble Rot of film development? Now it is all just a filter I can impose at intentional will.

What about limits on the number of shots you can take? 24, 36, 48 per roll? And what about manual focus? Why is that so hard? Why can’t I choose what I want to focus on. Where are my F-stops? Where is the sensual poetry of (wo)man and machine, out together capturing moments in time from social space?

I wonder, what would Mr. Evans say about all of this?

JD: He’d probably think of something positive to say; some of his negatives are discolored from the glue in the seam of their
glassine envelopes, and he shot SX-70 for the last couple of years of his life.

I think the key lies in when the decisions are made, at which point in the process. We all grew up with the cameras that could shoot several dozen exposures per roll, from which we edited (or not) when we “got them back.” The cameras without film allow for hundreds of shots, because deleting unwanted pictures is “not a waste,” and corrective functions are seemingly easy for the few keepers. (Again, not everyone deletes: witness this morning’s postings on f/book.) OTOH, with the large format cameras, one loads one’s film a sheet at a time in the dark and unloads it for processing (not that I’m complaining, mind you), so when I see something to shoot, the thought process includes some version of “Hmm, this is a possibility…but it’ll be better around, maybe, four o’clock.” The success rate per exposure is higher (a little, anyway), and as we all know, whether it’s a darkroom or a kitchen or body shop, ya gotta enjoy the process, right?

JC: Okay… but, the machine… the relationship between subject and photographer. I think it’s different when the image is “disposable.” This touches on the relationship between the photographer and the camera too… it’s a triad of photographer, camera and photograph. Here is a little bit about Jean Rouch (moving film… but it works here):

“But what of the “self” of the observer or, in Rouch’s case, the ethnographic filmmaker? here Rouch compares his own “self” with that of the possessed medium. In filming “Les tambours d’avant” Rouch literally attached himself to the ritual and entered a “cine-trance of one filming the trance of another” (Rouch 1989, 348). Cine-trance, however, is entered only by filmmakers who practice cine-verite, who hunt for images in the real world. Cine-trance is, in effect, a kind of profound dialogue between ethnographer and other, leading to a phenomenologically informed and shared anthropology. (Stoller, 1992, 169)”

It’s like when I write… a few months ago I lost my computer to a damaged logic board (I see the irony in that, believe me). I was unable to write. I tried to sit with a pen and paper, but my thought process is so altered from that medium that I literally could not do it. My thoughts move at the same time my fingers do on a keyboard.

Now that I am trying to relearn how to take photographs I struggle with a different set of muscle memories around the technology. I will put my big-girl pants on and read the manual and figure it out, but the process so far as deposited me back in that cold classroom at BHS where I listened to you talk about F-stops, and realized that I would never have the patience it took to master the darkroom. I have been dragging around those 35mm cameras and those memories for 20 years…

And now they have to be replaced, and that makes me a little sad. And old.

That’s all.

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