The Linear Notion

Often I have been asked by friends and random viewers of my hybrid tintype work, or my collection of vintage equipment how, or better yet why I have been drawn to the wet and dry-plate processes. This is a question, not like some of the others, that I find easy to answer. The basic answer is I was tired of the digital race with manufactured obsolescence, and I have posted about this before. There is noting like spending $3500 on a pro digital rig to have to sale it 18 months later at $800 because the powers that be will no longer accept the files sizes produced by the hardware.

So the feeling of throwing my money away on hardware was a factor, but also what had happened when I was exploring what photography meant to me was that I felt that the prints that I was making were cold, and the digital files that I displayed on my computer and mailed to possible clients seemed even more temporary and disposable. I did not want my visions to be like the plastic shopping bags that seem to cling to everything in our world now…….easily discarded. I wanted my images to be more.

Anyway, much of this has already been posted and I do not want to bore you with all of it again, so I will get to the point. I still shoot digital, and very much enjoy it. I also mix digital with my dry-plate tintype work because it allows me to make tintypes that I would not have been able to make because of environmental situations like combat. I also enjoy pure 1800s wet-plate collodion photography. My feeling is that there is still a great place in the world for film photography, although I think it sad to watch the decline of film choices and wonder how long it will take before film is exiled to the “Alternative” island.

So with all of this in my head I read an interview with photographer Marco Breuer in #36 of Blind Spot magazine and one question and answer really grabbed me. The question was what did he sense about the shift to digital photography and Breuer’s reply was:

“In my book every new process, every approach, simple adds possibilities to photography, to art. I do not subscribe to a linear notion of art history that sees one mode making another obsolete. Commercially, perhaps, but not in the realm of art. With the rise of digital technology, many of the surface operators in photography have moved on to that mode, leaving us to look at the medium of photography itself more closely. As the industry is passing us by and fewer rules and standards apply, we might be experiencing a shift towards a more individualized photographic practice. We’ll be free to make photography what we need it to be.”

We will be free? I already am FREE to make photography what I need and want it to be, and so are you. Don’t place yourself and your work into a category, and don’t force your categories onto someone else.


~ by Phil Nesmith on October 12, 2007.

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