Thoughts on film vs digital debate. A tiresome, pointless discussion, yet it keeps coming up around me lately, and I got opinions on it including a new little thought, so here we go.
Name the film greats. At least a few names immediately come to mind. Chances are for those well versed in the history of photography the names may tend to be clustered in the earlier days. Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, Cartier-Bresson, the Westons, Strand, or maybe Arbus, Koudelka, Daidō Moriyama, etc. Now name any of the acknowledged masters of digital photography. OK, just one? Yeah, crickets. Inherent deficiency of a medium or fruit yet to be plucked?
Lets backtrack a sec. I mostly think film vs digital, format wars, brand elitism, print vs screen, etc, … really any wanking about the tools of photography is rarely useful. What kind of brush did your favorite painter use? Exactly. The image speaks, or it does not. Obviously my opinion (and also the topic of a future post), but true none the less. The future will look back and debate the great photographers, not the film greats and the digital greats, right? Probably mostly.
Of course film is different than digital, so are women and men. Which is better? Discuss, I will stand well back. Hopefully debate of great photographers will be about the images. But it also seems likely there will be some talk of an artist who uniquely exploited inherent qualities of film. A valid discussion. Likewise it can be imagined someone will do the same for digital. What are the inherent qualities of digital the first digital master will utilize? Who knows, it will contain one of those “I could have thought of that”, but you didn’t things. Other than that, …
So why shoot digital? In broad strokes, these things seem to hold:
- Its easier to make a mark earlier in the life of a new medium. There seem to be ideas that are inherent to a medium, the early arrivals will tend to find most of these. Film has been thoroughly explored, technical development of the medium has slowed and matured long ago. Its a good thing, the expressive power is close to as good as it will get. Digital is early days, movement is swift.
- Those with vision go forward, not back. Pioneers are not in town, but exploring the unknown. Film is civilization, digital is a frontier.
- There is no first digital master. Not yet.
- It could be you.
So anyway, a little idea to add to the discussion. As for me I will be trying to see, not fussing over my brushes.