Lord of Broken Toys
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Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Detroit Area
News: Film dinosaurs still roam in digital world
FYI - for those of us in Austin, a PPA meeting you might be interested in, plus this story, which is kind of interesting.
PS - I am back from Illinois. Thank you to those who offered condolences on the loss of my grandmother.
Film dinosaurs still roam in digital world
Photographers in Austin to discuss changing nature of their profession.
By Dan Zehr
Monday, January 23, 2006
Wyatt McSpadden's lab smells like a dinosaur, or so he might describe it.
The modern dinosaur lair, in case you don't know, smells sort of vinegary — the scent of the chemicals McSpadden uses in his darkroom. In a world flush with megapixels, camera phones and memory sticks, McSpadden still shoots on film. Call him Photosaurus.
"The darkroom's a mystical place now," he says.
Digital photography has all but driven film into extinction over the past five years. About 44 percent of all the cameras consumers purchased at retail stores in 2002 used film, according to NPD Group Inc., which tracks electronics. Last year, it was just 7 percent.
"Digital totally engulfed film," NPD imaging analyst Liz Cutting says. "There's not a question about it anymore."
Much of that is because the price of digital cameras has "come down enough for a person to jump from film to digital," Cutting says. Camera companies are bailing out of the film business, moving mostly — or in some cases, completely — to digital equipment.
But still present amid the digital wave is a small group of film devotees, most at the higher ends of professional and amateur photography. While film cameras dwindled overall, Cutting says, high-end equipment sales slowed at a significantly slower pace.
Digital photography will be major topic of discussion for many of the 5,000 or so professional photographers who have come to Austin for Imaging USA, the annual convention put on by the Professional Photographers of America. The convention runs through Tuesday and features exhibits and seminars on subjects including wedding and sports photography.
It also draws plenty of vendors, hawking wares for both the digital and the dinosaur. But even among the higher-end professional ranks, digital is the dominant technology.
Austin photographer Rick Patrick, one of a half-dozen professional photographers who work out of the same building on East Fifth Street, says he switched in 2001 and "hasn't looked back since." He says he likes the way digital allows him to experiment without wasting expensive film. It's quicker, too. But he still has a traditional 4x5-format film camera that's about 20 years old.
"I have a reverence for film because every time I look at a photograph like that, I immediately have a direct connection to all the photographers who inspired me," Patrick says. "But my reverence is tempered by whether or not the picture itself is compelling."
The work that goes into making a compelling photo has changed. Patrick and his digital generation spend time in front of a computer monitor, not in the darkroom.
"I'm a pixel pusher now," Patrick says. "I spend more time sitting on my butt."
But doing so allows him to control the process much farther along toward the final product, he says. Instead of sending a transparency to a client to do all the post-production tweaking, he can send a file all but ready for layout. More and more, clients are asking photographers to go digital, or taking over some product photography because digital photos have made shooting and adjusting images a simpler process.
McSpadden still sends transparencies to most of his customers. It's the image that matters to his clients, he says, including one black and white West Texas landscape that felt warm in the sun and cool in the shade and sounded like crickets and country music.
Photos such as the landscape he shot on traditional film for Texas Monthly and a collection of portraits for BusinessWeek require much more time on the front end.That's because he doesn't have the option of shooting a photo, looking at it, then erasing it and starting over if it's not up to snuff. On film, you have to get it right before you snap the shutter.
"It's intentionally going slower," says Michael O'Brien, an Austin photographer who still shoots "about 90 percent film."
"Everything is so instantaneous in our world . . . but a photograph is a document of a place and a time," he says. "It makes sense to me to be more deliberate and slow down and resist the pull of time," he says. "I still think there's still a big place for that. I hope so."
When: Through Tuesday
Where: Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.
Who: About 5,000 professional photographers and vendors
For everyone: The 'world's largest annual print exhibit' will be open to the public.
Sponsors: Professional Photographers of America, International Association of Professional Event Photographers and Commercial Photographers International
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Last edited by bmattock : 01-23-2006 at 06:48.