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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

 

“Our autobiography is written in our contact sheets,  and our opinion of the world in our selects”  

"Never ever confuse sharp with good, or you will end up shaving with an ice cream cone and licking a razor blade."  

 

Bill Pierce is one of the most successful Leica photographers and authors ever. I initially "met" Bill in the wonderful 1973 15th edition Leica Manual (the one with the M5 on the cover). I kept reading and re-reading his four chapters, continually amazed at his knoweldge and ability, thinking "if I only knew a small part of what this guy knows... wow."  I looked foward to his monthly columns in Camera 35 and devoured them like a starving man.  Bill has worked as a photojournalist  for 25 years, keyword: WORK.  Many photogs dream of the professional photographer's  life that Bill has earned and enjoyed.  Probably Bill's most famous pic is Nixon departing the White House for the last time, victory signs still waving. 

 

Bill  has been published in many major magazines, including  Time, Life, Newsweek, U.S. News, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, New York Magazine, Stern, L'Express and Paris Match.  :His published books include  The Leica Manual,  War Torn, Survivors and Victims in the Late 20th Century, Homeless in America,  Human Rights in China,  Children of War.  Add to that numerous exhibitions at major galleries and museums.  Magazine contributions include  Popular Photography,  Camera 35, Leica Manual,  Photo District News, the Encyclopedia of Brittanica, the Digital Journalist, and now RFF.  Major awards include Leica Medal of Excellence, Overseas Press Club's Oliver Rebbot Award for Best Photojournalism from Abroad,  and the World Press Photo's Budapest Award. Perhaps an ever bigger award is Tom Abrahamsson's comment: "If you want to know Rodinal, ask Bill."

 

I met Bill in person through our mutual friend Tom Abrahamsson.  In person his insight and comments are every bit as interesting and engaging as his writing.  He is a great guy who really KNOWS photography.  I am happy to say he has generously agreed to host this forum at RFF  From time to time Bill will bring up topics, but you are also invited to ask questions.  Sit down and enjoy the ride!

 


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Sadly Pertinent
Old 02-12-2013   #1
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Sadly Pertinent

http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/0...end-of-analog/
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Old 02-12-2013   #2
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.....sad indeed.....
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Old 02-12-2013   #3
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Yes, the modern photographer is more of a Data manager then a photographer.

Digital photography = Datagraphy
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Old 02-12-2013   #4
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What's really sad is there's a possibility that all the digital files being created these days will not be "viewable" by generations to come, with the constant changes in hardware and software being developed some things we take for granted tend to get lost in the shuffle. Instant gratification is the driving force behind what's being produced. I believe most of the images being produced are expendable, it doesn't matter if they are lost, but when I think of weddings and family portraits I believe there should be negatives produced and stored somewhere "just in case". At least with negatives there's a physical product that can be kept and stored away regardless of the latest and greatest camera, software, computer, etc.........
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Old 02-12-2013   #5
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big sigh... BIG sigh
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Old 02-12-2013   #6
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Negatives also contain data encoded in their emulsion as chemical transformations caused by light. This is one of the numerous forms analog data. There are billions of file cabinets andvshelves full of purely analog data from purely analog sources.

Analog images are superior to digital models of our analog world. The transformation from continuous information to discrete information relies on models and these models are fundimentally flawed. Spatial aliasing is one example of the problem. At the same time, the convenience and versatility of digital images often outweighs their flaws.

Just as the audio CD and other compressed digital-music formats did not end analog music recording, digital imaging will not replace analog image recording. Of course as film usage declines, film photographers will eventually face increased cost and inconvenience.
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Old 02-12-2013   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Clint Troy View Post
Yes, the modern photographer is more of a Data manager then a photographer.

Digital photography = Datagraphy
I didn't know I was managing data when I was out using my camera. I didn't notice this when switching between film and digital cameras... they both seemed to have a shutter speed dial, an aperture ring, and were capable of capturing an image. I learned something new today.

In all fairness, binders full of negatives and boxes full of prints can be considered data management too no?
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Old 02-12-2013   #8
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thank you for the link.
interesting.
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Old 02-12-2013   #9
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Today's Wall Street Journal has a piece about one-third of the Kodak HQ building in Rochester is slated to be sold to the local community college.
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Old 02-12-2013   #10
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Despite the subject matter being a sad loss, the project looks like a very interesting and quite comprehensive look at the 'last days' of film technology/production.
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Old 02-12-2013   #11
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Bill, this was discussed a while back in another thread - but thanks for bringing it up again, it is a fascinating project.

However, it is only about the "end of film" if film = Kodak.

Randy
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Old 02-12-2013   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsrockit View Post

In all fairness, binders full of negatives and boxes full of prints can be considered data management too no?
I can't argue.
The mere process of thinking is Data Management.
But I still like the Datagrapher term
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Old 02-12-2013   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob T View Post
What's really sad is there's a possibility that all the digital files being created these days will not be "viewable" by generations to come, with the constant changes in hardware and software being developed some things we take for granted tend to get lost in the shuffle. Instant gratification is the driving force behind what's being produced. I believe most of the images being produced are expendable, it doesn't matter if they are lost, but when I think of weddings and family portraits I believe there should be negatives produced and stored somewhere "just in case". At least with negatives there's a physical product that can be kept and stored away regardless of the latest and greatest camera, software, computer, etc.........
You know I have heard this arument many times before but I really think this fear is over rated, with respect.

If there is a need and a demand there will be software that will convert old formats to new formats. When people raise this as a concern I always am inclined to think of all the images I took in film which have never been published anywhere, and now reside in cardboard boxes in the shed - one day to be thrown out because my need to spring clean and gain space is greater. To be brutally honest many images I have made have neevr even been developed.

How many times has this been repeated across the world and throughout the 20th century.

By comparison we now have billions of photos on sites like Flickr and across the web, probably trillions. Some of those may be lost but I doubt that they all will be - or even most of them. These images constitute a remarkable source of historical information for future social historians.

But hard copy images sitting in someone's shed and deteriorating there will never be seen - no one will ever know they existed. But with digital not only are they easily stored, they are easily backed up for added security. Not so with hard images and negatives.

So while we may be sad at the passing of an iconic company I really am optimistic that digital is much safer way of storing and transimitting precious (and not so precious) images to future generations.
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Old 02-12-2013   #14
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well on the Bright Side...I'm still a hardcore User
and will continue to be
till The supposed 'End'
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Old 02-12-2013   #15
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Apparently you don't listen to this bunch of die hards at the film photography podcast.

http://filmphotographyproject.com/
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Old 02-12-2013   #16
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wanna make sure your digital files will be read years down the road ? shoot them as jpegs, not raw
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Old 02-12-2013   #17
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These days it is the film industry, the next change of similar impact might be individual transportation with a switch from gasoline to electric powered vehicles.

Kudos to companies like Ilford, ADOX, and Agfa. Keeping the spirit alive is good thing, IMO.
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Old 02-12-2013   #18
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Forget for a moment what this piece means for us as individuals -- whether we're pros or hobbyists -- and think about what the photo essay from the link says about the dislocations -- real, serious, disruptive, bankrupting, community-destroying dislocations -- that the changing of technology wrought.

Now look, there's plenty of blame to go around when it comes to pointing the finger at the misguided and mismanaged behavior of Kodak, but think what Kodak's implosion has done to some major cities and the their citizens. Kodak largely did itself in by doing dumb things with its business. No question.

If this was only about how we twiddle our aperture rings and shutter speed dials and how we many of us now (and ever more of us in the future) manage our image data instead of handling emulsion and silver halides, the photo essay wouldn't be as important as it is. But think about what life must have become for folks in places like Rochester. Just plain awful.

I enjoy my digital and love my film. But really, this story, as told in the link Bill shared with us, isn't just about how we practice our photography. It's about something much bigger. Cultural, societal, economic, global. Now, if that thought doesn't grab you, look 20, 30 years into the future and imagine that we're talking about Apple. That some new, as-yet-unimagined disruptive technology (and marketing) unhorses Apple. If you have trouble imagining that, think about all those folks displaced by this era's disruption.

If you're of at least a certain age, you must remember that grip that Kodak had on us as culture. A real life-changing kind of a grip. And, then, it just vanished. Frightening really to absorb this. The photo essay does a pretty job of capturing that ethos. Think about all those ubiquitous Kodak signs. Where could you go that was civilized, that had a population and some kind of a market and not see a Kodak sign somewhere nearby?

Even for those of us who are enamored with digital and its possibilities (which for all we know may yet surprise us with new wonders), you have to admit that we've lost something by watching film slowly, inexorably slip away. I don't think it will disappear completely, anymore than painting disappeared with the advent of photography.

Anyway, that's what struck me about the piece. Bill, thanks for drawing my attention to it.

By the way, I'm no Luddite. I crave an M9-P and I have an M8. I scan my film and I print on an Epson.
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Old 02-12-2013   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zauhar View Post
However, it is only about the "end of film" if film = Kodak.

Randy
No, the he photographed Polaroid and Agfa factories too.

Anyway, for some reason, none of this makes me feel the least bit sentimental or nostalgic for the film days, and I like film...
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Old 02-12-2013   #20
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bummer.....
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Old 02-12-2013   #21
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I bought the highlighted book a month ago. I got all choked up. I think every film user should have a copy.
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Old 02-12-2013   #22
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recently i bought a 10 year old minolta 5400 scanner.

the images produced is better than any of the remaining

scanners in production (epson, canon) except for the

plustek. so what happens when all the tonnes of negatives

are around and we do not have a decent scanner to scan it ?

just a scary thought....

raytoei
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Old 02-13-2013   #23
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It bugs me when people talk anout the 'end' or 'death' of film. This is not the end at present - it's a rebalancing, as long as people are out there wanting to use it, and obviously there is.

Although, reading the linked articles, sometimes I wonder;

Mr Burley .... foresees a tipping point beyond which consistent quality photographic film will be impossible to make because of the scale necessary to maintain operations.

What also bugs me is statements like this, from Digital Trends;

As much as we all have a soft spot for film, it isn’t enough to sustain this industry. We will just have to rely on filters on our digital cameras and smartphones to recreate the magic of film.


Magic is magic, it cannot be recreated, that's why it's magic.

Use film.

Now, that's magic.
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Old 02-13-2013   #24
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I'm hoping that the use of film in Hollywood will keep us going for a while longer but, of course, more and more films are being displayed digitally. Still, I have read that Hollywood is backing up digitally created films onto physical film.

Have you guys shot the new Kodak Portra 400? The stuff is absolutely amazing. My lab guys say that the film is better than ever, better than back in the day, and they've had a lot of film pass through their hands. From my understanding, Kodak took the technology from their motion picture film stock in creating Portra 400.

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Old 02-13-2013   #25
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Just a note to Larry in post #27. The last contracts for camera-neg, 35mm, cine-film end next year. No more shooting on colour-neg for a major production after that. None. Zero. If nothing else is arranged in the meantime, that will be the closure of Kodak film production too. For several years there have been no film cine-cameras produced by the big manufacturers either.
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Old 02-13-2013   #26
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Quote:
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Just a note to Larry in post #27. The last contracts for camera-neg, 35mm, cine-film end next year. No more shooting on colour-neg for a major production after that. None. Zero. If nothing else is arranged in the meantime, that will be the closure of Kodak film production too. For several years there have been no film cine-cameras produced by the big manufacturers either.
That may possibly impact Kodak as the contracts end in late 2015 (not next year). So the impact of the end of cine (if it does cease to be) will not necessarily kill film.
Many companies out there like Ilford, Agfa, Foma and even Fuji since they stopped making movie film last year continue to make stills film, the Hollywood studios won't impact those businesses at all.
As for no one making cine cameras anymore you're talking consumer? Because if so they were killed by magnetic tape long before digital.
If you mean Pro Movie camera's like the ones used by Hollywoood then there are still a few makers like this one:
http://www.aaton.com/products/film/penelope/index.php

Or this one:
http://www.arri.de/camera/film_cameras.html

Both major manufacturers of Movie cameras...
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Old 02-13-2013   #27
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I'm hoping that the use of film in Hollywood will keep us going for a while longer but, of course, more and more films are being displayed digitally. Still, I have read that Hollywood is backing up digitally created films onto physical film.
The entire data processing industry, notably banks, insurances and tax authorities, are backing up data to microfilm as well. But the ideal film for archiving is black and white - colour film sucks almost as much as magnetic tape when it comes to long term storage. As Technicolor demonstrated, storing three black and white separation reels allows for restoration to even better colours than when new seventy or eighty years later, while many motion pictures shot and stored on colour negative in the "dark age" sixties to eighties are already fading from the archives...

Black and white will not vanish - or rather, it is long past the point where it might have been killed by a failure to downsize. We'll see how things go for colour if and when Kodak drop out.
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Old 02-13-2013   #28
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while many motion pictures shot and stored on colour negative in the "dark age" sixties to eighties are already fading from the archives...
I often work with some film archives of Rock bands from the 1960's and those films survive remarkably well, just last week end film from that era was shown from that archive in a programme about the Rock group Queen on the BBC and I myself have many images from colour neg from the 1960's – '80's that print very well.
I think your 'dark age' is a little overstated.
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Old 02-13-2013   #29
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You guys are bumming me out. Maybe all hope is lost. ;-) I guess we'll just have to see what happens. Perhaps we'll all have to give up on film and be forced to upgrade our digital cameras every few years, what an expensive proposition.
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Old 02-13-2013   #30
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Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
so what happens when all the tonnes of negatives

are around and we do not have a decent scanner to scan it ?

just a scary thought....

raytoei
You'll still be able to print them the old fashioned way...
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Old 02-13-2013   #31
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You'll still be able to print them the old fashioned way...
touché!

Macro lens and a light box would be another option.
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Old 02-13-2013   #32
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Oops, I thought I had read that the cine-production was contracted until November 2014, so I have probably mis-read that, or there was some sort of extension signed.

Regarding the manufacturers, I had heard that Arri and Panavision were no longer building new 35mm and (Panavision) 65/70mm cameras. However both are listed on their websites - shifting old stock out for hire?? The conversation I had was with a (relatively small-time) director who was complaining that it wasn't possible to hire what she wanted, when she wanted it, for a production starting in 2014.

Certainly, the end of Kodak production is not the end of film. There are far better 'sized' companies around for black-and-white. It isn't so good for colour-neg though as my favourite ones are the Portras.

There is no need to scan a negative to digitise it. You can re-photograph it using a digital camera - I do this now for black-and-white - and you can also re-photograph a print of course. I am wondering how long it is before a version of the old "slide-copier" stages is commercially produced for use with DSLR's and macro-lenses.
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Old 02-13-2013   #33
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Now is the time to shoot as much film as you can. Over the past five years I have been shooting as much film as I can, without any regard to printing. I know whenever the end happens that I took advantage of using film as much as I could.

Printing has been postponed.

Cal
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Old 02-13-2013   #34
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You know I have heard this arument many times before but I really think this fear is over rated, with respect.

If there is a need and a demand there will be software that will convert old formats to new formats. When people raise this as a concern I always am inclined to think of all the images I took in film which have never been published anywhere, and now reside in cardboard boxes in the shed - one day to be thrown out because my need to spring clean and gain space is greater. To be brutally honest many images I have made have neevr even been developed.
How many times has this been repeated across the world and throughout the 20th century.

By comparison we now have billions of photos on sites like Flickr and across the web, probably trillions. Some of those may be lost but I doubt that they all will be - or even most of them. These images constitute a remarkable source of historical information for future social historians.

But hard copy images sitting in someone's shed and deteriorating there will never be seen - no one will ever know they existed. But with digital not only are they easily stored, they are easily backed up for added security. Not so with hard images and negatives.

So while we may be sad at the passing of an iconic company I really am optimistic that digital is much safer way of storing and transimitting precious (and not so precious) images to future generations.
I have no doubt there will be conversion programs if the current formats go away. However, how many will use them to update to the new format? Or how many like you propose, will just throw negatives away unshared with family or the rest of the world?

Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
recently i bought a 10 year old minolta 5400 scanner.

the images produced is better than any of the remaining

scanners in production (epson, canon) except for the

plustek. so what happens when all the tonnes of negatives

are around and we do not have a decent scanner to scan it
?

just a scary thought....

raytoei
Oh my goodness! You mean we might have to retrograde to wet darkrooms?
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Old 02-13-2013   #35
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Oh my goodness! You mean we might have to retrograde to wet darkrooms?
This is my intent. I exposed and developed my negatives for wet printing not for scanning.

Cal
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Old 02-13-2013   #36
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Now is the time to shoot as much film as you can. Over the past five years I have been shooting as much film as I can, without any regard to printing. I know whenever the end happens that I took advantage of using film as much as I could.

Printing has been postponed.

Cal
I think this Winogrand approach is essentially a waste of time and precious film.
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Old 02-13-2013   #37
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I think this Winogrand approach is essentially a waste of time and precious film.
Why, I believe Cal will still eventually get to printing his negatives. It was only a waste for Winogrand because he died before he got to the backlog of film. We should all be so lucky to get as far as Winogrand did by enganging in such a "waste of time and precious film."
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Old 02-13-2013   #38
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I think this Winogrand approach is essentially a waste of time and precious film.
WHY? I'm exploiting a resource while it is cheap and still readily available. I think that this will lead to less remorse and regrets. Anyways it makes sense to me.

Editing and printing can be time intensive and there is no reason for urgency.

Anyways I think I'm looking at the big picture. B&W will still remain, but it definitely will get more and more expensive as time goes on.

Cal
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Old 02-13-2013   #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsrockit View Post
Why, I believe Cal will still eventually get to printing his negatives. It was only a waste for Winogrand because he died before he got to the backlog of film. We should all be so lucky to get as far as Winogrand did by enganging in such a &quot;waste of time and precious film.&quot;
The idea of building a huge backlog and then printing is usually a way to rationalize lack of interest in printing. But this not a bad reflection on the photographer, editing and printing are the two worst aspects of photography, time consuming and boring, while shooting is always fun. Winogrand was really not interested in photography, he simply got a buzz from photographing women on the streets. The reason why he became such an idol has to do with the fact that his dead. had he been alive, he'd be another Bruce Gilden, famous for sometime and then derided and forgotten - like all youtube celebrities. The real lamentation for analogue is mostly a lamentation for a time when those with a camera and a darkroom actually mattered.
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Old 02-13-2013   #40
upceci
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upceci is offline
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by Calzone View Post
WHY? I'm exploiting a resource while it is cheap and still readily available. I think that this will lead to less remorse and regrets. Anyways it makes sense to me.

Editing and printing can be time intensive and there is no reason for urgency.

Anyways I think I'm looking at the big picture. B&W will still remain, but it definitely will get more and more expensive as time goes on.

Cal
Shooting film and then leaving it there to age does not make sense, because if one loves the film-look then it means one craves to look at film prints? Maybe you're shooting film because you like using film cameras, i can identify with that completely.
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