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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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Bu, Bu, Bu
Old 03-27-2018   #1
Bill Pierce
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Bu, Bu, Bu

It was one of those weeks. A mud slide made it difficult to get to the West Coast airport. Weather canceled the return trip from the East Coast. But that was not the worst. The RAID system that I use to store digital images and scanned film images was so annoyed at having to go back to work when I finally returned that it crashed, discs damaged and unreadable. That’s right; every saved digital image and scan gone. But that’s OK. I have 2 back ups on large hard discs and some particular favorites backed up yet again on smaller SSD’s. The problem wasn’t losing images; it was duplicating the back ups to replace the vanished images. I have a fairly fast system, and it took almost 2 days to produce another digital master and download it into Lightroom catalogs. The lesson is obvious - BACK UP, BACK UP, BACK UP. I’ve probably said that along with PRINT, PRINT, PRINT enough times to annoy everybody on the forum. But, it turns out it really is true. I’ve never really had a big crash like this one before, and I thought what would it be like for a photographer who had no back up to see an entire lifetime of work disappear.
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Old 03-27-2018   #2
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Some will argue that this is the perfect reason for shooting film, but I lost all of my early negatives in a move. With film, you don't really have a backup, unless you want to scan your negatives. My loss occurred prior to scanners, so it wasn't an option. I echo the mantra PRINT, PRINT, PRINT.
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Old 03-27-2018   #3
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Far more of my film images have been lost to time than any of my digital images to hard drive failures. But there have been losses on both sides.

So print AND backup, both film and digital. I scan all my film images and print all my digital images.

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Old 03-27-2018   #4
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I'm not very digital, but I do do work for a theater in my town. And that is all digital. I have everything backed up. But even though these images are not what I would really want to keep; I'm still struggling with how to back them up for the people that care about them.

Would the cloud (which I don't even know what it is) be a place along with a separate remote hard drive be the way?

Glad you were backed up. But how do you do the 3x back up?
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Old 03-27-2018   #5
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4x- Negative/Scan/Print/Cloud
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Old 03-27-2018   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charjohncarter View Post
I'm not very digital, but I do do work for a theater in my town. And that is all digital. I have everything backed up. But even though these images are not what I would really want to keep; I'm still struggling with how to back them up for the people that care about them.

Would the cloud (which I don't even know what it is) be a place along with a separate remote hard drive be the way?

Glad you were backed up. But how do you do the 3x back up?
If you have an auxiliary external hard disc or SSD, copy the files that you want to keep, not just the digital theatre pictures, but anything else that is an important digital record. Now, since all things can fail (and there will also be some decay in the information on a hard disc over time) do it all over again on another hard disc. Then, should one fail, you still have all your records on the other disc. Now, if you are worried about losing everything in a house fire, earthquake or theft, e.t.c., make a third copy and store it off site at a friend's house. The nice thing about digital is a digital copy is essentially identical to the original and easy to make, sadly something we can’t say about copy negs.
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Old 03-28-2018   #7
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Agree on backing up.

I lost all digital files when my first computer, a cheap PC, crashed. It wasn't the disaster it could have been because at that time I was shooting film and my digital photos were scans of my film...I still had the original slides and negatives. And, since it was my first home computer, I didn't really have anything important saved. The computer was a novelty at the time.

Years later, with a Mac, a power surge knocked out my Time Machine hard drive and the separate hard drive with all my photo backup but my computer hard drive (and all my photos) survived.

Today, I keep photo backups on several separate portable hard drives. I periodically add hard drives. I use several of these small drives because I've had a couple of them fail in the past. I hope to start using SSDs if prices come down enough. This is not a totally secure system, however. All drives are stored at home except for one kept in a bank box, however, that one has not been kept updated. I do take along one or two up to date drives when going away for a few days but, even so, there's no guarantee.

EDIT: Forgot to add that I also print. A lot. Not every shot is worth printing at the time but when I download my Raw files I mark those I want to print and develop them accordingly. I do a 6x9 inch image on 8.5x11 inch cotton rag paper and file it in archival boxes. Later on, I might make larger prints of selected shots, however, large prints can be a hassle. There's only so much space for display or storage.
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Old 03-28-2018   #8
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Sorry to hear that .
I print the stuff I want to keep .
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Old 03-28-2018   #9
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Yes backup. Here's my strategy:
- Photo work, raws and LR catalog on an external hard disk
- Two more of the same external hard disks, both are backups, updated monthly
- One in a locked file cabinet, one at the bank in a safe deposit box
- Each month I swap the bank vs. file cabinet backups
- If main ext disk fails, I just toss it and switch to using one of the backups

For backup on Mac, Carbon Copy Cloner or Synchronize Pro X

This gives me protection, with one month at risk, for disk failure, fire, theft, etc.

Good shooting, everyone!
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Old 03-28-2018   #10
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Congratulations on investing the time, money and effort to protect your image archives.

It is slow and annoying to restore GBs of files. Storage of all kinds gets faster every year. Its also true that image file sizes grow as well.

The only thing worse than a 48 restoration delay is having nothing to restore.

I agree that printing is an important strategy. Physical media (negatives, transparencies and prints) are also vulnerable, but in a completely different context. I suspect physical media are less susceptible to tragic, unrecoverable loss. But that doesn't mean to can't happen.
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Old 03-28-2018   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charjohncarter View Post
...
Would the cloud (which I don't even know what it is) be a place along with a separate remote hard drive be the way?
...
Cloud solutions are becoming more practical.

In some cases you can send an external drive to the cloud service and they will do the back up and, or recovery at an additional cost.

I happen to be an Amazon Prime customer. At the moment Prime offers unlimited cloud back up of JPEG and raw files at no additional cost. I only back up my Lightroom Library to Amazon's Cloud. A few months ago I was able to switch to 50 Mbps download and upload internet speeds with no price increase. My computer has a wired connection to the internet router so those speeds are useful. Of course, recovering my ~300 Gb of Lightroom Library images and Catalog from the cloud would take a long time, but eventually I'd have them.
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Basically, I mean, ah—well, let’s say that for me anyway when a photograph is interesting, it’s interesting because of the kind of photographic problem it states—which has to do with the . . . contest between content and form.
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Old 03-28-2018   #12
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First time I read about loosing RAID storage like this. Was it real RAID or something else?
Like Windows controlled mirroring?

With 6TB HDD at affordable cost as of now, most up to date back up solution is to have two external 6TB HDD. One hot, one cold. And keep them synchronized.

Cloud is good for share, storage option for processed, master files. Acts as DR site as well.

I print from files about three times per week, to keep inks circulating. And I do darkroom prints, but I'm getting asked for good ones I made and I mail them away. Even if someone will just say they like my print, I often put it in envelop. Finishing my first album as the gift

Here is Bu, Bu, Bu song with some interpretation:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7VO...utu.be&t=2m39s
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Old 03-28-2018   #13
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Lost everything once a while back. Had Carbonite. took 4 days to restore but everything was jumbled. What a hassle. Now I backup to the cloud (Microsoft One Drive) and an extra physical hard drive.
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Mirror Drive Option
Old 03-28-2018   #14
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Mirror Drive Option

A couple years ago, I had a catastrophic hard drive crash. I religiously make back ups, but took forever to reinstall, etc. Since then, I now keep all those back ups, but also have created an alternate "mirror" copy of my main hard drive. It there is another crash, I can reinstall the hard drive and be up an running in an hour. Anything that is not on the reinstalled drive I can copy over from one of the other back ups. Another layer of security, and reduces the hassle of reinstalling.

Lessons learned:

1. Have multiple back ups.
2. Create a copy of your full hard drive.
3. Keep them up to date.
4. Use a battery backup and power surge device.
5. Use a SSD as your main drive.

Cheers.

SW
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Old 03-28-2018   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
If you have an auxiliary external hard disc or SSD, copy the files that you want to keep, not just the digital theatre pictures, but anything else that is an important digital record. Now, since all things can fail (and there will also be some decay in the information on a hard disc over time) do it all over again on another hard disc. Then, should one fail, you still have all your records on the other disc. Now, if you are worried about losing everything in a house fire, earthquake or theft, e.t.c., make a third copy and store it off site at a friend's house. The nice thing about digital is a digital copy is essentially identical to the original and easy to make, sadly something we can’t say about copy negs.
Thanks, I have two external drives that I've never used so now is a good time.
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Old 03-28-2018   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willie_901 View Post
Cloud solutions are becoming more practical.

In some cases you can send an external drive to the cloud service and they will do the back up and, or recovery at an additional cost.

I happen to be an Amazon Prime customer. At the moment Prime offers unlimited cloud back up of JPEG and raw files at no additional cost. I only back up my Lightroom Library to Amazon's Cloud. A few months ago I was able to switch to 50 Mbps download and upload internet speeds with no price increase. My computer has a wired connection to the internet router so those speeds are useful. Of course, recovering my ~300 Gb of Lightroom Library images and Catalog from the cloud would take a long time, but eventually I'd have them.
Thanks, I have Amazon Prime too. so along with my external drives, my computer back up drive, a bunch of thumb drives, negatives and Amazon I should be OK.
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Old 03-30-2018   #17
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Multiple drive enclosures, be they RAID or other, have their own particular vulnerability: An electrical problem with the power supply or controlling board can damage all the drives at the same time.
The preceding statement justifies my use of external drives, each in its own separate enclosure. I've had the drives go bad, and had the enclosures go bad over the long haul. Easy to swap one into the other.
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Old 03-31-2018   #18
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With all the horror stories of hard drives going bad and backups being lost or difficult to restore I am astounded that people still put up with digital. Those of you working professionally probably have no choice but the rest of us certainly do.

I am quite aware that negatives and even prints are subject to damage but all they require is decent storage conditions.

On the other hand digital files require continual updating, purchase of new equipment and software, huge amounts of your time and a fear of power bumps etc. (which happen relatively frequently where I live.)

Convenience appears to be worth a lot, especially to the digital hardware and software companies. It sometimes feels a bit like a confidence game to me.

Oh, and by the way. If the sun burps wrong someday you are out of luck even if you spent hundreds of thousands of your hard earned dollars on all the latest gadgets and followed all the instructions exactly right.

Keep printing. Instead of spending all of your money on the newest digital gadgets spend it on ink and paper instead. Devote more of your precious time to printing your work the way you would like it done. At least that has a chance of surviving for a while and may be the only real record of what you have done when it is all said and done. Make two or three prints instead of one. Send them around like Ko Fe so others are keeping them as well. The rest of this is just a great way to get you to spend your money and make Gates and the rest rich.

Sorry...end of rant.
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Old 03-31-2018   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pioneer View Post
With all the horror stories of hard drives going bad and backups being lost or difficult to restore I am astounded that people still put up with digital. Those of you working professionally probably have no choice but the rest of us certainly do.

I am quite aware that negatives and even prints are subject to damage but all they require is decent storage conditions.

On the other hand digital files require continual updating, purchase of new equipment and software, huge amounts of your time and a fear of power bumps etc. (which happen relatively frequently where I live.)

Convenience appears to be worth a lot, especially to the digital hardware and software companies. It sometimes feels a bit like a confidence game to me.

Oh, and by the way. If the sun burps wrong someday you are out of luck even if you spent hundreds of thousands of your hard earned dollars on all the latest gadgets and followed all the instructions exactly right.

Keep printing. Instead of spending all of your money on the newest digital gadgets spend it on ink and paper instead. Devote more of your precious time to printing your work the way you would like it done. At least that has a chance of surviving for a while and may be the only real record of what you have done when it is all said and done. Make two or three prints instead of one. Send them around like Ko Fe so others are keeping them as well. The rest of this is just a great way to get you to spend your money and make Gates and the rest rich.

Sorry...end of rant.
+1: silver or digital the point is print, print and print again!

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Old 03-31-2018   #20
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For my digitals (and my wife's) I do multiple back up on two external hard disk which I alternate each week, the one not in use is stored in a different place (I'm afraid someone could steal it with all my files maybe just because he needed a cheap HD!)

Moreover I make a weekly back up of the photo files on a third HD (included LR catalog and additional necessary files ).

Old HDs have to be substituted by new ones.

And I print a lot...

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Old 03-31-2018   #21
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How many people here actually believe that when you are gone someone is going to go through all your negatives and hard drives and curate your images for posterity? I for one don't. The best I can hope for is that some of my friends and relatives will take a liking to a few of my prints and keep them for their own enjoyment. The rest, prints, negatives, slides, and hard drives alike, are destined for the dumpster. It's only a question of time. So I am focused on printing the best of my work. I'm current to within a couple of months, so if I lost my negatives and digital files tomorrow, I'd be okay with that. I keep my negatives properly stored and my hard drives backed up, but I am not a hoarder.
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Old 03-31-2018   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ptpdprinter View Post
How many people here actually believe that when you are gone someone is going to go through all your negatives and hard drives and curate your images for posterity? I for one don't. The best I can hope for is that some of my friends and relatives will take a liking to a few of my prints and keep them for their own enjoyment. The rest, prints, negatives and hard drives alike, are destined for the dumpster. So I am focused on printing the best of my work. I'm current to within a couple of months, so if I lost my negatives and digital files tomorrow, I'd be okay with that. I keep my negatives properly stored and my hard drives backed up, but I am not a hoarder.
This.

Also, what will people do when their chosen iCloud storage supplier goes bust? It's not beyond the bounds of reason that they will not be around for ever or, even, our lifetime.
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Old 03-31-2018   #23
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Beware friends, Beelzebub lives in that box of "lights and wires in a box" and his favorite meals consist of TIFF salad with JPEG garnish. I recommend the online book publishers that use acid free materials. A book provides instant protection, one location storage and valued presentation. For those that don't get printed it's multiple solid state hard drives at the present. Short of a worldwide electromagnetic pulse I feel that I'm adequately covered. Since the world appears to be drifting away from printed pictures to online presentation, my confidence in TIFF is not as high as it once was. I use a batch processor to create 300dpi JPEGS from TIFFs and all other file formats.
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Old 04-01-2018   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pioneer View Post
..It sometimes feels a bit like a confidence game to me.
Well it is exactly a confidence game. If we follow standard, well-established procedures, we won't loose our data.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pioneer View Post
Oh, and by the way. If the sun burps wrong someday you are out of luck even if you spent hundreds of thousands of your hard earned dollars on all the latest gadgets and followed all the instructions exactly right.
If there is an event that destroys all digital image storage devices, the least of our worries will be about the loss of our gadgets and digital images. Think about it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pioneer View Post
...The rest of this is just a great way to get you to spend your money and make Gates and the rest rich.
This is a profoundly selective and incomplete view. One of countless examples are found in medicine. If we, or a loved one, become injured or ill, digital information from MRI and, or CT X-Ray imaging could save our lives. If someone's health benefits from pharmaceuticals, these were discovered, developed and manufactured because of diverse array of digital technologies.

I think an old Jazz song ""Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby" is more appropriate. All technologies are have the potential to be good or evil.
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Old 04-01-2018   #25
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My computer help guy recently told me that when SSD external hard drives crash they are most likely done, nothing recoverable. But the HDs with spinning parts, usually die slowly and data is recoverable. Problem is, SSD will completely take over the older technology. Recently I consider my archives to be a memory bank of great experiences and don't worry too much if it disappears by natural disaster or digital rot. I don't want the archives to feel like a burden or a losing battle in front of a computer screen.
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Old 04-02-2018   #26
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... I don't want the archives to feel like a burden or a losing battle in front of a computer screen.
The battle is winnable by using standard data backup procedures. These can be automated as well. SSD's are not significantly more problematic than magnetic media. All digital media will eventually fail. Older devices must be replaced by newer devices.

However, you do have to sit in front of a computer screen.

Protecting assets is a burden for both analog and digital media. All your analog media could be destroyed by catastrophic events. Also, analog media is vulnerable to physical degradation. Having duplicates for all your prints in separate physical locations is a burden. Making analog duplicates of original film media is a burden too.
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Basically, I mean, ah—well, let’s say that for me anyway when a photograph is interesting, it’s interesting because of the kind of photographic problem it states—which has to do with the . . . contest between content and form.
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Old 04-02-2018   #27
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Digital is a never ending money hole. If you have plenty of money to spend, or client files to protect, then continue to throw your your cash into that digital shredder.

For the rest of us I suspect that our money is better spent on the prints.

EDIT - Although I am sure that I sound like one right now, I really am not a Luddite. I enjoy working with digital as much as film. But I am really getting tired of this continuous digital upgrade cycle that has been designed for us.
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Old 04-02-2018   #28
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Digital is a never ending money hole. If you have plenty of money to spend, or client files to protect, then continue to throw your your cash into that digital shredder.

For the rest of us I suspect that our money is better spent on the prints.

EDIT - Although I am sure that I sound like one right now, I really am not a Luddite. I enjoy working with digital as much as film. But I am really getting tired of this continuous digital upgrade cycle that has been designed for us.
I look at my M3 or even a Nikon FE and ask myself: Is there nothing sweeter? I compare film to having a cup of coffee with a friend and digital to having a "friend" on social media.
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Old 04-02-2018   #29
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I compare film to having a cup of coffee with a friend and digital to having a "friend" on social media.
I compare film to apples and digital to oranges without value judgment. I see no reason for tribalism.
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