I read an article the other day online about whether or not tablet apps are a good alternative to photo books. The article followed a photographer who has covered the Chernobyl fallout for the last two decades. and has recently released an app for it. One argument in favor of the applications is that printing a photo book has become too costly, and these apps are a much cheaper alternative. They even go so far as to say that these apps are better quality than a traditional book.
Thats like when the makers of a soda tell me that their diet version has exactly the same taste as the regular, but no calories. Bullshit. Tell me what it is straight up, but don’t fucking lie to me. Diet does not taste like regular. A fluorescent lightbulb does not look like incandescent lightbulb. And a photography app on a digital tablet is not a favorable alternative to an actual book.
I understand in this day in age that technology is developing at an extremely rapid rate, and I don’t mean to seem like I am against it or want to be stuck in the stone ages. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not shaking a judgmental finger on every owner of an iPad. I love all my 21st century gadgets, including my smart phone and MacBook. And I’m not talking about halting scientific progress or ceasing to continue to find ways to stop horrible diseases.
“Dude. We’ve cut cancer risks like, way down, so we can stop yo. No need to for all this cure nonsense”
But when is it enough? When we’ve completely foregone the process in order to speed quickly to the end result? When we’ve turned our backs on the unexpected mistakes that many times can turn into beautiful marvels?
I deeply love and cherish the time I get to spend in a darkroom printing out my photographs. It’s not as clean or “efficient” as doing the work with photoshop on a computer, but for me, there is no comparison. It’s my time in my space with my art. It’s my sanctuary.
It all starts with picking out the right music. Once I’m in the zone, I’m in the zone. I don’t wanna have to channel surf on the radio or be horrified when I’ve forgotten my Jackson Browne CD. After the music is on and I’m in the groove, then I pick out what negative gets to be first. Of course they all are jumping up and down, screaming “Pick me! Pick me!” And then the subsequent, “Seriously? No, really you went with that negative? I mean, he’s okay…a little contrasty, but I mean if thats how you want to start…I personally wouldn’t have gone in that direction, but you clearly know what you’re doing Mary…” My negatives can be rather cavalier.
I adjust the light on the enlarger and turn the easel to the correct position. After careful examination and meticulous calculating, I set the timer and expose the paper. No turning back now. And then of course once the timer starts and the light pours onto the paper, there is usually an “OH SHIT IT’S CROOKED!” Or “OH SHIT! IT’S BACKWARDS!” Or “OH SHIT! I FORGOT THE FILTER” You get the idea.
Then once its done exposing the fun really starts. The paper gets dipped and flipped and floated and rocked in several different trays, containing different liquids that are probably damaging my brain cells every time I inhale. Its wonderful. I feel like an alchemist, mixing potions together in just the right way to reveal a hidden treasure. And it really is, I believe, the purest form of magic. That moment when I see my image slowly appear on the paper.
I have this unsettling feeling that sometime in the not too distant future, I’m going to be standing in a museum with my children showing them what books look like and how we used to look at photo albums and brew coffee in a pot. (Thats right Keurig, I’m coming after you. Thats what you get for messing with Mr. Coffee)
Somehow we’ve gotten caught up in the hype of the shiny and glossy and touch screen, and forgotten about the texture and feel of things. The process. The intimate. The soul.
While flipping through images on the screen of a pad or tablet, I always feel like something is not quite right. And then I realize what it is. I can see the photos yes, but I can’t touch them. I can’t feel the paper in my hand or listen to the sound it makes when you shake it – like a Polaroid picture. All of my other sense are cut off, and when that happens there is no connection with the object. There is only the separation from you and your memories by a thin but very firm LED screen.
Almost as if it says, “You can look but you can’t touch. These are not your images. They are mine. They will be stored in my memory and I shall be the keeper of consciousness.”
It’s like being in a museum standing behind the red rope; coming so close, but standing so far away.