Thursday, 30 June 2011

Mulling it over


Right. Ok . I admit it. Ever since deciding it was alright to make constant photographic visual references. I have become a complete Instagram addict. Sometimes I feel very, very bad about this and (metaphorically) beat myself about it. In my head it is cheating to snap a quick image and simply apply what I deem to be the most appropriate effect. The effects being usually nostalgic, vintage or cross-processed. In the past we had to toil to achieve these effects, in a darkroom. What massive fun that was, the experimentation, the smells of the chemicals, the burned image, the never quite knowing... Today it is easy... you snap the shutter then decide which type of memory you want to associate with image and apply it in one click. Am I pre-deciding how my memories will look by doing this? Am I somehow cheating myself and faking them? Something inside me thinks this is terrible.... but still I can't stop. Digital photography changes the very nature of how we use photography on a day-to-day social level, thousands of images are taken. The images are no longer precious, they become disposable, but in my case, are never actually disposed of, they clog up my various hardrives 'just in case'. I love the old romantisism of a photograph capturing a moment in time and then looking back at it over the years as a reminder, watching it slowly fade and discolour. Old photographs are special and can never be replaced, they fade in the same way as memories do, possibly even at the same rate (for a while anyway...). It is so different now, but how many digital photos do we actually properly treasure? Is it just a few? Or do we feel safer with lots and lots? A colleague pointed out to me today that just as much work goes into producing an 'effective' image, you still need the skill/vision of actually 'seeing' the image, composing it, but the often the larger amount of time/ experimentation now goes into post-production (the digially altering) whereas with film that 'playing' time went into the developing, and was more physical. Another question... are we losing our grasp on actual materials in this age? Educationally and creatively there is soooooo much value on the exploration of materials and processes (will a graphics tabs ever totally replace the act of getting filthy with paint, charcoal etc) I think there is a place for both in our delightfully creative world today.

 I was so insensed with these thoughts today (and by a very 'closed book' negative reaction that I recieved from someone I respected, on the matter) that I spoke with a photoshop expert with a degree in analogue photography who stated 'It's important to know how to manipulate light yourself' 'Digital photographic effects are all derived from analogue photography and unless you have that grounding, that initial understanding you will not be competative with your contemporaries'.

 I have an excellent DSLR which I use obsessively because I need to keep up with the sheer pace of life, aside from making visual references, I need to record images quickly and efficiently in my work. But I do often feel these images are somehow less meaningful than the ones I take with film (probably because there I so many of them and probably because for me, involvement with materials is such an important part of my life, my soul). In February I documented London Fashion Week using a variety of cameras including a Box Brownie, I'm still collating some of the outcomes, some I have already published, but it was a fantastic experience and the images I took on film felt so much more definate, permanent... but that still needs lots more mulling over and is probably partly down to me being a romantic, nostalgic old soul deep down...
Here are some examples of the detrius of homeless, indulgant images currently cluttering my desktop.... Visual noise!

But I must love them... Otherwise they would have been deleted definitely!


  1. Kathryn - this is something I've been debating with my other half for all the time we've been together - over 5 years now :-) I was given a (basic) film camera that was being thrown out by a friend's Mum just before I moved away to Uni and it used to be my indulgence - buying one film a week and then developing the photos I'd snapped here and there. So absolutely no digital manipulation whatsoever. I then lost said camera and couldn't afford to replace it so went without images for a while and I must say I missed it! Then I met Tristan, who is by trade a filmmaker and editor but who also loves working with still photography. He uses photoshop to great effect and absolutely loves playing around to his heart's content with his own shots. Initially I thought of it as 'cheating' in some ways! Which he took exception to! Lol! But these days I've got to say I'm a fan of both sorts. Currently the camera I use for my photos is T's Canon 5D Mark 2 which is a brilliant DSLR, but I've always wanted to replace my film camera!! :-)

    Jem xXx

  2. Hi Kathryn
    ‘Snapping’ is what it is, a snap-shot in time. Manipulating this snap-shot image is your creative talents at work. I think that you are not altering you’re your memories of a time and place, to me you are not producing a memory marker. You are taking an opportunity to compose a visually stimulating image. You are producing a mini-art gallery. I snap allsorts of things but you look for composition in your images. There must have been something that inspired the pressing of the shutter button and looking back at these images reignites that inspirational moment. I had this recently with some snaps I took of rust patches on the hull of a ship.
    The addiction you have is not a snapping addition, it is your inbuilt drive to be creative. Creative in a way that gives homage to the ‘thing’ that inspired the snap. This is something that cannot be controlled.
    It is the digital world that allows prolific low-cost snapping and image adjustments. This alone does not make photographic art. The art is resultant of the photographer seeing the ‘real life’ image in the first place, before recording it digitally or analogy.
    As to the question will the digital manipulation replace the painting. Never, they will live side by side. Has IKEA replace bespoke furniture making. No, it has just made bespoke furniture making better. The electric guitar has not replaced the acoustic guitar.
    We live in a tactile world, touch is one of our main survival senses. I like to feel how the paint reacts with different brush pressures. Paint has a feel all of its own. Digital is just another medium, a new fresh one but given time it will level out amongst all the other mediums. Egg tempera is still used, how old it that technology.
    I love your final picture, the juxtaposition of the Mother Earth ochre colours and the man made barbed wire. By now man should has realised that the barbed wire will rust and turn to dust – back to Mother Earth
    Love xx Dad


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