Film vs Digital for devolping skill

Started Jul 18, 2014 | Discussions thread
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MoreorLess Veteran Member • Posts: 4,453
Film vs Digital for devolping skill

Got a very long post from Mireshootsnikon that I think deserves some response from the other maxed out thread...

Your posting of Jose Villa and the inference that using film is the key to his works success to me seems to be the kind of trap I think a lot of people fall into with film.

"The inference." ? There is no inference. Jose Villa says, himself, that using film is critical to the result he gets. He says it over and over again. He says it often. He speaks every year at WPPI. He wrote a freaking book about it. He couldn't be more clear about what he thinks and why he doesn't use digital media.

You might want it to be true that he chooses film for idiosyncratic reasons, or that other people "can do what he does" digitally. But where are all the other people that get the results he does, digitally? They certainly aren't here.

Below, you insist that we look at results rather than romanticize about process. OK: then where's the person who's doing Jose Villa's work digitally? Where's the equivalent result?

If we're talking about "traps" that "a lot of people fall into, you've got to look at a few that might've caught you.

That's not to say there aren't some advantages and differences in output with film but there IMHO often overplayed next to the artistic skill of the photographer.

But choice of media and capability with said media are a big part of "the artistic skill of the photographer."

You (and others) want it to be true that someone like Jose Villa could crank out equally gorgeous work with digital gear. You want choice of media to be somehow distinct from vision or intended result. But Jose Villa says, himself, that he couldn't do what does with digital gear. That he doesn't know how to get the Fuji print color and tone and texture and saturation with digital. Again, the guy has written books about what he does.

So now you're stuck between a rock and a hard place. Are you going to call Jose Villa "unskilled" because he says he doesn't know how to achieve his vision with digital equipment? But then how you would reconcile that with your claim, below, that we really need to look at results rather than romanticize process (of any kind)--and of course, judging by results, you'd be crazy to suggest that Jose Villa is "unskilled."

Digital photography has only been the medium of choice for the majority of serious photographers for a decade or so, its not really surprising that its not as well represented in gallery space as film.

There are so many contemporary photographers on the major gallery and exhibition circuit. So many. And yet . . . .

Again a lot of people claiming that "film helped them learn" to me sound like gearheads, which of course film is ideal for in that it both has rarity value and that cameras themselves are generally cheaper to buy so the gearhead can easily pickup new ones often. Using a plain only entry level DSLR and kit lens like the masses isn't an option for them because its the gear and the process rather than the output there looking to define themselves by.

So Jose Villa is a "gear head" who fails when judged by "output" rather than by process indulgences? And it's not like he's the only one. Jonathan Canlas is a failure? Ryan Miurhead? Tanja Lippert?

You demand we judge process by "output" but then completely ignore what important artists have to say about how they achieve their extraordinary "output." Who knows more about how Jose Villa gets what he gets--him or you?

Also, what's with the populism? What creative person has ever wanted to do what "the masses" were doing? Maybe digital photography is under-represented in major exhibitions and galleries--maybe there are no personal portfolios on DPReview quite like those of some of the film shooters I've mentioned--precisely because the "output" is unlike what "the masses" are producing.

Who gets into photography so that they can shoot just like everyone else? Who hires a photographer whose work "looks like everyone else's?" Lots of people pick favorite styles or artists to study (which, in of itself, is rejecting the idea of shooting "like everyone else") but only as springboard to something new and unique.

I don't mean for this to sound too harsh, but your response reads to me like sour grapes--like you've been confronted by remarkable results that defy your personal choices and, rather than use the opportunity to learn more (or encourage others to do so), you fall into negativity. You could say, "wow, he's good--and doing it in a way I wouldn't have. I could learn from that!" But instead we get "It's a trap!" or "Film is pretentious and for gear heads!"

Does learning photography come from some self-appointed authority figure mandating entry-level DSLRs and kit lenses for all, or from moments of "wow, he's good--and doing it in a way I wouldn't have. I could learn from that!"

Come on.

Again for me the problem is that your arguments don't seem to directly address the point that was being made in the posts you responded to which wasn't that film itself had no artistic value but rather that it wasn't the best learning tool for most new photographers.

To say that film wouldn't be the correct learning tool for ANYONE would I spose be wrong but I don't think its unreasonable to say that digitals instant feedback and ability to shoot often without extra cost will be better suited to helping the vast majority of people develop their skills.

My comments about "gearheads" obviously weren't directed as Jose Villa but rather how the kinds of arguments your bringing up here can be used to foster a gearhead mentality.  Don't take that as me calling you a gearhead either as I don't know your situation but I do believe that a lot of people fall into the trap of looking at someone like Jose Villa and believe that his gear plays a bigger part in the work he creates than it actually does and that by buying similar gear as a beginner they can set themselves on a similar path.

Of course someone can be an unashamed gearhead if they like and theres nothing wrong with that BUT I do think there are many people who have intensions of developing there abilities only to get drawn into a gearhead mentality that likely doesn't help them do so as well as they might without it.

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