Disenchanted with Digital

I started messing around with a camera more than 50 years ago and, then, it was all about black and white film and colour slides. I learned to process film and make prints in the darkroom and I remember the satisfaction of seeing a print emerge in a tray of developer.

Then work and family made all of this practically impossible. We lived in a small house with no room for a darkroom, buying shoes for the baby took precedence over buying Kodachrome and, for many years, my photography was point-and-shoot family snaps.

Twenty-five years later I had more time and more spare cash and I bought my first digital camera. I was entranced. It was so quick and easy and, even in the mid-2000s the quality was impressive. Then I got my first iPhone and even in the early days, it was obvious that the camera phone would revolutionise photography.

Now, it’s so easy to create technically superb photographs both in the camera and in editors such as Lightroom. In principle, of course, this means that there’s more scope for photographers to focus on creativity but, all too often, the perfection of the digital medium results in sameness. In landscape photography, for example, there are lots of photographs of mountains at sunrise - what I call the ‘sunrise on Suilven’ class of photographs and I’m really getting a bit fed up with them.

Just as people are turning to vinyl rather than the perfection of digital recordings, more and more photographers are becoming disenchanted with digital and turning back to film photography. It’s the imperfections and lack of reproducibility that means they can create images that are unique and allow the photographer to express themselves.

I’ve wondered about getting back into film photography but the practicalities put me off. I still don’t have room for a darkroom or much time for processing. I really like the instant results of digital photography and the convenience of having a high-quality phone camera in my pocket at all times. So, lately, I’ve been playing around with digital manipulation to simulate imperfection - creating abstract images, images with false colours, image combinations and film simulation.

I’m now not really interested in the formal technical quality of an image - focus, exposure, colour balance and so on. Rather, I want to convey an impression of the subject rather than simply reproduce the scene in front of my camera. Sometimes this works, often it doesn’t but it’s the start of a journey for me that I’m enjoying.

I’ve only just started in these approaches and I have great deal to learn about them. But, I’ve been pleased with some of my initial experiments and I plan to spend more time getting a better understanding of them. I’m always very reluctant to make any claim to creativity (I’m a computer geek at heart), I feel that at least I’m putting something of myself into these images, rather than simply letting the technology get on with it.

I will be putting some of my experimental images on my web gallery (when I get time)

April 2023