We have become so jaded and so unromantic. What happened to us? Is it the throwaway society? The constant search for the next shiny thing? Or are we just so spoiled that we can’t appreciate simpler things?
Case in point. Above is the first page of my laptop manual. It goes on like this for many more pages of warnings and cautions. No enthusiasm or even marketing of the product. Just make sure you don’t electrocute yourself and I guess you’ll like using it?
Compare that to the first page of a Remington typewriter manual from 1932.
There you are, using the same device as great explorers and writers. Think how that must have felt. This was more than a writing tool, more than a utensil. It was an object linked to adventure and greatness. And yeah, sure, it was marketing, but it was fun and romantic marketing for a less jaded time.
I suppose that’s why this typewriter lasted these 89 years. Who could throw away such a great machine? Besides, it still works great.
I don’t suppose we can ever be cured of our jadedness. Too bad, I think we might have been happier.
Okay, before I go any further and to forestall any of you guys poised on the comment button to reignite film versus digital, I will admit that digital is now “better” than film in most cases. I fully admit that my modest digital cameras are amazing devices that can produce amazing results that would be hard or impossible to produce with most of my film cameras. And that is precisely why digital has spoiled photography for me.
I know people have differing opinions of photography, but for me the goal is not to get the perfectly composed, perfectly exposed, perfectly color rendered, perfectly sharp photograph. Perfection isn’t my goal. And the digital camera builders are obsessed with giving me just that. Sorry, but perfection is boring. As is the constant search for sharpness. And hand in hand with the boredom of perfection is the curse of menus and the realization that you are pointing a lens that is connected to a powerful computer. Essentially the human photographer is relegated to the monkey pushing the shutter button. And if that isn’t quite perfect enough, then the monkey can push a few more buttons and move some sliders in post-production to make the photograph even more perfect.
Easy, right? Well photography, like baseball, isn’t supposed to be easy. It is its difficulty that makes it satisfying and rewarding to do. Because when you get a fine picture out of a film camera, you were the one who did it and you can take most of the credit and pride. You weren’t a monkey pressing a button, you were a photographer composing, calculating the exposure, choosing the film stock, and waiting for the right conditions instead of changing them in lightroom or photoshop later.
So why don’t I just keep using film cameras and not put out a rant like this one. Well, I intend to. But every time I go out with a film camera in hand, even with my most sophisticated film camera, the amazing Minolta Alpha 9, I know that my little compact digital camera could do a better job. And old Uncle Fred with his Nikon D850 can produce something ten times better than that. So that has spoiled photography for me because I can’t compete. And each time I have to make that choice between the easy path with great results or the hard path with lesser results. It is a hard choice that gets harder every time a new fancy digital camera comes out.
So what to do? Well, I will continue to use both as situations warrant. In general, I’ll use digital for color snaps and film for more thoughtful black and white photographs. I’ll play the monkey sometimes and the human being trying to be an artist the other times. But I won’t look for perfection in either case. Perfection isn’t the right goal.