Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Film vs. Digital

I'm fairly devoted to film and shoot with film almost exclusively. That said, I've always been kind of uncomfortable with the position that there is something about film photography inherently superior to digital. Very often, that argument sounds to me most like the painters of the late-19th and early-20th centuries who claimed that photography wasn't art because it was made by a machine that anyone could operate. In other words, it's an argument that sounds defensive and retrograde.

Art lies more in the intentions of the maker than in the technical difficulties of the medium. I still mostly use film because it slows me down and makes me more awkward in a way that's good for the type of photography I do. I feel there are advantages in the way that film responds to light—especially when working in black & white. I also like working within a square format and unfortunately there are still no affordable square-format digital cameras. But I still scan my film, post-process with Photoshop and print digitally. I haven't gotten my hands wet to make a print in many years, and I don't intend to ever again. Like it or not, digital is here to stay, and to take the position that there is something more virtuous, more aesthetically pure, and more essentially artistic about film strikes me as just plain silly.

© Joseph Gerhard. All rights reserved.


  1. my breakfast:



  2. I'm not of that group of people who think film is somehow more superior to digital. I've used both - and both have their uses - just like every tool in a tool chest...

    I gravitate to film mainly because it's what I know best - and what I've used for over 35 years now... The one thing I do love about film over digital is the waiting -- the waiting for my negs or slides - and then remembering the setting - what was going on... I don't get that pleasure with digital images -- it fits in more with the "I want it now" generation...

  3. m|art: Looks delicious.

    Bob: I think the instantateous quality of digital also affects how you shoot. I mean, the headspace you need to be in when you're looking and seeing is very different the one you're in when evaluating the photos you've taken—at least in my case it is. I find that when I'm out with my D200, for example, I'm always going back and forth between looking through the viewfinder and checking what I've just shot. Just because I can. And that has a way of breaking up my concentration and making it more difficult to *see*—while at the same time making it easy to take lots more photos that I would with film.

    The result: many more photos, most of which aren't worth even the little effort involved.

  4. They have their place. I use both because they are both available. I hope to never have to stress about finding film.

    Developing my own film is like xmas morning. Once you take the film off the reel and look at what you've done, you appreciate the art of photography so much more.