Those of us who have spent many hours in the agonizing yet captivating atmosphere of a photographic darkroom recognize the scene. We are compelled to witness –and direct– the birth pangs of each of our graphic creations. Yet all of us know it is contrary to human nature to confine oneself to such isolation and environmental danger. Such is the allure of the muse.
This is serious stuff. We wonder how many present-day darkroom photographers are short-cutting their longevity by continuing to engage in this archaic working method. Are we subjecting ourselves to Alice-in-Wonderland dangers similar to those faced by the Mad Hatter? (A reflection of the hat makers of a couple of centuries ago, who used arsenic in the fashioning of their beaver skin hats and frequently were gradually poisoned as a result.)
To put this in perspective, if digital photography had been discovered first, and then film photography, would any of us have opted for the latter?
Today’s digital photography offers the promise of safe imaging, once the prices come down. (Only the very costly digital cameras currently produce the reproduction quality demanded by the printing industry. The $200- $800 digital cameras aren’t yet at that level. For now, film photography is still the medium of choice for publishing use.)
Digital photography gives to all of us the luxurious shooting style of Henri Cartier-Bresson, the renowned French photographer of the mid-century. He never stepped into a darkroom. “No, I have never done my own printing,” he told Charlie Rose in a recent interview. “Why should I spend my time in a darkroom when I could be out shooting?”
Most film photographers, because of the high cost of film and the processing delay, are conservative regards the number of pictures they shoot. However, as Cartier-Bresson is famous for saying, “I want to capture the precise moment.” Such moments escape the average photographer who is stingy with film.
Not so with digital photography. One shoots with a freedom to not only capture the “precise” moment, but to also self-educate and experiment. Digital “film” is cheap.
The world of digital photography is easy to enter. Medium-quality images, ease of processing , enhancing, and transmitting, are now available to the average photographer. Digital results are readily acceptable if your work is Web-based, or for buyers who only expect to use the image quarter-page size. At present, as you are reading this, the cost for serviceable digital is well within the budget of most.