colour, Melbourne, urban

flying into Melbourne

December 27, 2015

This picture  of Melbourne from a Qantas plane  was made whilst we were returning to Australia from our brief trip to Wellington and the Tongariro National Park in  New Zealand. It was early morning when we flew in. We only made our connecting flight to Adelaide with minutes to spare.

Melbourne, Victoria

Melbourne, Victoria

It was only a couple of years ago that I  used to do these kind of diary snaps with a 35m film Leica (M series).  I admired the Leica ethos –that reality should be fixed on film with lenses that faithfully capture what is in front of the camera. The final print  is the work of the photographer,  and if the result was not as hoped for,  then the photographer takes the blame, not the camera.

However, for 35mm photography I’ve  made the switch to digital photography. These days I use  a Sony digital camera (an old  NEX-7) with  Leica M lenses. The reason  for the switch is that digital imagery delivers superior results when used handheld in most practical situations. The transition from film to digital technology is  still a transit stage  probably to digital imagery on and off the internet.

The drive of the  photographic industry to produce successor models for every camera  (including smart phones) with ever-shorter product cycles,  there is an  eager acceptance of consumers/photographers  to upgrade to the newest model, and the photographer is becoming more and more of a computer technician.   The search is for the perfect camera,  and often  it is the  technology  (cameras are  effectively computer devices for image capture) that drives the  photography. Newer models supposedly means  better model. However, you  cannot tell from the pictures that  the newest digital camera  is the best ever, since  the pictures   are more or less  indistinguishable from those from the  previous model.   

This search for the perfect camera is not necessary:  the different cameras and systems are now converging  to the same level of performance,  and  the differences that can be found amongst the often  long list of features are increasingly irrelevant for the average user. I, for one,  cannot  differentiate between camera types on the basis of the content or technical quality of the image.

angel, Wellington, NZ

angel, Wellington, NZ

In this context we  should not forget  the Leica ethos  from the analogue age: –that reality should be fixed on film with lenses that faithfully capture what is in front of the camera. The final print  is the work of the photographer,  and if the result was not as hoped for,  then the photographer takes the blame, not the camera. What is lost with camera technology  becoming integrated with consumer electronics and the emphasis on feature-overload is  the old Leica emphasis on exploring the potential of the camera,   making pictures slowly and creatively,  and  improving  one’s  artistic capabilities.

If this ethos is not recovered, then the act of 35mm photography is in danger of becoming boring and empty in terms of artistic expression. For sure, the latest digital cameras  help me to take technically better photographs, but it doesn’t really help me to make photographs that are different or new–apart from being ablate make pictures without tripod in the  early morning or evening.  Making photographs that are different or new  depend on me figuring out new projects to work on.

I continue to use film for my medium and large cameras  even though  film emulsions give a result that is technically less good than high end digital technology.    It is the imperfections  of  film that gives it its emotional edge. Film is for poetics, in other words.

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