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.
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.
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.