Past Tense: Film’s Special Quality

Reblogged from Kenneth Wajda. This is a good explanation of how I feel about digital capture its too everything… Thanks Kenneth

6x6 Portraits | Kenneth Wajda

Here’s an interesting perspective about film vs digital imaging. Film looks like past tense, and digital looks like present tense. Here’s an example that everyone will instantly understand. If I switch on the TV and the movie The Natural or Angels In the Outfield, or Bull Durham or any other baseball movie is on, in a scene of game action, no one will see the players and think they are watching the sports highlights. They can tell it looks like a movie, and not video from today’s MLB broadcast of your team, whatever city you’re in. It looks like a movie, like it was recorded and saved some time ago. Past tense.

George and Co.Digital imaging looks like present tense, like surveillance footage, really. Just what you shot is exactly what you got.

Film has a dreamy, slightly soft quality, that looks like a moment stored, saved from the past. That’s…

View original post 156 more words

8 responses to Past Tense: Film’s Special Quality

  1. The first ‘real’ camera I had when I was a teenager was a new Contaflex II my Uncle from NYC bought me. So I have been around cameras and film for a ‘couple’ of years. Frankly I disagree with the sentiment Kenneth expressed in his post. I also find it distracting when photographer endlessly talk about equipment. I am and have been around a lot of artists and very rarely hear, for example, painters, sitting around talking about brushes, or paints or canvases. I really do think we as photographers should let a lot of the tech and sentimental film/darkroom talk recede into the background.


  2. kennethwajda says:

    I don’t know that I’m discussing cameras, Christian, as much as the medium. And I think painters do talk about different oils and acrylics. I agree that endless talk of equipment is tiring, and we all need to go out and shoot more, that wasn’t the purpose of this post. More to define how I feel about the medium of film, and its past tense quality.


  3. Hi Kenneth – I understand what you are saying – and my getting off onto cameras is a bit off the mark. In a way I really don’t disagree with you, however I feel that there is often a misplaced sense of nostalgia associated with the film/darkroom/print discussions ‘floating’ around. I used to have a professor in college who often said ‘ya, back in the good old days – and they weren’t that good either.’

    For myself, I get a tremendous sense of enjoyment and accomplishment out of getting a really fine print, on great paper, out of my Epson R3000, and when I had access to an Epson 9900 for a while, I sure loved the three of our foot prints I was making – they just blew me away.

    I guess ‘chacun à son goût’ is how I need to look at this! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I think what I should have added to my comment is that if digital went away tomorrow I would miss it a whole lot more than I miss not doing film/darkroom – I still have access to a darkroom but have not used it in over a year.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Adrian Lewis says:

    Hi Andy! I have to agree with Paula here. Digital can be “surveillance TV”, but it can also be extremely soft and delicate – as Paula says, it can be anything I want it to be. I’m certainly not held back by any hankerings after film, in fact I’m certain that I’ll never shoot film again but, as Christian says – a universal truth – chacun à son gout. Adrian

    Liked by 2 people

  6. kennethwajda says:

    Paula says, “it can be anything I want it to be”. It can be what it is, it can’t be what it isn’t. Film is film. Digital is digital. Oil is oil. Acrylic is acrylic. I don’t think oil can be acrylic. I don’t shoot digital and then try to get the “film look”.

    I’m just embracing film for its past tense quality, which I think is inherent in the medium. Can digital look past tense?–that’s subjective. Can it? Or is it better than film at doing something else, instead of being like film. And that doesn’t make digital worse, just different. Like oil and acrylic are different.


  7. paula graham says:

    Let’s go out and take pictures rather than considering the difference twixt film and ‘digital’..I do not care in the least how the photo got to me, as long as resulting pic is original in thought and process.
    Well done Andy B to get an interesting post going, but now I am off with my digital camera on my electric cycle to find something original and artistic to ‘shoot’! The last sentence could also spark a long lasting discussion..Original and Artistic..what is that ???!


Please share your thoughts on this post

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s