imaginary images

One of the things you’ll hear from the older, settled minds or the younger Bushberg set is that they like shooting film because it’s something real.  Well here’s reality for you: latent images – what exists between exposure and development – are pretty similar to the flipped bits on the data card.  Furthermore, no one cares about negatives – I’ve rarely seen them presented; again, it is about finishing, the print.   A little more, a little less tangible, but both are physical things.  Moreover, they can cross finish – negs can be scanned and printed on inkjet paper and electronic images can be printed in a darkroom via Lambda/Lightjet process.  In truth, the only reason to switch to traditional is black and white stability and paint uptake.  I’ve tried my ancient Marshalls oil kit on modern inkjet paper, both porous and non-porous and it was a disaster.  Ok, so they’re the same, both exist in the physical realm and contain information not immeditately viewable to the human eye.  Get over it.

(Also, as someone who nearly lost his negative book – and several sheets were not recovered – let me tell you, I’m far more secure in the continued existence of bitmaps and lossless digital copies.  Archival matters should not be left to those who are afraid of science and technology – it’s applied material science and information theory, for fuck’s sake.  Additionally, good archival care is persistent. Files move to more modern storage devices.  Over time, you have to check for moisture pockets and wear in negative storage sheets.  And of course, environmental controls need be maintained for negatives and prints and electronic media.  It’s actually somewhat complicated.  Surprise.)

Of course, I’m not one to shy away from an honest complexity, and there is an exception, of sorts.  Sildes.  In this case, the capture is very much the object created and not (necessarily) the basis for a later manipulation into a print.  Other methods fall into this category, those that typically provide a positive physical image, but not always: instant films, paper negatives, liquid light, and so forth.

I enjoy and respect the tactile nature of working a (darkroom) dodging tool, a spotting ink brush (they have premixed pens now! who knew!), a cotton swab with a dab of flesh toned oil.  But if your process is capture -> intermediate form -> object to work on, get off it – especially if you are outsourcing the printing.  Flipping electrons in magnetic storage media is so close to the concept of a latent image in emulsion that the objection is somewhat bewildering and amusing with a just basic understanding of process.  And so it holds again – those who wholly object to a medium on some ethereal, moral, spiritual basis not only display a lack of understanding of their medium of derision, but also of their medium of choice.

It always brings a frustrated smirk to my face when discussing DMax or delta-E is used as an example of how “it wasn’t so unnecessarily complicated in film.”



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