You knew it was coming. How can a self-professed photo nerd/art geek not get involved in the “which is better” debate – analog or digital?
Here’s the thing. Neither, if you have half a clue.
Something that I absolutely love about photography – the fact that there are so many styles, so many processes, so many techniques that give you such dramatically different results are all considered “photography.” Tin-types, platinum prints, inkjet prints, digital-c prints, online web galleries, silver gelatin prints. These are all forms of photography, different manifestations of an image.
So why are we debating this again? Oh yeah, because it really sets some hardcore photographers off. I used to be one of them. I learned silver first. I still love silver. I’m a black and white girl at heart. When digital first emerged, I said that it just wasn’t the same – and granted, it wasn’t. The quality was so radically different that there wasn’t any real reason to switch unless you were an innate computer junkie. Then every aspect of digital imaging got better. So good now, that you can distinguish digital from analog, but it’s become a debate about inherent characteristics rather than fundamental quality. And yet it really wasn’t until 2006 that I finally realized that I didn’t hate digital photography, and in fact thought it was kind of badass. Nowadays, I do both: the classes I teach are almost exclusively digital (because that’s the way the industry has gone, for good reason) and do projects to keep myself up to date but almost all of my personal work is analog because at heart I am a process oriented person, and being in the darkroom keeps me sane.
Some of you may have thought I was copping out when I said that neither was better. I’m really not. I think that any type of camera that you use, and technique that you learn, or machine you utilize is simply a tool to help you express an image that is already in your head somewhere. Some ideas innately call for the use of digital. Others times, I’ve jumped from digital transparencies to collage then to photograms until I hit upon the right medium to express an idea. One form of photography can’t be better than another when they are all just different means of expression. What really matters is the idea and the image. I could care less if my camera has 21 megapixels or 7, I care what I can do with it, what can I pull out of that machine and how does it relate to my idea. The same goes for whether I pick up my 35mm or my 4×5 camera – the project almost always dictates the format, the idea relates to the equipment I use. There’s a relationship there, and if there isn’t, that’s the real problem in my mind….