Wednesday, September 20, 2017

digital collage and......

The other day, I met another American photographer in Paris. He lives in the US and is also a collector and purchased one of my prints. He told me that he was visiting with his wife so we met up for coffee and we talked a bit about photography, naturally, and technique/technology. He does some beautiful work using the photogravure process and I spoke about the resurgence of vintage processes and how it's almost become a competition again, much like the old film vs. digital argument that, I now admit, I lost at.

When I was in university, digital imagery was at the embryonic stage. I learned the first version of Adobe Photoshop and I remember that in this first course, after learning the basic tools and what the program could do, I raised an eyebrow and asked the professor, "But what do you do with this after? What do you print it from and on?" He showed me a laser printer, much like a copy machine you would find in an office and "coated" paper thinner than Xerox paper. It was crap. The printer printed crap.

I also saw the first digital cameras come to light. More crap. So for 10 years or so, I was steadfast in my belief that digital sucked and it had no place in the fine art world. I shot film and printed in the darkroom up until 2006.

Then I lost my darkroom space and the only thing I could do was shoot and develop film but scanning into my computer and printing digitally was my only option. I noted that my prints looked better than they did when I was in the darkroom. At this point, too, ink jet printers and papers rapidly improved to higher standards. Slowly, I moved away from film, mainly due to monetary problems. And then, I began using Photoshop for something more than cropping and correcting exposure...born was my first series of digital collage - The Divine Journey.

I loved working with layers and seeing the possibilities that I could create that were, in fact, better in the sense that I could spend more time focusing on the artistic aspect that wasn't the same as spending more time just printing. I could create a whole new world just a little bit easier. And soon after, digital collage became a way for me.  I have been able to create different types of tableaux -  RĂªves et Souvenirs. I didn't have to necessarily try and find locations to shoot in (as I did for so many years) and.......and I was able to mimic certain techniques of old - Ode to Pictoralists

And here we go again - for the alternative/vintage process people, what I am doing is sacrilegious. What the galleries might say is that they are not handmade prints, so they are worth less...or worthless, depending on the gallery, I am guessing. And at a time, I would have agreed with everyone but as I spend countless hours upon hours shooting, going through thousands of my photographs for source material and then coming up with the ideas and right combinations of images, re-working sometimes one piece for a month or more, I think I can say confidently and maybe having to eat my old words, that the bottom line is, and should be the content of the piece, the mood, the expression. Whether it be with the use of an 8x10 camera with an old cracked lens and wet plates, a plastic Holga camera, a scanner and objects, or a digital camera and printer, it's the final image in the end. I am sure Alfred Steiglitz would agree if he lived in this day.

And perhaps my new project is a push in a more, dare I say, contemporary direction, so to speak but I will always think the romantic in me is here to stay to counterbalance.


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