Hope you all have a wonderful day filled with family and food.
This is a portion of a blog posting by one of my favorite photographers/philosophers, Guy Tal, that reminded me of a discussion I shared about introverts and extroverts with a friend of mine from NE Washington. Just thought I would share it. While I never intend to go back into the chemically infused darkroom I do find my alone time in the field and with my camera and then in the digital darkroom to fill my spirit.
As I think about what makes one a traditionalist, I realize that the distinction goes deeper than merely the knowledge of some processes, or having an interest in the history of the medium. Indeed, I think that the world of photography has transitioned into new hands. It used to be that photography was the favored avocation of introverts, allowing unquestioned solitary time in a darkroom—a private world behind a closed door where magic unfolded in development trays under the eerie glow of a safelight, and where one could be alone with their thoughts, disconnected from society, without having to explain. The photographer then was an eccentric, an alchemist, an observer. Today’s mainstream photographers seem almost the opposite: bold and outspoken and public; no longer experiencing, observing, and reacting, but planning and executing, broadcasting and marketing not only their photographs and thoughts but also their travels, corporate sponsors, and lifestyles, and even their most trivial accomplishments, to the widest audience they can reach. Most of today’s photographers no longer spend intimate hours processing and printing their work, and often go out of their way to promote tips and tricks and commercial services for minimizing and shortcutting such prolonged and solitary aspects of photography. In a sense, the tradition perhaps most obviously lost is that of finding profound pleasure and value in the photographic process, not to the detriment of the finished image, but as an indispensable and immensely pleasurable means to it.
The worlds of introverts and extroverts are difficult to bridge. One does not fully understand the other and often considers it anathema. And yet, having observed both for some time I lament some of what was lost, not in terms of tradition, but in terms of lessons once learned, and now forgotten or unknown; and which can greatly enrich one’s joy of photography in ways not usually explained or taught in today’s photographic classes and texts.
And so, my advice to those not versed in the traditions of photography is not necessarily to practice them, but to learn the histories and philosophies of those who did. It is hard to explain the value of finding contentment and flow in one’s process to someone who had not already experienced them, or who does not naturally gravitate toward such states of mind. And yet, there is no denying their power. There is more to tradition than mixing chemistry or using certain equipment. Today, photographers no longer are forced to slow down by the nature of the technology available to them, but can still choose to do so and reap the associated rewards.
Thanks for reading – all the best to you.