Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Before there were pixels

In today’s society, almost everyone has access to some form of camera. It has become a critical component of people’s day to day lives to capture people, places and events on film. It is what has allowed us to support the stories that have been documented in words. It gives a different perspective to situations and events, and allows others to share in experiences without physically being at the location of the picture. A century ago however, none of this was possible. A critical turning point for the history of photography and photojournalism came from the invention of 35mm single light reflector cameras. This advancement came as an alternative to photographic plates that had previously been used. This new method of taking pictures was especially critical as it permitted, for the first time the ability to take indoor exposures using available light, and the ability to capture candid photographs in the moment. Because photojournalism relies heavily on being able to capture news whenever and wherever it happens, this new tool changed photojournalism forever. This camera, portable and light, meant that photojournalists could now capture their work with ease, not having to worry about dragging around heavy plates and tripods. In addition, the 35mm was versatile, quick and required none of the hassle of arranging lighting as was needed in the past. 

photo taken from: http://www.johnnymartyr.com/%E2%80%A2-urban-decay.php
image by: Johnny Martyr 
On my quest to uncover more about how the 35mm SLR camera changed and advanced the field of photojournalism, I stumbled upon the website of Johnny Martyr. Martyr is a photographer who, to this day, shoots the majority of his photos with 35mm film. Though most photographers today shoot digitally, Martyr prefers to use 35mm. According to his website, he “firmly believes in aphotojournalistic approach to an image. Even his posed photos contain elementsof improvisation and documentary. He finds that shooting on film helps him stayin ‘the now’, looking for the next photo instead of studying a LCD screen of thelast shot”. Many photographers such as Martyr believe that using 35mm film rather than a digital image allows them to “remain truer to the chance element that film photography originally entailed the unique play of light and shadow, and captured by the opening of the shutter therefore being less open to post-development manipulation”. Other analysts however, commend the use of digital shooting as superior. 

photo taken from:
image by: Ken Rockwell 
Ken Rockwell, an independent photographer who documents his photos on his website, http://www.kenrockwell.com/index.htm, has written his own opinions and stories regarding the use of many different types of cameras, lenses and technologies. In 2006 he posted a lengthy debate regarding the use of digital vs. film. Though he expressed a preference for the way pictures look using film, he admitted that due to convenience and the amount of knowledge, skills and time that it takes to develop film images, he has used mainly digital cameras when taking pictures that someone else will be developing for him. He also commented on the decline of the use of film by professional newspapers, and the simultaneous consistency by which film is used in large exhibition landscape prints which require immaculate details. In his article he lists several advantages and disadvantages that come from using film rather than digital. Advantages for film included resolution, the ability to re-scan, dynamic range, a broader range of color, long exposures, double exposures, permanence of film always being able to be re-printed, cost of the camera and lenses itself, and legibility. On the other hand, positives for digital included, more consistent color in prints, greater image quality due to faster shutter speed, workflow speed and ability to share images quickly and conveniently, storage space, and cost of shooting thousands of images without consideration for running out of film, or needing 100 tries to capture one image to your liking. Though there are many positives and negatives to each approach, the main idea comes down to preference. 

Though I primarily use my Ipod touch or my Nikon D3100 digital camera to take the majority of my pictures, I do have access to a 35mm camera. My mother’s camera (pictured below) is a Cannon AE-1 35mm single-lens reflex that has a 200mm lens on it currently. Though I don’t use it very frequently, due to convenience, growing up it was our only option, and we made good use of it. The image of that camera as well as the picture I included of the baby mouse I recently came across while cleaning out my shed were both taken using the Nikon. It is incredibly fast and convenient for the type of photographs I normally take. When taking a photograph for this assignment i was thankful for the digital camera which allowed me to immediately import the media onto my computer and subsequently this blog.  
original image by: Nicole Dufresne
original image by: Nicole Dufresne
additional information taken from: http://www.ehow.com/about_6591934_history-35mm-still-photography-cameras.html

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