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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

 

“Our autobiography is written in our contact sheets,  and our opinion of the world in our selects”  

"Never ever confuse sharp with good, or you will end up shaving with an ice cream cone and licking a razor blade."  

 

Bill Pierce is one of the most successful Leica photographers and authors ever. I initially "met" Bill in the wonderful 1973 15th edition Leica Manual (the one with the M5 on the cover). I kept reading and re-reading his four chapters, continually amazed at his knoweldge and ability, thinking "if I only knew a small part of what this guy knows... wow."  I looked foward to his monthly columns in Camera 35 and devoured them like a starving man.  Bill has worked as a photojournalist  for 25 years, keyword: WORK.  Many photogs dream of the professional photographer's  life that Bill has earned and enjoyed.  Probably Bill's most famous pic is Nixon departing the White House for the last time, victory signs still waving. 

 

Bill  has been published in many major magazines, including  Time, Life, Newsweek, U.S. News, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, New York Magazine, Stern, L'Express and Paris Match.  :His published books include  The Leica Manual,  War Torn, Survivors and Victims in the Late 20th Century, Homeless in America,  Human Rights in China,  Children of War.  Add to that numerous exhibitions at major galleries and museums.  Magazine contributions include  Popular Photography,  Camera 35, Leica Manual,  Photo District News, the Encyclopedia of Brittanica, the Digital Journalist, and now RFF.  Major awards include Leica Medal of Excellence, Overseas Press Club's Oliver Rebbot Award for Best Photojournalism from Abroad,  and the World Press Photo's Budapest Award. Perhaps an ever bigger award is Tom Abrahamsson's comment: "If you want to know Rodinal, ask Bill."

 

I met Bill in person through our mutual friend Tom Abrahamsson.  In person his insight and comments are every bit as interesting and engaging as his writing.  He is a great guy who really KNOWS photography.  I am happy to say he has generously agreed to host this forum at RFF  From time to time Bill will bring up topics, but you are also invited to ask questions.  Sit down and enjoy the ride!

 


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Old 03-26-2012   #81
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
WHY DO YOU USE FILM?
Loving mechanical cameras and manual lenses. Love the results (Ilford black and white for me).

When I brought three rolls in for developing to the local lab today there was another photographer unloading maybe thirty (!) rolls of 35mm and a bunch of larger format films.

Seeing this, I dont worry about the future of film.
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Old 03-26-2012   #82
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Originally Posted by benlees View Post
C'mon, you know the real thing is pulling your drapes and living in a camera obscura. No virtual there!
But no photograph is produced... that would be more for camera lovers!
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Old 03-26-2012   #83
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Thanks for posting my website Timor,

I didn't post it here because just clicking on my name lets you choose to go to my web site. If you google my name, it comes up first as well.

Charlie
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Old 03-26-2012   #84
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Why do I shoot film?
I love the process of using old cameras;
I love processing film;
And most important aspect - I love the output from film better than digital. Maybe one day I will fall in love with digital, but not yet. I keep on looking at test pictures from M8, M9, now x100, xp1 etc. etc. that you guys post here - it just does not look the way I like (unless a lot of post processing is done to simulate a film). Not yet.
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Old 03-26-2012   #85
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Originally Posted by Charlie Lemay View Post
Thanks for posting my website Timor,

I didn't post it here because just clicking on my name lets you choose to go to my web site. If you google my name, it comes up first as well.

Charlie
That, how I found it. Now I am looking at your instructions. Looks like great stuff worth trying.
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Old 03-26-2012   #86
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Because its not as easy to build a digital camera with plywood. Duh!
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Old 03-26-2012   #87
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A)
- I love the look of FP4+, Delta 100 as well as Kodak Elite Chrome (I know, need to stock up).
- Film is so smoooth....

B) Easier to handle. Yes!
I come home from a trip, develop my negatives (4 roll-tank), and scan with Epson 4990 & Silverfast LE. FP4+/HP5+ profiles work fine (b/w) for me now. Scan, apply profile, adjust curves slightly, then a few adjustments in LR3. Takes me less time on average than fixing up an M8 or DP2s file in LR3 and Silver Efex.
Photos I need to have published/printed large I sent to a high-quality scan service (Hasselblad X1) where a pro knows what I want. They are essentially ready-to-print when I get them back.

C) Gear....

- my favourite focal length is 50mm and my favourite lens is the 50mm Sonnar C. I cannot handle the crop of the M8 or X-Pro 1, and cannot afford an M9.
- I shoot in a lot in cold mountain ranges. My M6 and Contax T3 simply work.
- The lens characteristics and rendering of the Sonnar on the Contax T3 loaded with slide film or Delta 100 have not been surpassed by any digital. So I stick with it when I need a very compact performer for double-page spreads.
- I can afford to shoot medium format with it. Rolleiflex...yummie.
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Old 03-26-2012   #88
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I use film because it is light sensitive and can record an image that I can turn into a photograph.
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Old 03-26-2012   #89
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsrockit View Post
...To me, photography is photography... great work has been made in all mediums and formats and that has not changed with digital. This notion that digital is fake photography is just so silly that you keep roping me in...
yuuup, uh huh.
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Old 03-26-2012   #90
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Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalintrigue View Post
I bought a state of the art film camera last week for $150.
As did I. And many others. I think it will be fun. That's reason enough.
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Old 03-26-2012   #91
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Originally Posted by jsrockit View Post
But the more I keep hitting my head against the wall, the better it feels when I stop. True, I'm a bit touchy...but I am secure. That has nothing to do with this matter though. To me, photography is photography... great work has been made in all mediums and formats and that has not changed with digital. This notion that digital is fake photography is just so silly that you keep roping me in. Next time, I'll just realize it's you posting again and ignore it.
Well, film kinda is the "real" thing. You can touch it, hold it, hold your neg/slide up to the light.. try doing that with your memory card.
Whenever I shoot film, I always feel more involved in the photography process than what i do when shooting digital.
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Old 03-26-2012   #92
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsrockit View Post
This notion that digital is fake photography is just so silly that you keep roping me in. Next time, I'll just realize it's you posting again and ignore it.
I never said that digital is a fake photography, I said it is not a photography, it is something else, a digital capture which similarity to photography ends with the shutter. Behind that exists totally different, algorithm driven virtual world of information. I know, there are hybrid technologies, where you can print "digital negative" and then in the darkroom a real, baryta photograph could be made. But for that digital camera is not needed, any computer generated graphic file will do. Digital camera is just the quickest way to acquire the initial image. This is never less wonderful technology with great potential and is good, that we have it. I just don't use it for my hobby.
When comes to "roping" you are doing it yourself, initially in this thread I agreed with you, I don't think that "digital=dull", very much the opposite.
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Old 03-26-2012   #93
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Quote:
Originally Posted by timor View Post
...I said it is not a photography, it is something else...
I'm very curious to know why you don't consider it photography ? I know the words people use but I fail to understand the reasoning.

and to add further confusion, there's a thread about Thomas Dworzak using an X100. Does this mean he and Alex Majoli for example, aren't making photographs ? If not, what are they making ?
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Old 03-26-2012   #94
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Aw com'on, let's not go there again.
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Old 03-26-2012   #95
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I'm being sincere Frank, I simply can't understand the rationale. As long as this view is being put forth, I want to understand it. I think this is germane to the thread but I understand your concern as to which path this can go.
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Old 03-26-2012   #96
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Originally Posted by sreed2006 View Post
Because that's the way, uh-huh, uh-huh, I like it.
You have a mirrored ball hanging from the living room ceiling, don't ya?
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Old 03-26-2012   #97
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I'm being sincere Frank, I simply can't understand the rationale. As long as this view is being put forth, I want to understand it. I think this is germane to the thread but I understand your concern as to which path this can go.
It is merely semantics. Photography to some people means traditional film. For those people, digital capture is not real (traditional) photography. (and it is a different process to acheive an image) It's just how they choose to define the words. No biggie. No need to get twisted up.
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Old 03-26-2012   #98
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zuiko85 View Post
I like mechanical things. My older film 35mm cameras, M4-2, OM-1, Pen F are all mechanical, feel nice in the hand, make soothing sounds, and don't require batteries. The plasto-blob Ni-Ca-Oly-Tax digital SLR's (no way can I afford an M9) have no appeal at all and as far as I'm concerned are completely interchangeable in their mundane dullness.
For the same reasons as Zuiko85. I couldn't have said it better. In addition, I like the look of film. Digital looks clinical to me.
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Old 03-26-2012   #99
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Originally Posted by Film dino View Post
I use film because (for me) its intuitive & much easier than learning digital camera menus. Most of the time only 2 of 3 variables operate- aperture & shutter speed. Maybe I'm lazy..
Ah yes. I gotta add that to my reasons. No menus!
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Old 03-26-2012   #100
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Glass plates are too heavy.
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Old 03-26-2012   #101
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Film, thats the emulsion on plastic stuff. I remember it. The darkroom is still set up,all 7 enlargers, safe lights, large format , various Focomats, trays. I never had to update any to keep working. Never sold any of the film cameras, all Leicas except for 4x5.

Went to mostly digital 6 years ago and thought it was cool. Still do. Have a couple full frame Nikons and some DX ones and a M8 so I can use all my old lenses. All the latest and greatest Nikor lenses and a newish 27" iMac ,i7, 16 GB ram, color calibrated screen, photoshop CS5.

Computer came with Snow Leoperd and I spent weeks setting it up chasing drivers from obscure websites so I could continue to use my Minolta 5400 scanner, a Kodak printer, Epson flatbed, and a few other devices. Now I am ready for the fun part.

Wrong! Lion OS comes along. Don`t need it as the new computer is for photos ONLY.
Wrong again! CS6 requires 64 bit Lion OS. OK I don`t mind $100 upgrade to Lion and I can use the disk for 3 computers. Here is the issue. The film scanner will not be supported by Minolta and I will be chasing drivers for the rest which I may or may not find. I just went thru all this 15 months ago.

Does Kodak make film 1 mm wider every year forcing new cameras ? Heck no. 4x5 is still 4x5. I can feed the Leicas 35 mm just like always.

Adobe will not support 32 bit on Mac so Adobe thinks they can force me to upgrade to Lion and then I get screwed by everything else. And they expect every new CS to be upgraded, OK so I resigned to to paying $200 every few years, but I`ll be dammed if I will buy a new computer, scanners, printer etc.

What do I get as a photographer for all this new OS stuff? Nothing. Just a bunch of trouble.

Digital photography is nothing but a money pit.
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Old 03-27-2012   #102
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Originally Posted by Charlie Lemay View Post
Thanks for posting my website Timor,

I didn't post it here because just clicking on my name lets you choose to go to my web site. If you google my name, it comes up first as well.

Charlie
Thank you Timor. I must admit I should have tried that myself before asking.

Charlie, I had a brief look at your website yesterday and bookmarked it to have a read later today.
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Old 03-27-2012   #103
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I like the smell of film. And Fixer.

I love the little click my M5 shutter makes.
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Old 03-27-2012   #104
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Originally Posted by Ronald M View Post
Digital photography is nothing but a money pit.
Well. I'd say film is more of a money pit. Sure you don't have to upgrade your digital kit every few years, however think of all that money spent on film/development/scanning.

I just bought 100 rolls of film. Close to $1000. This will last me a few months. So in a year using and spending all that on film and development, it certainly does make digital less of a money pit than film.
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Old 03-27-2012   #105
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Many hobbies are money pits.
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Old 03-27-2012   #106
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jubb Jubb View Post
Well, film kinda is the "real" thing. You can touch it, hold it, hold your neg/slide up to the light.. try doing that with your memory card. Whenever I shoot film, I always feel more involved in the photography process than what i do when shooting digital.
I always thought it was the photos that mattered... generally speaking, people are going to look at the photo and not your process. That said, I can understand loving the wet darkroom. I did... but I also love the digital process as well. I just love photography in general.

Why would I want to hold my memory card up to the light? I can just chimp the images on my camera...
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Old 03-27-2012   #107
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Well. I'd say film is more of a money pit. Sure you don't have to upgrade your digital kit every few years, however think of all that money spent on film/development/scanning.

I just bought 100 rolls of film. Close to $1000. This will last me a few months. So in a year using and spending all that on film and development, it certainly does make digital less of a money pit than film.

Thats $10 a roll. That's nuts especially if you're buying in bulk.

Rolling my own bulk film costs me about $2.50 a roll for B&W on average. I understand that color may be more, but still...
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Old 03-27-2012   #108
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Because I still dig it, man. And I dig all my film cameras, too
So you Dig it all Sorry couldnt resist
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Old 03-27-2012   #109
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Originally Posted by Teuthida View Post
Thats $10 a roll. That's nuts especially if you're buying in bulk.

Rolling my own bulk film costs me about $2.50 a roll for B&W on average. I understand that color may be more, but still...
Have you seen how much a roll of Provia 400x in 35mm goes for these days? Over $10 everywhere you look.

Thankfully I shoot less than 50 rolls per year and try to use 100 speed slide film.
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Old 03-27-2012   #110
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Because its not as easy to build a digital camera with plywood. Duh!
Ah yes, and I won't be able to pick up a digital camera with an obsolete sensor and duct-tape a bigger back and get a larger sensor camera in the end

(In case that's not clear, I was describing my hacking a Polaroid Pathfinder 110 with a 4x5 back, got shots from it too, after taping shut the last light-leak, that is ).
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Old 03-27-2012   #111
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I always thought it was the photos that mattered... generally speaking, people are going to look at the photo and not your process.
But different processes yield different results. Even if they can produce the same image in a technical sense, different operational sequences have divergent decision trees, and tend to yield different artistic results. Not better, necessarily, but different.

There are good and valid artistic reasons why people still do stone litho, linocuts, woodcuts, silkscreen, etchings, etc. Same goes for the various photographic approaches.
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Old 03-27-2012   #112
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I always thought it was the photos that mattered...
That's the mix-up maybe. For hobbyist not always the final effect matters, is more the activity which brings some fun and relax.
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Old 03-27-2012   #113
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I was looking at some old photographs last year that my parents took when I was a child.
They looked great for all their flaws. It's like they'd aged like a quality piece of furniture or a good wine. Looking at the images made me want to pick up a film camera again. I've always wanted a rangefinder (having used a film SLR many years ago). So last year I bought an old M6 and a couple of lenses and have since derived great pleasure out of everything from inserting the film to thinking about the exposure, the composition, the light. Emotionally it felt great to create some kind of continuity, to follow in my father's footsteps as I capture images of my 15 month old son and record the places we've explored and the things we've enjoyed doing. Simple but valued moments in time, carefully and lovingly recorded on the Leica in the same way and for the same reasons that my father did before me. The whole process has been a rich one including the beautiful fine grained end product.
Film is special on many technical, artistic and emotional levels. I'm hooked again.

Digital has it's place as a precision tool and the immediacy of the results accelerate the learning curve for an amateur like myself. I still use digital, in fact I'm waiting to take delivery of a new digital camera tomorrow. But when I want to slow things down, savour the moment and create something meaningful (to me), I reach for my beautiful M6.

That's why I like film :-)
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Old 03-27-2012   #114
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Rolling my own bulk film costs me about $2.50 a roll for B&W on average. I understand that color may be more, but still...
You haven't bought film in the past few years have you...
Kodak Ektachrome costs $10 per roll, and other neg films cost around $7.

BW sure, you can get it a lot cheaper. I have never seen a bulk deal around, anywhere. BH sell everything by the roll, which is where i get my film from.

Sure digital photography can be expensive with gear, but you aren't really paying for every single photo you take with the camera.
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Old 03-27-2012   #115
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1) I prefer the process. Celluloid negatives and darkroom printing rather than pixels and a computer.

2) I much prefer useing film cameras.
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Old 03-27-2012   #116
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That's the mix-up maybe. For hobbyist not always the final effect matters, is more the activity which brings some fun and relax.
Quite right. To me its more fun to develop and print in a darkroom than sitting in front of a computer.
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Old 03-28-2012   #117
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Martin Parr's recent blog entry titled The Facebook Problem... If you believe the numbers he quotes (and if I understand them correctly)... I calculate that if every frame of a 36 exposure roll is a keeper than we would be looking at 166.7 million rolls of film per month (500 million rolls at 12 good exposures of 120 format film).

Okay, I guess the pace of film and the price of excellent quality lenses and equipment. I found (by walking around) a factory Ai-ed Nikkor-H Auto 1:3.5 f=28mm for about USD 50... I enjoyed that find and the rolls of film exposed using it. In that same time I could have pumped out and uploaded a thousand or so dSLR images, but then we would be back to that old discussion (again...).

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Old 03-28-2012   #118
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I started out with film 14 years ago, learned how to develop and print, and now I just want to keep the technical side constant so that I can concentrate on the photograph. I also never thought there was anything wrong with film, so why should I switch? Constantly upgrading SW would frustrate me immensely. Even scanning pictures with a flatbed for the web is utterly boring. Mind you, I’m an amateur, so there’s no pressure to switch to digital.

May I also quote David Burnett from an interview at TOP:
http://theonlinephotographer.typepad...3/burnett.html

“ Early July I was in Florida for the last of the Space Shuttle launches, and found myself on the same beach where, 42 years earlier, I'd photographed the departure of Apollo XI to the moon.
A few good pictures this time, but living in the age of TV/internet/twitter/Facebook, it all feels like it passes far too quickly. The velocity of photos and images that society has created and runs through on a daily basis means it's very difficult for a great image to stand out. It still happens, but I think we are all being deluged with imagery, and not enough time to appreciate them"

Food for thought…
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My film photography and darkroom blog (Turkish language): http://www.geldurkal.blogspot.com
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Old 03-28-2012   #119
stratcat
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Because I like it! Because it demands involvement to prepare the chemicals, carefully develop, cut, scan, etc. Because it's physical and I can touch the rolls, the negatives, the tank, etc.

That's just me. Others get much more artistical shots than I do with their digicams and have their fun that way. I have my fun with bulk loading, rewinding, developing, scanning, etc.
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Old 03-28-2012   #120
Soeren
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsrockit View Post
I always thought it was the photos that mattered... generally speaking, people are going to look at the photo and not your process. That said, I can understand loving the wet darkroom. I did... but I also love the digital process as well. I just love photography in general.

Why would I want to hold my memory card up to the light? I can just chimp the images on my camera...
If only the result and not the proces of getting there mattered it wouldn't be a hobby it would be work. You could also ask why bother carvin somthing or metalworking, sawing and grinding when CNC machines does it so much better
Best regards
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