Recently, I was at the Tate Britain. I'd gone to visit an exhibition called "Painting with Light - Art and Photography from the pre-Raphaelites to the modern age". quite a mouthful!
I think it's fair to say the line between traditional art and photography has never been more blurred than it is today. Everyone plus their uncle has some kind of digital camera with them pretty much all the time and the sheer number of pictures taken on a daily basis is mind boggling. It wasn't always the case and this exhibition really hammered it home. From the earliest images that were taken in moments of the same views that a painter had taken months or years to complete, the resentment of the "Artist" must have been palpable. Slowly over years though it changed... photographers and artists began to collaborate and influence each other. They began to explore the same subjects, classical images drawn from literature were considered suitable subjects for both painters and photographers. Painters started to use photographs as the basis of a piece of work for the first, fundamentally changing the ethos of the Pre-Raphaetlites who no longer considered it of paramount importance to "be in the moment" or "be at the source" of their artwork. Photography changed the way they painted their subjects... they moved from sharp foregrounds and "fuzzy, misty backgrounds" to having more depth (yes that's right, depth of field). They began to use the photographs to capture the way the light changed over a matter of minutes rather than a matter of hours.
In our digital age people snap the most mundane of images and then apply software to it, often change entirely the look and feel of the snap. Think Instagram (no filter). Of course, I don't think that everyone who takes a snap and applies a filter to it has produced a piece of art; any more than I think every shot I take is "artworthy" by dint of it having been taken on a "proper" DSLR.
By the way, for those of you that believe the digital age invented photo manipulation, think again. Photographers have been applying dark room effects, combining multiple images and generally messing with the viewer's eye since the very early days of photography. Amusingly, it was as divisive then as it is today.
The exhibition got me thinking about my roots in photography. I actually started shooting pictures in my very early teens, I generally used a cheap box camera but at school I did learn to develop my own black and white pictures in the school "darkroom" ( A grand name for a converted cupboard!) I didn't get my first SLR until I was about 19... say 1983 and here it is!
My Chinon CG-5 , I dug it out of the cupboard it's been tucked away in all these years. Incredibly, it sprung to life when I turned it on.... those are the original batteries! I have absolutely no images from way back then (probably not a bad thing!) BUT I did find a couple of exposed but undeveloped rolls of film in the bag.... I'm going to see about getting them developed. That may or may not work out so I'll have to wait and see. I've bought a roll of black and white film and will be out and about with my Chinon over the next week or so!
I have another analogue camera, my father gave it to me when I visited New Zealand last year and the batteries it needs to spring into life are on order.
The cool thing is that it's a Canon EOS camera and that means that most of my current lenses will fit this body so I'll be out and about with it as well.
I had been considering getting myself what's called a "toy camera", these are generally cheaply made, light leaky cameras with plastic lenses often made in the old soviet union. (such as these lomo cameras although these are modern knock offs)They sometimes shoot 35 mm film, more often 110 cartridges but I'm interested in what's called "Medium Format" so I'm probably going to invest in a "Lubitel 166b" cheap and cheerful but I expect to have lots of fun with it.
Yep! I'm going "Old Skool", I feel competent enough that having a very limited number of shots available to me won't inhibit me! I've never belonged to the "shotgun" school of photography anyway but this will only hone my skills and I'm excited to see the results but I won't be hanging up my 70D just yet.
Thanks for reading.
21 September 2016