Tuesday, October 11, 2011

By the hand.

"What do you mean, 'By the hand?'" a friend asked when I told her that recently I had been making black-and-white optical prints, for which the hand was crucial. The printer's hands, I explained, not technological wizardry, manipulate light and shadow; and the hand has human limits. Each print varies slightly. The limits and idiosyncrasies of optical printing were a welcome change from the maddeningly infinite possibilities and perfectionism of digital printing.

My first pictures were made with Kodachrome slide film in the early 1970s, and were fully resolved as projected images on a white wall in a darkened room. They remain my most direct experience of photography. I later turned to colour negative film, for its greater tonal latitude and the ability to make prints directly from the negative. While I continue to shoot negative film to this day, for nearly a decade I have been scanning my negatives and modulating them in Photoshop before outputting them on traditional chromogenic colour paper. It's a hybrid process.

My greatest fear is that as a discarded medium and corporate outcast, analogue will no longer be essential to visual education. Many young people will not know the difference between hand and button, they will only know the button; and their use of technology will be constricted by their ignorance of hand work. They will not perceive the qualities of optical photography because their eyes will only know digital imagery.

When I last visited Berlin, I got lost on the way to a friend's house. While staring at my iPhone map I heard a voice call: "Mitch, Mitch!" and looked up to find him waving at me from his car as he waited for the light to change. I climbed into the car. A GPS receiver has more than once helped me out of a jam, but it is hard to describe how lovely it felt to pull my eyes off my screen and let a friend guide me"
- Mitch Epstein (via: the guardian)

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