If You Have to Ask, You’re Missing the Point

My camera kit weighs about 35 pounds. It’s a large-format Toyo field camera. And yet I love lugging it around. I may never be happier than when I’m shouldering my big backpack, searching for inspiration. For the perfect combination of light and shadow.

The Toyo captures one photograph at a time, on a 4-by-5-inch sheet of film. It takes a minimum of five minutes to get one photo. The average is probably 10 or 15 minutes. I might bring back half a dozen photos from an afternoon’s outing. By contrast, I took well over 100 shots at a recent 90-minute concert with my digital camera.

For years, debate raged among photographers over the merits of film versus digital. Film advocates grouse about the loss of craft, about textural and tonal subtleties. They assert that a person who’s known only digital understands far less about the inner workings of photography.

They’re (mostly) right. And their arguments are irrelevant.

Adapt or Perish

Professionals long ago abandoned film for all but the most specialized applications. They’ve stopped arguing about it, too – because they have better things to do. Such as taking photos that do the job for their clients. Film can’t compete in today’s marketplace. Period. Like it or not.

I’m reminded of this old dispute whenever the world changes – such as the advent of social media or the mass move to Twitter. Some folks debate the merits. Some lament the passing of the status quo.

The smart ones just keep moving forward, dealing with and adapting to the changes.

I still love toting the old Toyo, or occasionally retreating to my musty darkroom. Still (with apologies to Paul Simon) – Mama, don’t take my digital camera away. The world has changed, and so have I.