Digital vs. Film

Shannon Reed

This isn't a real wet plate, of course, but I've always been in love with the look of wet plate collodion and thought that this image of Iz lent itself well to the look.  There are some really brilliant wet plate collodion photographers out there and I envy what they do so much.  Mark Sink, right here in Denver, is one such artist.  His work is stunning - the real deal; everything he does is just maddeningly beautiful...

I'm reminded of a recent conversation with my buddy, Hal; I asked him what he thought about digital photography and he said, without hesitation, that it's not real photography.  I understand his point of view completely; if I were 93 and a half years old and had been a photographer most of my life - gutting it out, hauling large and medium format cameras around, navigating stacks of boxes of papers in the dark room, banging my head on enlargers, and inhaling the chemicals wafting up from developing trays for the last six or seven decades, I, too, would likely scoff at this digital stuff.  

How lucky are digital photographers to have the mobility and flexibility we do?  I come from the old school of photograph making and, sure, I groused about the inadequacies of digital work - - at first. Technology is constantly advancing and digital photography has made huge strides in the last several years; we have seen incredible progress to such a degree that it's becoming more and more difficult to tell the two apart.  In my humble opinion (and with no disrespect to Hal), a good image is a good image and it shouldn't matter how it came to be.  

Now, printing, on the other hand - that's a whole other ball of wax.  These days, most digital photographers, like myself, are reliant upon the skills of a good print maker.  It's an invaluable and often underrated partnership, but I tell you - when you find a print maker who is in tune with who you (the photographer) is as an artist - well, you better hang on to them.  I've worked with Bob Coller Jewett for the last few years and I'm so grateful for his talent - and patience.  

The digital vs. film argument will continue but one fact remains - the resources made available to film photographers are dwindling so it's not like we have the luxury of choosing our medium like we used to a few years ago.  When Kodak was brought to its knees by the mass migration toward digital, it was clear that the tides had changed and that, for the most part, film photography is going to become more and more difficult to produce.

But that's all a moot point, really, as it pertains to my wanting to do wet plate collodion as there's obviously no film involved in that process.  Doing wet plates is a bit like eliminating the middle man (film) and the effect is just so SO delicious.  Ahh, I will learn this process one day - it's a bucket list item for sure.