The Hard Way
I’m still in the post-SoFoBoMo recovery, so I’m not quite up to speed yet.
And here I must rant a bit about digital being “easy”. While it’s never really the machine that takes the photo (it’s the machines’ operator) digital makes it way more likely that just about anyone can come away with an image that’s, you know, properly exposed. Then don’t you just slap the file onto your computer screen and admire it for, like, 20 seconds before you hit NEXT, never really living with the image? But the way digital technology has made so much disposable, made the generation of photographs (and photographers) so easy (and so easy to delete, thereby erasing history) kind of bugs me.
Hmm. Sorry, I’m not buying any. I read/hear this complaint about ‘digital’ all the time, and to be honest, it always seems like complete bunkum to me.
Part of the problem is that I just don’t believe, even for a second, that we can really control how any eventual audience reacts to our work. We can control how WE react to the work, and that’s about it.
So when Fouse says “Then don’t you just slap the file onto your computer screen and admire it for, like, 20 seconds before you hit NEXT, never really living with the image”, he’s saying that for some bizarre reason, he can’t make himself do anything else. There’s nothing to prevent him leaving an image up on his screen for hours or days and interacting with it the way he’d interact with a print on the wall. There’s nothing to keep me from taking, say, a print of Ed Weston’s Pepper #30 and running it through a shredder, other than the fact that I like the print enough to hang it on the wall instead.
So all the argument about digital being ephemeral and ‘not real’ and ‘disposable’ is really more about our own attitudes, and not about the technology.
The part that really fails to stick for me is the idea that in order to make artmaking worthwhile, we must make the process hard. We must pay our dues, the reasoning goes, and we must make the process so difficult that we exclude the vast seething masses of wretched humanity from art-making. And I think that’s blowing smoke. I think it’s little more than some sort of guild behavior. If you’ve been reading here for long, you’ve probably come to realize that’s an attitude with which I vehemently disagree.
But interestingly, Fouhse continues:
Another reason why I’m planning on using the 4×5 is that it changes the ways you work. It slows things down. Each time I push the button it costs me 6 bucks (film and processing). Not that I’m gonna use that as an excuse to become (even more) anal. I’m just interested in using a different process, giving the old brain a workout.
I think it’s interesting because Fouhse seems to have done an abrupt turn, here. He’s gone from saying that if the work is done digitally, it’s too easy. Now he’s saying that doing it the hard way is useful to him because it slows him down and is more expensive, and imposing those constraints on himself is actually helpful and not a hindrance. In other words, he’s saying that using the 4×5 looks harder but is actually easier. In other words, he’s saying that imposing constraints on himself actually makes it simpler for him to get at making the art he wants to make.
One reason I find that interesting is that I’ve long suspected it was true for me, as well. SoFoBoMo is, if nothing else, an experiment in how imposing some seemingly pointless constraints (e.g. you must do everything in a one month period) would seem to make it harder to get a book done but actually makes it easier.