Jones House, Academy Street, Cary, NC
As part of the “Light on China” exhibition, I was on a panel discussion with some accomplished photographers. Could we not talk about digital versus film photography? When asked, Bill McAllister said that he took better photographs with film than digital cameras. The thought process was he could see the immediate results with a digital camera and as soon as he got a “good” photograph, he stopped because he made a “good” photograph. With a film camera, he had no idea if he had made a “good” photograph, so he kept on photographing. He felt the upside for great photographs was higher for film precisely because he did not know what he made at the time the photographs were made.
I experienced this for years as a film photographer. I have also experienced the opposite of this when a film negative did not even come close to my memory of the situation or my expectation for the negative. I always considered this negative outcome solely a defect with the film. Or maybe the developer. Or maybe the fixer. Or maybe anything but me.
But I digress. We don’t know if we have hit the right spot with a photograph until we go past the good photograph. When we go past the good photograph we find out if we can make it better, or if we have ruined the photograph. If we ruin the photograph, then we know the last photograph we made is as good as it can get. If we make it better we know it wasn’t the best. Somewhere among these blogs I must have said we back into great photographs by knowing we’ve gone too far. That’s still true, whether you're holding a film or digital camera.