"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

The Art of Looking

A few weeks ago I got together with Bags, whose photographs have graced this space for more than a month now.

Bags takes pictures the old fashioned way. He uses film. Taking photographs is an excuse for him to tool around the city and look, really look at what’s around him (Bags isn’t from New York and I wonder if it takes an outsider’s sensibility to really appreciate the wonders, small and large, that our town has to offer.)

I haven’t used film in years and what I like about it is that it forces you to be selective. You can’t just snap away like you can with a digital camera, not caring how many shots you take. You have to look, carefully, before you decide to press “click.” Also, you may just miss a shot–you get the composition right, but then the classic old guy walks through the frame too quickly and you’ve lost the moment you want to capture. The possibility of this loss, makes it all the more exciting when you do get what you’re looking for.

And then there is the suspense of waiting for your pictures to come back from the lab. Oh, the agony. My feeling is that if you can get one good, I mean really good shot out of a role of 36 you should be pleased.

Anyhow, Bags and I tooled around the Upper West Side–a neighborhood he doesn’t know from–and snapped away. I haven’t gone to the lab yet, but this weekend I’m going to take more shots and then see what I’ve got. In the meantime, I’ve found myself, even without a camera in my napsack, stopping and looking. And for that alone, I am grateful.

Categories:  Bags  Bronx Banter

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1 Raf   ~  Jun 29, 2010 10:19 am

I carry my little digital everywhere. I switched over from film in 2005 and I haven't looked back. My photography hasn't suffered. It's also to load up on pics from events and not worry about running out of film.

2 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 29, 2010 10:32 am

I'm not saying digital is wack--though Bags might--but I like the idea of the old fashioned way, and since I'm an amateur at best, it doesn't really matter, but I doubt that digital can produce the level of nuance and depth that you can only get from film.

3 Chyll Will   ~  Jun 29, 2010 10:48 am

I disagree, Alex. I snapped some pics of the Whitestone Bridge while on the set a few weeks ago (we were shooting with the RED camera) with my Blackberry Curve, and I showed them to the first AC. He literally said "Wow! Do you shoot?" which I kinda do, but the point is that you can capture anything you want with any kind of camera, film or digital, if you know what you're doing with it. I agree that digital doesn't quite capture the textural tone of film, but that I'm realizing is an artistic choice as opposed to a reality of being. I would think film noir would be even more enhanced with the advent of HD. I bet it's just something people have to get used to, as opposed to the novelty of 3D which will only work when we perfect holographic projection.

4 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 29, 2010 10:51 am

I don't like HD technology for photographs.

But Will, you may be right. Again, since I'm an amateur I'm not sure I'd be able to tell the difference.

5 Raf   ~  Jun 29, 2010 11:03 am

[2] I knew what you were saying (not taking a shot at digita), I'm sorry if I came off that way. I was just saying that I've shot in both, and while I enjoyed taking pics with film, digitial is as much fun and more convenient for me. And it's easier on my pockets, I can only imagine how much film I would've gone through during my trips to Japan :)

FWIW, with a good digital camera, you can get that nuance and depth that you can in film cameras; it's all about the settings.

6 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 29, 2010 11:51 am

5) Good point about the good cameras. And you are certainly right about the cost. I guess what I like the most about film cameras is this notion of being selective, and of the excitement/anticipation that comes with not knowing. I'd forgotten about that. Anyhow, it's been helpful to me as a cataylst to stop and look more.

7 The Mick536   ~  Jun 29, 2010 2:27 pm

Have liked Bag's images since the first postings.Don't think his work is so original, but he is one of ours and will grow like the rest of us. Hard to come up with new angles on old shapes.

Please forgive me, but I have tired of this debate. Had lunch with a film guy yesterday. We will collaborate this weekend on a shoot in Burlington. He recognizes that he, a classically trained photographer shoots way better than I, but admits that I have my eye and he his. I be with [2] and [3].

Spoke with one of VT's best wedding guys Saturday after he shot a soiree at BCC using digital. Exhaustion all over his face. He looked like Steven Strassberg in the Seventh. Said he wished he didn't have to take 10 shots of some scenes, but he does to make sure. He also could not have had the first album to the family by the next day.

To get my Certificate in Graphic Design and Web at Champlain, no cap and gown, I took a film course. Other than the Rayograms, I found the darkroom tedious. I can do the sepias, high/low contrast, grain, antique much easier using LR3 and CS5 much easier on the computer than in the darkroom. I use no water. Have no waste.

Good photographers have good cameras. But the best camera is the one you have with you when the opportunity presents itself. I wish I had a Leica, but I will settle for my 5D Mark II.

8 The Mick536   ~  Jun 29, 2010 2:30 pm

Oops, sorry. I meant [1], [3]] and [5].

Raf says its about the settings. I abbreviate that. It is about the light.

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