Which Comes First?

I’ve been shooting over a year as a retread.

When I left photography it was intensely chemistry based. Film into chemical. Print into chemical. I was trained in quality control, complete to emulsion testing, replenishment control, even to mixing from raw components. The BJP, Kodak Lab Notes, and Dignan letter were all organized in the lab.

Last year I returned to photography, shooting 4×5 and 120 with the intention of scanning then printing digitally. During the first few months I had nothing but regrets. Much had changed. The market had collapsed, leaving few vendors who knew and cared. It was and is easy enough to find good enough supplies. It is not possible to find a company that is as capable in the skills of business as well as the craft of photography. You will not find both!

The landscape of imagery has gone digital.

I have wondered what learning photography is like now. In my case the digital stuff has turned out to be trivially easy to acquire. My problems with it were in thinking that it would be as difficult, complex and requiring as much effort to learn as had chemical photography. I was wrong.

Learning digital first, then learning chemical will be easier, but probably more frustrating. The long feedback loop will trip your learning. It will be harder, seemingly more abstract, not less. The lesson will be longer. The results seemingly more random, less controllable. If you learn wetography first, then your digital attempts will seem too short, as though you have skipped something. That was my stumble. I kept looking for the undropped shoe. When does this turn hard? It doesn’t. Oh, there are bad software installs, screwed up OS matters, and obtuse instructions, but these are the way of software. In this age of open free forums and listserves and widely available know it alls, you won’t be lost for long.

What appears to be taking place is first learn digital then very old chemical. Skipping over the enlarger stage of photography. Instead going back to the coat and contact print era.

Welcome to the age of the lensless enlarger.

evolution onward!

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