Sunday, March 7, 2010

More Vs. Better


In the beginning, photographers had huge massive cameras like the Calumet 8x10 view camera, or the Horseman 5x7 View camera. This type of camera was limited to 1 sheet of film at a time. To be more accurate the individual holders, did hold two sheets at a time. You took one shot then flipped it over to expose a second shot. Then we moved into medium format cameras like the Mamiya RB67 or Hasselblad 4x5 camera these had film backs that held 8 or 10 shots at a time.

For the last 50 years or so, the most popular consumer format has been the 35mm camera, which took rolls of film with 12, 24, or 36 exposures possible. Now with the popular digital format cameras, it is literately possible to shoot thousands of photos on a single memory card.

Master photographers like Ansel Adams or Edward Weston were known to spend hours or even days to get a single shot. As a member of the Sierra Club; Adams for example would often hike a full day with pack mules, packers, cooks and others just to get to the right location. He would find the perfect location, and then wait for the perfect light. He was in tune to every highlight, shadow, shape and line that made up his magnificent work.

When 35mm cameras added power winders modern photographers boasted of being able to shoot a roll of 36 pictures in just over 7 seconds. Somehow, that just doesn't seem like the same level of dedication or even understanding as those who showed us the way.

In the process of making camera's lighter and able to do more, hold more, and shoot more have we actually made ourselves less about creativity, and more about mass production?

When I was a high school photographer, I often shot two or more rolls of 36 exposures at a sporting event or drama production. When I got to college; one of the Master Photographers in my life (David Meyers), critiqued my work again and again. Eventually, he only gave me a single 24 exposure roll to shoot ANY event. "Don't show me how much you can shoot," he would say, "Show me how good you can shoot."

It's been over 30 years since I heard those words, and a lot has happened in the world of photography since then. But truth is still truth, and the wisdom of what he taught will never leave me. Just because you can shoot multiple shots in a few seconds, doesn't mean you should. You decide, do you want to be lucky or do you want to be good?

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