A few thoughts for Mark Street and othersÉ
The existence and nature of analog photography is accidental and arbitrary. It just so happens that some guys tinkering around with chemicals and light discovered something about the world and its strange ability to capture its own image. I have often noted that one has a love of a look because at some pivotal moment in ones aesthetic development, the moment when one fell in love with movies for example, they looked a certain way because of the technology that is available at this given moment. And it may be the case that one can never really shed this predisposition. In my case, I seem to think that movies are supposed to look like Fahrenheit 451 or Red Desert.
In any case, MarkÕs dichotomy is well taken - that with universal access and media literacy comes open the floodgates of YouTube mediocrity while also some justice and the suppression of media elite. But I would still suggest that big money will continue to write the victorÕs media history, whether itÕs called independent or not.
Another point of MarkÕs is valid: euphoria is not warranted, regardless of the object of admiration. A technology is not a god. Film is just a precious little modern cave painting, a pretty way of giving the executor of your will something to do.
The death of celluloid is a few things but primarily economic: Corporations reduce costs by eliminating media that is costly and complicated to make, cannot be made (well) in a third world. Celluloid requires expensive equipment to expose and requires expensive people to operate and produce. And as EPAs chases chemical companies to Fall River from Boston, Germany to Belgium, Rochester or Minnesota to France, itÕs really all about economic dominance just like most other American concerns. Sure, Kodak has killed VNF (a sulfide color reversal film formula) and may have less 55-gallon drums of chemical by-products in Rochester but where are the by-products from SeagateÕs hard drive manufacturers? When I was in Taiwan, I asked to see the mountain of beige plastic from all the dead computers we send them and I was told that it was in North Korea.
I have often wished I was interested in something just emerging or that I was working with film in 1931. I struggle to be anything but nauseous when confronted with what kids these days are into or what geeks at MIT are fooling around with. Everything has been done; in the post-war affluence Americans made some of the worldÕs most amazing looking photographic experiences. Imagine the incredible hassle of using a Technicolor camera the size of a Yugoslavian refrigerator, with multiple strands of film running through it. They couldnÕt run after homeless people with it (and what a heavy bummer.) Video is a tool like any other. Use it to your heartÕs (or your producerÕs) delight. ItÕs just not really filmic; please put video by so and so in your title sequence. Just because the audience doesnÕt know the difference doesnÕt make your FCP film-dirt plug-in actually add dirt from this planet to your presentation format, but I digress.
The fact is that the less people taking analog pictures, the more room for the rest of us - those of us crazy enough to perforate our own film, convert our aging ˇclairs to super 16, or process hi-con in the bathroom. This is a niche my nasty grandfather told me to seek when I was 17. Or at least until I get a real career. Film will become more and more like book-arts and thatÕs just fine. It harkens a time when people had to understand things thoroughly, and go to a lot of trouble – hence the preciousness and the petit mort of the shutter release.
gibbs chapman - march 2007