Why I Shoot Film
John Kossik shares with us his thoughts on shooting film and gives us a science lesson in the process.
When I was in 1st grade back in 1966 I would walk the 10 blocks from my home in Trenton Michigan to St. Timothy’s Elementary school will a little plastic old-school collapsable briefcase in hand. The only item that I can ever remember being in this briefcase was a red workbook entitled “Think and Do.” It was some kind of early-reader that all kids my age used, “See Dick and Jane run.” I remember little of the specifics, but the title has stuck with me for some 48 years.
You see this seemingly innocuous title is quite profound being based on the “Scientific Method.” The Scientific Method that since it origins with Ibn al-Haytham over 1000 years ago since then has formed the basis of our understanding of the universe.
In its base form, the Scientific Method tells us to: (1) Formulate a Question to be Answered; (2) Create a Hypothesis that answers the Question; (3) Make a Prediction based on this Hypothesis; (4) Conduct an Experiment; (5) Analyze your Results to see if your Prediction is correct.
If your Results match your Prediction then you are done and you have an understanding of how the Universe works, an understanding that you can use to predict the future. If your Results do not match your Prediction than go back to (1) and try again.
Formulate, Hypothesis, Predict (THINK)
Experiment, Analyze (DO)
THINK and DO. Note that the order is important here, first we THINK then we DO, and this is where our so-called “digital revolution” can let us down.
Take “data-mining” for example. Companies like Google, Microsoft, the NSA, etc. collect terabytes and terabytes of data just for the sake of collecting it and “hoping” that they can “find” some trends or patterns or human tendencies buried in it to use to make money or control people. Unfortunately they do not even know in most cases what they are looking to find. They are DOING before they are THINKING!
Well you say this is not inherently bad, but it is as it is teaching the younger generation the direct opposite of the scientific method and in as such we are losing analytical skills that we have carefully cultivated for a millennia. Case in point. Check out the Wikipedia entry on Monte Carlo method (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monte_Carlo_method). There you will see the use of this complex computational tool to approximate the value of pi. To do so you need thousands of inputs to approximate pi. On the other hand you could just take your bicycle wheel, mark a point on it, roll it till you reach that point again, measure the difference traveled, and divide it by the diameter of the wheel!
This ludicrous example is noted here to illustrate the dangers of humans being too dependent on electronic devices and methods of which they have no understanding. How many young people even know how to use a compass?Better yet, if you are in the northern hemisphere, how many can tell you North by simply looking for the big dipper and the North Star? I was purchasing a cell phone lately and specifically wanted a model with a piezoelectric chip sensor in it so I could use it to determine the barometric pressure. I went to three stores and none of the people at any of these even knew what I was talking about when I mentioned barometric pressure let alone the piezoelectric effect. When the general public does not understand the workings of devices that they depend on every day, then they become (unknowingly) slaves of the small minority that controls them. A democracy itself is in peril under these conditions.
What does this have to do with photography and the discussion of digital vs film? Everything! This can most easily be seen in the phenomena called “Chimping,” clicking a digital picture and immediately checking it. In doing so we are DOING then THINKING. Aside from the danger of walking in front of a bus while “chimping” there is the fact that no THINKING is needed prior to taking the picture. Without this prior THINKING we are much less likely to formulate a viable hypothesis/prediction sequence than if we followed the proper steps of the scientific method. To be fair, there are many who use digital cameras in the THINK and DO mode. First they set their exposure settings (not using AUTO), frame their subject (THINK), then take the picture and review the results for exposure and content (DO). Matter of fact all good photographers do this, and this is the same method used in film photography, the only difference being that the time between THINKING and DOING can be a few days or at least a few hours due to developing time.
The problem is that most people using digital cameras do not do this, they simply DO then THINK (or just DO, DO, DO, DO, DO). Alas the scientific method is lost on them and they learn nothing from their efforts.
Will digital photography cause the downfall of the human race? Not quite, but is does serve us well as the “canary in the coal mine” of a path we seem to be traveling down that leads to a dead end.
Shooting film FORCES you to THINK then DO, and thus FORCES you to use the scientific method whether you know you are doing so or not. That’s why I shoot film.
Many thanks for your thoughts John. Very interesting reading.
You can see John’s bag and his work by following this link http://www.japancamerahunter.com/2014/01/bag-768-john-kossik/
What about you? Why do you shoot film? Comments are welcome.