When I was in high school, I was trying to pick out an elective for the upcoming year. My mom encouraged me to take something that was useful, and would give me "real world" skills.
I explained to my mom that this "whole computer thing" was just a "fad" and that at no point in my life did I ever plan on having a job that would require me to type anything.
Even as I write this, my fingers are nowhere even close to "home" and in fact, I'm not sure I even now what keys "home" are.
I held firmly to the idea that computers would just be a fad for many years. I put off taking Photoshop in college until the very last semester. One semester of digital photography was all that was required at the time. I think we probably used Photoshop, Version 2. (Is Photshop 2 even a thing? I'm not sure I even know what I'm running now...) Digital cameras were such a luxury item, that almost everyone scanned their negatives in. I sat in the back of the class, and being blind as a bat, and also totally mac illiterate, I did not learn a single thing. I even made a graphic design major do my homework for me.
My boyfriend recently called me an "analog kind of girl". This made me love him on a deeper level than I ever thought possible. As he was saying this, he was on the other end of the phone, buying me a Rolleiflex. This also made me love on a much, much deeper level.
I love analog, but I was wrong. The whole computer thing was not a fad, and it seems as they are here to stay.
It leaves photographers in a particularly interesting situation. With everyone walking around with a camera in their hand, software that can make a photograph look sepia-toned (remember when you had to put you print in that rotten egg toner to get a sepia print?) or like a double exposure (remember what a gamble that was, back in the film days?!) AND the ability to show that photo off to millions of people with just one click, what makes them "people who just happen to take photos" and us "artists"?
(Sidenote: As I typed this last sentance, I fell in to a bit of a dark hole. Like, fuck! What if I just wasted the last 20 years of my life, pursuing something that is now so commonplace, that I never stand a chance? But don't worry, I snapped out of it. Please continue reading.)
But because I came of age during the dawn of digital photography, this question of what seperates me from "them" has always been in the back of my mind. I'm not sure I have the answer, but I do think that the question itself informs my work and the processes I use in creating it. I use alternative processes, not only because I love them dearly, but because there is a quality to them that will NEVER be replicated by a filter in Instagram. I use digital processes too, but not to "retouch" my work, but to create photos in ways I never thought possible (see "Flight" and "*Cited").
I also think that I've taken a step back from my own photography this year, as I'm working on my butterfly boxes. As an art medium, photography definitely has it's own limitations. I have always taken comfort in these limitations, in the rigidity of the process: the agitation of film every 30 seconds, the slow rock of the developer tray. Even just the viewfinder itself is a limitation on what you can record in the world. These boxes are familiar to me in that the idea is essentially the same as photography: I have this little viewfinder, but rather than recording what I see inside of it, I can create what I see inside of it. And that idea is freeing.
I do think that a photographer with training and a deep love for the craft stands out amongst all the Instagrams in this world. I recently heard Stephen Wilkes describing photographs as a reflection of the photographers soul. I love this idea, and think of it when I'm sitting in my studio, surrounded by my own work.
I am sitting in the essence of me. My analog soul.