A change in him occurred this past weekend when we both spent the weekend making portraits of Canadian artists at a northern Ontario outdoor art museum known as The Tree Museum (image from Tree Museum). He agreed to assist me in this commission because I promised I would shoot the entire thing with a Phase One medium format back attached to a Mamiya 645 camera and wired to a laptop. The experience disturbed Adrian's certainties about the superiority of his analog tools and processes. He was stunned by the quality of the captured images (sample?) and by the fluidity of the process. We had no need for an exposure meter or for Polaroids, a must for such a job if one were shooting transparency film. On the way back to Toronto Adrian was quiet and thoughtful. He was evidently delighted by the experience, which by the way is qualitatively different from shooting with a DSLR because we were able to shoot and immediately afterwards, show a contact sheet to the subject of the portrait, discuss the results and shoot more if desired, all of this without having to download the contents of a compact flash card.
I could tell that as we drove south towards Toronto, Adrian was calculating in his mind how much analog equipment he would have to sell to be able to put some cash together to buy a DSLR at first, and how many jobs he would have to do in order to afford a Phase One back. He was genuinely convinced of the goodness of digital photography, and impressed by the ease of use and high quality of image, however, slowly a couple of doubts started to appear as wrinkles on his forehead.
First, he casually mentioned digital's reliance on electric power against the backdrop of the big power blackout that left New York, Ohio, and parts of Ontario in the dark in mid-August. He was not convinced by my response that there is no going back on electric energy and that the challenge is to make it more reliable and inexpensive. I then explained to him that batteries are getting more powerful, and that with back-up batteries I could power my laptop computer as well as the Phase One for a whole day shoot. Of course, powering up my studio strobe lights would require a generator and that would be a bit harder to arrange. He then shyly mentioned the environmental damage caused by the billions of spent batteries filling up garbage dumps all over the world. And then finally, he brought up the issue of permanence of image storage media arguing that no one really knows how long CD-R disks will last or be readable, whereas well-processed film and paper will last at least well.
Adrian is obviously having a digital/analog crisis like thousands of other photographers. He sees that the new digital team is dominating the photo/hockey game, and that sooner or later he will have to become a player, however for now, he chooses to play for the other team.
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