Film is dead, photography isn’t

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Film is dead, at least for consumers.

If you want to see how and why, visit the Digital Artist Guild’s exhibit “Pixels,” which opens on Friday at LeMoyne.

For commercial photographers, black-and-white aficionados and film makers, I’d say the condition is at best terminal and on life support. I mean, really, when was the last time you bought a roll of film?

Kodak — which ironically invented the consumer digital camera in 1976 — killed the nice bright colors of Kodachrome slides in 2009. After it emerged from Chapter 11 last year, the company sold most of what was left of its film and digital camera business to a British company.

It’s a good and bad thing, the demise of film.

There’s the good: No more running out of film at the beach, no more bulky 35 millimeter cameras, no more waiting for prints from the drug or camera store to see if your photos came out.

And there’s the bad. It takes a little joy out of life.

No more going to the drugstore, getting the envelop and silently screaming, “They came out!” ( Or walking away sullen when they didn’t.) Fewer chances to appreciate the full palette of grays, blacks and whites, the heart and soul of a silver halide print.

And, for the photographer, gone too is the magic of seeing an image appear on a piece of photo paper in a red-lit darkroom.

In 1977, Kodak sentimentally reminded us to “Remember the Moments of Our Lives.” With digital photography, will we?

You know what I mean, because we all have them: notebooks with plastic sleeves, painstakingly filled with pictures of our kids growing up, of memorable events, of friends goofing around, extraordinary places we visited. Faded group pictures of great-grandmothers and great-uncles who had just passed through Ellis Island. Your father standing proudly in his Army uniform.

They are something you can hold in your hand. Something you want to leave for your kids. Something — especially, if you came age in the ‘60s — that’s hilarious or embarrassing or both. Gone is the fun of mistakes: people making a faces at the camera or cutting off someone’s head.

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Now those get deleted. Easy. Just press the garbage can icon.You shot a hundred more. Where’s the legacy? Where’s Uncle Harold’s slide show of his vacation?

Then there’s Photoshop. Sad but true, no longer can you take a picture as fact. In the digital darkroom you can alter reality: eliminate an ex from a family portrait, add a beautiful sunset to your shot at the beach, remove a blemish or two. I do it.

But with digital, it’s not about the equipment — it’s about creativity and immediacy. Something newsworthy happens. You know about it in minutes. Grandparents see the new arrival in an hour. Revolutions are advanced. Civil injustices instantly documented.

Evolution is a good thing. The Digital Artist Guild’s exhibit at LeMoyne shows just how good it can be.

It gives photographers the means for to go beyond the confines of a latent image. It gives artists the ability to alter space, shift perspective, distort the real, twist and compress objects, create colorific scenes – all with creative intent..

Is this manipulating the viewer? Sure. As does all art.

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