Large format photography in the digital age
People who view my photographs often wonder why I don't use digital capture and printmaking. Digital photography has fully replaced film in nearly all consumer and commercial photography today. So why bother with film, especially expensive, difficult to manage large and ultra large format film?
There are many different answers to this question. Because I specialize in black and white landscapes, there is no better approach for me than film. The final product of all my efforts is exhibition grade fine art black and white prints. Specifically silver prints. In my opinion, digital photography and inkjet printing don't offer an equivalent alternative. As incredible as digital is, there is no substitute for a finely crafted selenium toned silver gelatin image. These prints possess a richness that is almost indescribable. There is a distinct difference that one can feel even if it can't be explained. Ansel Adams once described it as "the simple dignity of the glossy black and white print".
In the field, there is a rugged simplicity to view cameras. Cameras made today are similar in some ways to those made in the nineteenth century. Completely mechanical, requiring no power, they are reliable in any weather or any environmental conditions if properly cared for. There is no obsolescence, nothing to upgrade. A view camera forty years old works as well as one manufactured today. Or tomorrow. In addition, large format lenses are made to very high optical standards and quality is assured with nearly any lens one chooses. The proliferation of digital equipment has caused people to leave film technology and today's used camera markets are flooded with reasonably priced cameras and lenses.
Large format photography has finally taken its rightful place solely in the world of art. Most photographers utilizing this approach are artists. Whether they produce portraits, landscapes, still life or purely abstract images, view camera photographers continue a tradition of excellence and dedication to an art form that reaches back almost 170 years. As the world continues to embrace digital imaging, the one-of-a kind, handcrafted, fine art alternative process photograph will become more rare and precious than ever before, offering the true lover of photography a prized and collectible object of art.