Photography: analog vs digital – I want my Tri-X please

A camera was an instrument where I would load a roll of film. I loved watching the film wind advance. I was just learning about lighting 40 years ago. As I’d compose I’d set the shutter speed and f-stop, focus and I’d click my shutter at the exact moment my intuition said to.  There was no firing off of 10 digital images to have to sort through later. I made one photo. I savored the slowing down of life’s gentle moments.  I loved the sound of my finger pressing on the shutter button. I loved the excitement of waiting to get the film developed, or a proof sheet if I was shooting black and white. Lot of loves in this paragraph. That’s because I love photography.

Now, a camera is no longer a camera.  Cameras capture video, sound, even GPS coordinates along with more metadata that you could ever possibly need or care about. As we’ve seen the changes in photography take us from analog to digital, this physical medium has changed. I turned digital in 2004 only because I was working on a movie and that demanded digital images. I feel that I’m almost a victim of the digital age which is probably why my obsession with buying photography books has doubled recently. I know books are going to be relics someday. I have returned to film because I want something tangible not an image stored in The Cloud.

I am saddened that the film industry is in its final throes and can only hope that Kodak will continue to produce my favorite film of all time; Tri-X. I love the speed, latitude and sharpness and don’t want to be alive to find out Kodak will no longer produce this film.

I’ve heard that Kodak was blowing up their own buildings years ago.  Since 2003, Eastman Kodak has closed 130 plants and 130 laboratories. I know we’re not supposed to be attached to anything and that change is inevitable.

I’ve been thinking about how as a photographer I would make my pictures and have them printed on paper or film and now it’s all about data stored in The Cloud. As part of my reflection, I have returned to shooting film. If photography is about capturing time and space, how will this change in viewing photography on a whole? I used to call myself a photographer. Now I’m a “multi media artist.”  I have learned how to create movies with voice over, music, images in Final Cut Pro X. I could never quite wrap my arms around Final Cut Pro 7.  I’ve learned various software like Blurb and A & I, to self publish my own photography books. With my two original passions being books and photography, this is perhaps the greatest part of the technological advances we’ve made. Creating my own photography books has kept me up endless nights.

On a recent trip to Las Vegas to visit my father, I had my trusty, old film camera with me. I decided to go with Ilford Delta 3200 because I wanted the intentional grain and the exposure latitude is tremendous. It’s actual ASA rating is 1000 but I pushed to 3200 intentionally.  I smile when people talk about image noise, the digital equivalent of film grain for analogue cameras. I love the old-fashioned, grainy look of early film. Bring on the noise.

I fell in love with this little puppies face as I stopped at a favorite spot on that long, desert road Highway 15 so I stuck my hand in the puppies mouth. The owner noticing my camera, quickly figured out I was a photographer or maybe it was my Michael Jackson tshirt, and asked me to pay him for making this photo.

Roadside puppy by hannah kozak

The clouds didn’t have the nerve to ask though. I always loved backlight but there is something magical about shooting right into the sun.

Clouds en route to Las Vegas by hannah kozak

In October 1840, Hippolyte Bayard made a portrait of himself in his famous “Self Portrait as a Drowned Man”.  This is a landmark image not only because he’s pointing the camera at himself but also because it’s an imaginary situation. It’s no mystery why photographers like Pedro Meyer, Felix Nadar, Francesca Woodman, Diane Arbus, Vivian Maier, all loved self portraiture. I truly believe when I turn the camera on myself, there are no masks, nothing to hold back.

Self portrait One by hannah kozak
Self portrait two by hannah kozak
Self portrait three by hannah kozak

“Make haste,

Time flies,

Rome perished,

So wilt thou.”

18th Century stone column

5 thoughts on “Photography: analog vs digital – I want my Tri-X please

  1. Yessss… my dear romantic and nostalgic sister… when I watching your pictures i see heart and deeps… you are the artist and your sensitivity is bigger than other one…
    All the people have in the own minds the world from the own childhood. Your camera was special because was your… time since the shutter button to ready picture was long and emotional. Today this process is short.
    I think that in nowadays we need celebration in all, in the wide view.
    I love your pictures…

  2. Hannah, part of me almost tears up with nostalgia thinking about Plus-X and Tri-X [my favorite, too] . I remember, fondly, my 4 x 5 Graflex, loading and unloading the film holders, taking different light meter readings but then, came the part I hated. The darkroom. I had three small children and had to wait until they were in bed before I could shut the bathroom door, hang a black cloth over the window, lay a wooden plank over the tub, change the lightbulb to a red one and then mix chemicals, keep testing the temperature, watching out for dust, rotating the developing tank and then hanging the negatives on a string over the tub. Nope, for me, digital was welcome. I still work with my digitals as I did with my film cameras — but now, I can take more than one roll of 35mm at a time. With a roll of film in my camera, I’d hope for one good photo in a roll. Limited to 36 exposures, I had to limit my vision. Today, I can go to any number of places, neighborhoods, streets, and shoot the equivalent of 5 or 10 or whatever rolls of film. I can stay out all day shooting. Then, the processing. Not much different than what we did in the darkroom but less sloppy. Nope, I don’t long to go back. I still would have to close up the bathroom. Film or digital, you’re still doing fine work. It’s the photographer, you, not the camera, not the technology or lack of….. Keep taking great photos.

    1. Russell, I clearly saw the visual of you in the darkroom. I always believed printing was a separate art from making photos. Back in high school, I remember the excitement of making my early prints. They were simply terrible but I was learning and that’s all that mattered. I love shooting film but have had the same printer for over 30 years to do my printing. I hear what you are saying about printing. Not where I put my energy but that may change with digital. Thank you for taking the time to read my musings and ramblings. Keep taking those wonderful photos. Can’t wait to hear about the Fuji X100 special edition!

  3. Hello,

    I came across your website/blog while searching Paul Michael Glaser photos. I found one of your photos I admired as a teen and also found the one you took of David Soul. I’m still a huge fan of the show and love to collect original candid photos of those particular actors of the 70s. I enjoyed reading your blog post about Analog vs Digital…I, too, love the older photos– the film. There is something very raw about them. Thank you.

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