Just to be clear I write with cause I can. I take a lot of risk in being seen a certain way by those that I am probably accusing. In the end, it’s just me and myself with my opinions. It’s all just an essay of my mindset and will be helpful to me later when I grow up! If I ever do. If it’s helpful to others that read this then all for the better.
When I read from a poster in a group that they are selling their dark room film developing stuff cause they are getting “into” wet plate collodion I feel a tragic sadness for them actually. I kind of cringe a bit as well. With that statement alone you have just marked your death for a temporary fix to a larger problem. DON”T SELL YOUR DARKROOM FILM DEVELOPING GEAR!! As a college trained photographer, I think this is simply a stupid thing to do either way. One must be able to explore all forms of your craft. To be able to understand oneself and what they do better. It’s like an actor never having read or tried even to take on a character in a Shakespeare play. Unless you are so in love with the style and acting technique you will end up back in the modern soap opera or doing what you can to make a living.
Many galleries won’t even touch collodion anymore. That small window of sudden popularity is over. All the plain janes have already gotten their dirty hands all over it and ruined it for everyone that actually is making work as an artist, to be popular and thinking they are an “instant artist” just because they can make a collodion plate image. They attach themselves to the tech and never leave this two-dimensional mindset. Truth is, this is the only mindset and will most likely never bring anything more than this to the table.
As a photographer, I think this is an important thing to discuss and debate. If we go by the way of the muses some of us will never leave. I work extremely hard to bring images with meaning, impact and that have a soul. Not just the magic that we attach to the randomness of the wet plate process, but the actual relationship with the subject. There is always a purpose. Even if I don’t know it when I take the image. This is to me why I can call it art. Not arts and crafts. I’m not making fucking tie dye shirts people.
There is a place for it all. The crafts and the artisans work. But to make the work with no passion is just a sin as well as just as much a sin to make works with no skillset and just passion. Cause you have to know how to make it happen! Know the rules before you start to break them!! These are all old ideas that work for a reason. It’s not conservatism here its ideas coming from many years of practice. Yes, the current state much modern art is “decay”. This is great! I love that. However, a boring, meaningless, tech-driven portrait is still a boring, meaningless, tech-driven portrait. No matter how perfectly made, it’s meaningless except for the action of making it and who cares? Only that person. The unskilled version can be just the same.
So back to my original thought and why it’s my title and why I don’t think people should start selling their film gear for their plate gear. By all means, sell that 30-megapixel sony though if you want to learn about photography with any depth. But not your Jobo!! It’s not worth it. You will be back in the 20th century dark room and it won’t be yours. You will regret it. Wet plates popularity will vanish eventually. Many people will stop doing it cause it’s actually hard work and there is very little money in hard work these days it seems.
If you want to be an “artist” go study art. Take art history, do some illustrations, and try your hand at painting. Make a sculpture and then come to photography and see what you can do with it. maybe then we can talk “Artist”. Have I done all that? No, however, I have done enough of it to say I have made a start. I did get an art degree. I did have a healthy illustration hobby in my youth. I started shooting photography as a hobby when I was 10 and returned to it on and off for decades. I started writing short stories when I was about ten years old as well. My learning disabilities in even special schools kept me from moving very far in any direction. I had the advantage of growing up in a creative home. Both my parents were Opera Singers. My Mother Sang at Alice Tully Hall toured with musicals like Camelot and sang worldwide. She retired from Opera to become a playwright and director. She was also a talented painter. My father sang twelve seasons at the Metropolitan Opera in NYC as their lead Tenor and also sang worldwide. He was known as the Mozart Tenor in Germany.
Do my parents make me an artist? Hell no. However, I did pay attention. I was influenced by them and my experience is embedded in all of my work if you look for it. Art is easy when you know yourself. It’s hard to know yourself. It takes years and years and years. You also need skills. Understanding of techniques and so on. Idea’s, themes. Stories to tell. if you have none of those to me you are no artist. You’re just someone with a tool to create and nothing to say. This has its place but not for very long if you want to gain any depth in your work. There are plenty of technical teachers out there that are useful to the world. Are needed. Plenty of craftsmen that make work with a purpose but don’t pose as artists. Even though many of them are.
So to take up a process and claim “artist” is just a crime. Don’t sell your darkroom film processing gear. You can make a lot of art with that too. Maybe even more.
I end my possible pontification with two things. A quote from Plato, and a small mixed gallery of photos I have taken over the years with digital camera’s priced at $30K, $3k, film images from 6x6 to 8x10, and plate work from 4x6 to 14x14. The tool in photography is nothing without its content.
“He who approaches the temple of the Muses without inspiration, in the
belief that craftsmanship alone suffices, will remain a bungle and his
presumptuous poetry will be obscured by the songs of the maniacs.”