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Preservation and Magic

Preservation and Magic by David Norbut

Many things have been said already and nothing that I can say is going to make much difference.

Reading other people’s words or listening to other people’s thoughts sometimes helps me understand my own feelings about life a little bit better.

The same thing goes for photography and the way I feel about taking photographs. I take what I can from meaningful images. Photography is a way to preserve history, however small or unimportant you may think a picture is. Whether it is a portrait or a scene, it could mean things you’ll never understand to somebody else and the simplest moments can sometimes become the most prolific photographs. One portrait with nothing exciting about it, just a simple mood, the capture of that one person at that moment in time can really be much more meaningful down the road to that person, to their loved ones, and to the people that came after them. Future generations can use photography as visual history.

To me taking photographs is a beautiful way to waste your time and preserve it simultaneously.

I do however think that things are starting to move incredibly fast. We are starting to lose touch with humanity, technology is getting faster and is used for a variety of functions. It seems to me that  we are trying to make life too easy.

That was starting to happen with the way I take photographs.

I wanted to slow down.
I wanted to slow down the way I live my life.
I wanted to slow down the way I appreciate life.
I wanted to slow down and enjoy every passing moment.
I wanted to slow down the process of taking photos every day, to hopefully capture better images.

I was becoming uninspired by the  flood of mediocre work that I was seeing on a daily basis and this doesn’t exclude my own.
The reason, or reasons, that I started taking pictures was that there was something magic about freezing time. We are documenting history and preserving life.

When you start to look at how photography works, once you start to dig a little bit deeper you realize that it is really something incredible in the world before pixels. We were using light and silver to perfectly re-create what you see in front of you, to freeze the exact moment of human life.

There is a thing called Camera Obscura.

You can stand in a room and black out the windows and block out any sunlight to come in and you can cut a little hole in the black paper on the window to let just a little beam of light in. If you stare at the wall facing this hole with the lights pouring in, the exact image from outside will start to appear perfectly projected on the wall upside down.

Now if that isn’t one of the most incredible things that you could ever see I don’t know what is.

All that being said, why are we so quickly blasting out and posting so many mediocre photos.
It is a very magical, beautiful and serious art form that we are fucking with here. I think we owe a little bit of respect to the magic of this craft.

Going out with your digital camera or your iPhone or your point-and-shoot… all you have to do is set everything on auto and boom, boom, boom hit a button, hit a button, hit a button

It was becoming too easy and it was becoming boring for me.
The idea that I was just pressing a button and praying for a result became a very real and terrible thought.

One morning, I woke up really early I got in the car I drove to Philadelphia and the only thing that I was prepared to photograph with was an old 35mm camera and a couple of rolls of black-and-white film.

Not being able to see a result right away automatically slowed me down, I couldn’t just take a picture and look at it and say okay this is what I need to do to fix it. I had to make sure it was right. It left me little room for error and it made me become more Zen-like, more concentrated on what I was doing.

You take the camera, you focus it for every shot, you change the settings for the light, you pay attention to the light, you pay attention to your camera, you pay attention to your settings, you pay attention to the scenes around you and it becomes a whole new thing, yet it’s the oldest thing, it is the first way, the beginning, the permanent end result. Life recorded on silver with light.

I’m not trying to denounce one camera or another. I’m not trying to put down digital photography or Mobile photography.  To me it is all photography and it’s your choice on how you do it.  Everyone is different and everybody feels differently about the way they like to shoot or what they like to shoot.

I will still gladly shoot with any camera I have with me, whether it’s a film camera or a digital camera or a phone.

All I’m trying to say is; as photographers I think everybody needs to take their time and focus on what they’re doing. Don’t let technology decide the pace of our shooting, or the ease and effect the quality of our photographs. Things will be a lot more meaningful if you create something that you took your time with and put some effort into rather than just shooting and praying.

At the end of the day,  we are only on this planet once. I just want to put my best foot forward and I want to really give the respect to what I’m doing every day.

So I say to the community, step up your game, take your time and study the masters.
If you have any love or respect for taking photographs, lets really see it. I promise I will do the same.

Images
Film: 35mm, Kodak Tmax 400
Camera: Canon AE-1
No edit, High Resolution film scan
Chinatown, Philadelphia 2013

5 Comments

  1. Word. Point in case is that photography-centric social networks miss true criticism, 99% of the time pictures get praise or they are simply ignored. You learn to game the system by posting imagery that pleases the masses. From there you can’t get enough of your daily dosis of praise.

    Which is the wrong way to go.

    • You got that right. while I was in school, we critiqued photos honestly. I think criticism puts photogs on the right track. Thanks for commentin Tilman.

  2. Brilliant article David! This statement is filled with wisdom and the key to finding balance between mindfully creating with technical tools and the fast pace of technology: “as photographers I think everybody needs to take their time and focus on what they’re doing. Don’t let technology decide the pace of our shooting, or the ease and effect the quality of our photographs. Things will be a lot more meaningful if you create something that you took your time with and put some effort into rather than just shooting and praying.”

    So well put. Bravo! Thank you for sharing.

    • Susan, Thank YOU. I am happy to hear the article resonated with you.
      I am looking you up on IG now. take care

  3. Thoughtful and well said, I just read Fabs article and they both resonate. I think the key is to travel your path at your own pace, don’t get swept up in the ever accelerating cycle of posting. Slowing down leads to more considered posts and self reflection. The beautiful thing about IG and others is the social connection, I would like that to be deeper and more critical. If only someone would say they disliked my image and explained why….

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