After unboxing my Ricoh GRD from Japan I boarded the train to center city Philadelphia where I hoped to jump right back in where I left off. After a couple of hours I realized that it wasn't going to happen with limited people on the street, the grey weather and the empty subways where masks were obscuring the few faces available. Feeling depressed I headed home a little earlier than I planned on and I past the time taking a few photos out the train window.
Uploading the photos onto the computer lead to my suspicions that today wasn't a good day to jump right back in with the GRD where I left off a few years ago. Boring, grey with no contrast, very uninspiring but besides my initial reaction I realized that I wasn't looking at the photos the same way that I use to. Something has changed over the three years and it was me, I've lost my manifesto. Was it the move out of the center city? Was it the switch to mostly color? Or was it the switch to using more recent cameras with their ridiculously clean high ISO, image stabilization, etc ? My only link to the early years of digital is the Canon G2 that I use for mostly diner photos.
All this contemplation had me believing that photography has become purely a documentary medium and that creativity and personal vision died a slow death in the last decade. Go to several gallery or museum exhibitions and that's if you can find any on 20th century photography and you'll notice that they all look the same, like a single photographer produced the photos. You'll quickly ask yourself if photography is still considered an art by the art world... well unless the photographer is dead. It's one of the reasons more artists describe museums and cemeteries. As we approached the end of this centuries first decade I noticed 20 and 30 somethings complaining at several exhibitions that "why is it out of focus", "why is the photo so dark", "why is the photo so noisy". One of the exhibitions was based on the Japanese Provoke movement of the late 60s early 70s. The last real movement in photography unless you consider trendy, plain, boring, safe, academic color of todays social media driven photography a movement. To me it's a bowel movement in need of a flush.
All of this gave me flashbacks to when I was around 12 years old in 1981 printing photos in my father's darkroom at work. After initially pushing the film a stop or two I then began to experiment with high contrast on Agfa Brovia paper. When the first couple of prints emerged my father gave me a look like I didn't know what I was doing but then he raised his eyebrow and said "keep going". That was 40 years ago and I still prefer that type of photography that's imperfect, dark, gritty and anything but academic. Maybe it's the painter in me. All this thought has only solidified my belief that technology has reached a point that there's nothing it can't ruin if given the opportunity and the masses are only happy to oblige.
Where does all this leave me with returning to a method that has defined me as a photographer for most of my life? I'm not really sure.