“What happen to the Linhof Technikardan?! “

A couple of days ago, I received the above comment on a photograph I posted on flickr of Castle Stalker, Scotland, during my November trip to Glencoe:


This is the first slightly off-beam comment I’ve seemingly received on flickr since I ramped up my prominence on the site last year, and I think it’s worth critiquing.  My original response to the comment was: “Nothing! For this shot, handheld from the side of the road on a drive elsewhere… can’t do that with a Linhof, with all the will in the world.”      The shot was, of course, taken on digital, with Nikon D800E and 70-200f4, shot handheld or at least resting on a roadside fencepost, during a brief stop while I was driving elsewhere.

I’m not entirely certain what the comment (and its use of expressive but actually opaque punctuation) was getting at, but what strikes me is that the comment was made about the (non-)use of large-format film for such a shot, and it seems that the original commentator is a film-shooter.

This is somewhat perplexing: I’m all for the continued use of film, and can view my use of the Linhof camera over the last year and a bit in only extremely positive ways, both for the creativity it has allowed me and for the more general affect it has had on my photography.  But here’s the rub: at  no point have I ever stated that I would ever give up digital entirely, and there are a whole host of shots that I can make digitally – including the image above – that I couldn’t even begin to contemplate with film.  Using film has improved my photographic creativity by making me more self-aware of the medium itself, and this is a great thing in general terms.  But I’m not in favour of, and do not countenance, the idea that ‘film’ is something akin to a ‘calling’.  It may be for some, but not for me: it’s a creative choice, with its own limitations, in the same way, conversely, as digital.  A resolution for 2017 was – of course – to expose more film, and I will continue to strive to do so.  But I will also continue to shoot digitally alongside it, creatively and complementarily.

For more discussion of this general issue, see the recent videos on Youtube by Matt Day and Eric Wahlstrom:


4 thoughts on ““What happen to the Linhof Technikardan?! “

  1. Thank you for responding! Is the digital vs film topic really worth one further examination? its seems the positions have been laid out pretty clearly in the two previous videos. Well, Maybe not entirely. It appears that conversations are satisfied to draw to obvious conclusions relating to the comparative nature of the mediums reflected in usability, convenience, and feel etc. I wish to expand the arguments, photography originates in the desire to document or create a view, to look at something in a certain way. This creative act of selection, what we select to look at and how, what picture we desire to make directly depends on our own history of experiences, that in their sum, draws to the next level of observations. In example lets look at a photographer, or in that sense, painter, or writers evolution of their work over a longer time period. The work evolves along a line entitled personal history, informing the next levels of thoughts, concerns and work. It is therefore necessary to look at the process shaping the experiences encroached with the involved processes, this reaches beyond machinery. What starts to matter is the engaged process, how that process (of seeing for the photographer) is shaping our experience. All this is fundamentally different in the two discussed mediums, where one resorts on a virtual plane and through calculus, the other consist through chemical and material interfaces. It is therefore a choice of shaping the way we desire to see and learn and think about the world, this in return impacts the work, through photography, but also through many tother forms of residual expression. Compared to nutrition, its like eating raw broccoli or mushroom (John Cage) versus a synthetically modulated candy bar. In regard to value, it cannot be a matter of discussing taste, convenience or feel only, we got to address the consequences of nutrition to the body, its various levels of energizing and conflicting body and moods. That is the subtlety of knowledge I am referring to. The photographs we appreciate are grown through a personalized life experience. Photography machines today are designed, not different to, design, or gaming software, with a certain mainstream product in mind, where this product is created through a multitude of calculus operations by-passing the actual critical faculty of choice of the creator. The results are pretty obvious, trillion of pictures producing a very narrow of endlessly repeated spectrum of information mass. This is why we are so exited, if once in a while a photographer creates a new set of works that alter the way we think and feel about a subject, a evolved way off seeing. These are the success pictures, the once that engage our senses and intellect.

    Flusser describes a photograph:

    Vilém Flusser on History, Science & the Photograph

    Jean Michel

    • Thanks for that: very interesting. I have to say, though, that I don’t entirely buy the food analogy, and I feel that the opposition between organic and synthetic is rather forced. Whatever processing techniques are involved (including at the capture stage), a good deal of self-conscious, and inevitably “synthetic” creativity is always involved in the drive towards an end-product. What matters, in the best photography, is how we communicate the innate feeling of a moment or object, and sometimes film will do that best, and sometimes digital, in my view. In any case, photographers who use technical cameras – the likes of Joe Cornish – might suggest that practical differences in the experience of setting up a shot and working a scene are virtually identical, even if no digital system is yet capable of replicating the feel of a Velvia 50 transparency. For the kinds of photographs I enjoy taking the most, Velvia 50 wins hands down, but I’m not going to pretend that I limit myself by only shooting 5×4 film.

  2. Humanity is shifting from transhuman to post-human. The digitalization, or rather the increased dominance of virtual existence (data fields) and its impact to life is gradually shifting the balance from emotional body related experiences to emotions drawn from immaterial, virtual conditions. Photography takes a key role in this development, the shift can be observed in the very nature of technological evolution within photographic medium. If the source is digital or analogue misses out on this entire discussion of evolution. To get back to the point, what defines a good photograph matters, and what criteria defines a good photograph is paramount, we agree on this. If to achieve a picture of how André Kertesz or Adams saw the world, then yes we a lot of great pictures being produced right now. Magnificent tools have been designed to to just that, easy, convenient and fast. Photography entertainment. If we start to think and look at the impact of what matters and produces a relevant new set of information, then suddenly we are left with very few pictures in the discussion. Photography is not alone. The same evolution is observed in the use of language, literature, music, writing, all experience the same dematerialization and reduction to entertainment. Maybe not unlike Flusser visiting Osanabruck in 1988 (29 years ago!) looking for new images.

    • In regard to the food analogy: Is broccoli a perfect food? Assessed by its magnificent Fibonacci structure to the obvious health benefits, versus a synthetic candy bar pumped with corn sirup. Its a bad example because if broccoli is a top ranking food we need to compare it to a synthetically produced top of the line food, i.e. super athlete or astronaut food supply. Then its a different story. The synthetic might out-win the garden shrub by a mile, or not?! As mentioned we are in a transitional period where the virtual and the synthetic only just started to bite, and given that we are still at a rather primitive stage of technological development, we can trust to eventually get here, i.e. produce highly capable synthetic foods to feed not only super athletes but also population billions what would not have access to food at all. (Although we don’t even manage to get water distribution and hygiene). I feel we are a long shot from all this, and still struggle to truly enter embrace the “new” anthropocene time period. Of course we can approach photography through a 60 year old mind and eye, as long as we acknowledge that our actions are encapsulated in romanticism (departing from the old world as we know it) and in historicism (repeating what we know). I completely accept this approach, alongside seeing these actions as irrelevant, entertainment and in their end, vacuous in attempting any meaningful contribution to photography at this time.

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