SHOT BY MAGNUM CHIMPING MADELSON
Before the digital revolution in photography there was the daguerreotype, the silver halide, the polaroid, and then came digital. Once there was a magic in the time it took to take an image, you had to develop the film, choose the image, and finally print it. All the while hoping that the temperature of the water and the chemical mixture was right. And to me, that was the magic of photography; somehow that magic of time and expectation has been lost.
I had been using digital cameras since the first Kodak DCS 400 series came out in 1996. At a cost of £20,000+ for a 1.6MB digital camera. I knew some press photographers that re-mortgaged their houses to buy the gear which included the Mac Powerbook, and the wiring speed for a 1.6MB picture on a 56k Modem took about 25minutes to get the image down the line. That was a godsend at the time, because before that we were shooting on film, running back to wherever to develop it, then scan it before wiring the one image, either on mobile or a landline, wherever there was a connection. It was all about deadlines (and still is) so the digital option was the only option, even though the resolution was crap, that didn’t matter because it was good enough for print, and newspapers paid then.
There must of been a five-year period where images were shot with such poor resolution that they had no archival quality for the future, regardless of the quality of the image. I was sceptical, before that I had archives of negatives stored safe and each 35mm frame had and still has a drum scanning resolution now of at least 100MB. So what happened to the first five-years of professional photojournalists material that covered worldwide events, shooting with a 1.6MB image?
During the Asian tsunami, there was a big press agency that shot all the images on on Nikon D2H with a 6.2 MB jpeg file resolution, and you can see how bad the quality is even now, the biggest natural disaster in recorded history lost to absolutely terrible resolution. I am so glad I shot it on a 35mm rangefinder with a standard lens, using 400 iso fuji superia. But I still try to contemplate that disaster, regardless of what the fuck I was recording it on, it was one of the the most tragic assignments I have ever done.
I still think that film is a safer option, I have an archive of tens of thousands of images that have to be constantly backed up, and backed up, hoping that the software is not redundant in a few years time. Unlike the negatives that sit there protected in archival sleeves waiting to be digitised.
Digital has been a godsend, and has the advantage of being pretty much free to use with the same cards, as long as you use triple backup storage. But something gets lost with the immediacy of it all. We used to call it “chimping,” (having to constantly check the LCD monitor to see if the image was ok.) In the early day's of the Kodak digital’s, sometimes it was a hit or miss whether the image was a good exposure or not. Not so now with the years of technology in digital cameras. But the need to chimp is still there with modern digital photography, why?
I could be a sanctimonious prick about this, but here’s me chimping with a Nikon D1, shot by legendary Magnum photographer Ian berry in Hartlepool, 2001. Brilliant….