Inkwell Media, formerly Inkwell Design

Photography

Although I qualified as a graphic designer, and considered myself primarily a typographer, I was initially employed by LYIT to teach photography. At that time, the department occupied an old large Victorian building. Space wasn't an issue. We had a large photo studio and a good sized darkroom with 6 Durst enlargers and a wetspace for developing. We had a separate room for processing film. The setup was geared for black & white, and though it was possible to process and print colour, we didn't really have the capability to critically control processing temperature.

We were early adopters of digital technology, using a Nikon-Kodak DCS420, in 1994. This had a “whopping” 1.5 megapixel sensor and had a 2.6 crop factor compred to 35mm film. Nevertheless, when we moved to the main college campus and found ourselves severely restricted in space by comparison to the old facilities, a move to digital made good sense.

By this time Canon was the leader in the digital imaging, we have been using EOS cameras ever since. A side benefit is that they are fairly capable video cameras, providing a more “cinematic” image to more dedicated video cameras. Meanwhile, I had been using Pentax and Ricoh 35mm and Rolleiflex and Bronica medium-format cameras. I also kept a small darkroom at home. It was crude but functional.

I don't have a position on analog versus digital.

I resisted the move to digital for a long time. My experiences with the DCS420 (at €13000) and the numerous digital compacts available at the time convinced me that digital could not compare with analog photography. It was not until Canon released the 350d that my conviction wavered. It had 8 megapixels, but more importantly, it could shoot RAW files. Finally, digital cameras had a dynamic range that began to approach that of film, albeit with considerable post-processing. When Canon released the 5d Mark II, my conversion was complete.

Let's be clear, I'm not a digital evangelist. Film still has advantages over digital. Being grain based, it is resolution independent. Transparent (slide) film, exposed correctly, has incomparible dynamic range. There is also something special about seeing your silver or platinum image emerge before your eyes. Beyond that, the presence of a chemically produced image still has more depth and impact than a digitally printed one.

That said, technology is moving apace. Photoshop and Lightroom are a far more direct and effective darkroom than the real thing. Printing technology is continually improving. Four colour processes have been extended by six colour colour processes. Paper and ink technologies are improving year by year.

I don't have a position over which is better. Both have their advantages. Film remains a superior medium, but it is more exacting in exposure and in processing. Indeed, the market for processing film and making prints has drastically reduced. Perhaps, as we see with letterpress printing, we will see a renaissance in artisan chemical photoprinting.

For now, my work is entirely digital. The Pentaxes, Ricohs, Rolleiflex, Agfas and numerous other film cameras are gathering dust on the shelves. I will keep them, though. Who knows if they will see a second life.