Vintage Photography

I like taking photos. Our world is so thoroughly photographed today, that we are recording history in real time in a way that has never happened before. Not that this means anything as far as how history will be written or viewed. I mean, look at 9/11 and the JFK assassination. They were caught on film, which is supposed not to lie, and yet we have more conspiracy theories about them than any other murder or terrorist attack.

There’s a type of photo that I rarely capture. A lot of my photography is so structured or thought out or overly framed. I’d like to take more photos of a spontaneous nature. To capture a moment. A photo that will carry emotion, meaning a sense of occasion  with it down the years.  Where am I heading with this? I’ve found an absolutely fabulous blog called Vintage Everyday. It’s full of fascinating photography from down the ages. The image below is from a concentration camp, shortly after liberation. In colour. Quite rare.

There’s a quality to many of the photos posted in the blog that is impossible today. Has digital photography become too perfect? How much further will the technology advance? Enough so that one day in the distant future our digital photos taken today will look as old as they are?

15 Comments

  • Hi there Gary.

    I actually ended up snapping a few shots with my mobile phone this weekend. They were just for me but I did post about it.

    This morning I remembered this topic and thought I’d swing by and mention it Though I can’t say there weren’t “hero shots” they didn’t turn out bad.

    http://www.barrykidd.com/chalk-it-up/

    Happy day,

    Barry

  • Digital certainly has changed things. I was thinking much along the same lines my self just a few weeks ago when I pulled out one of my fist photography books and started looking it over.

    The book it’s self was copyrighted in 1985 and back then so many of the photos were, well they looked so advanced. Now looking back those same photos look dated, old and not so very technical. That doesn’t say that they were bad. not at all but they were just different and more reminiscent of a different time. Perhaps that makes since, perhaps it doesn’t. Either way I agree that old photos have a feel to them that we just don’t get these days.

    • It makes perfect sense. You can argue that you can tell the age of a digital photo – from the early days anyway. These photos of Steve Jobs for example. The suits were black. Early digital cameras couldn’t, apparently, do black.

      But awful pixelation and poorly reproduced colours aren’t ‘vintage’ in the way old film photos are.

      • The spectrum of film was better suited for capturing highlights. Digital is the opposite. It’s better suited to blacks without crushing them. Well today’s digital cameras are that is. I never shot digital till the second generation. I never used first generation digital. I just wasn’t convinced at that point.

      • WOW! I just looked at that photo you linked. That was bad. I thought you meant crushing or clipping the blacks and or whites. Not a complete mix up of color or shade. That’s just nasty!

        Thank you for sharing that with us.

        • Yep, those are truly screwed blacks in those photos. But the year was 1996. Although by the time I got my first cheapo digital in 1999, those sort of results were already history.

  • I suspect I was far fussier with my SLR than I am with my digital camera. I have long suspected my digital malaise arises from the fact, like most things digital, there is too much data because it is so easy to capture and store.

    I tend to be a digital hoarder. As a result, I fear I miss some of the more spontaneous — and better — shots that I have captured accidentally. More than once, I have started cropping a photograph for the blog, and only then realized there was a much better image hidden in it. For me, the clutter is the impediment.

    • No doubts about it, the cheap and easy thrill of digital photography does, for most people, mean they stop focusing on the image at hand. If it’s rubbish, no problem, shoot another, and another and another….

      You’ll get something decent in the end, but perhaps miss out on something awesome in the process.

      • In the long run digital can be very expensive.

        Just as an example I use two Nikon F3’s from 1985 – 2005 when I switched to digital. When I first switched I wasn’t convinced and only bought one body. Since then when I upgrade I do so with two bodies (Usually about a year apart.) At $5000 – $6000 for a prograde DSLR that’s a good deal of cash. I don’t shoot medium format. I’ve just never found a market for it but for those that do the bodies can run $50,000 or $60,000 each.

        Then there is maintenance of digital bodys, software upgrades 18 – 24 months hardware upgrades every two or three years, websites that need to be maintained for clients files etc.

        Where those two bodies lasted me 20 years now just to stay competitive (Really just the need for better ISO capabilities.) I’m now on my third set of digital bodies.

        No, digital isn’t really cheaper. It’s just perceived as cheaper.

        • You’re describing a very different market to the one Steve and I belong to Barry! You’ve certainly got a point. But we’re shelling out just a few hundred bucks on compacts at the lower end of the market. And when you get to our price point, the cost of film and processing is the determining factor.

        • Although I do wish I was able to shell out for a decent DSLR, by the by! I’m having to slum it on an Olympus PEN and Fuji X-S1 until my lottery ticket pays off!

      • You’re right I guess and I stand corrected twice no doubt! 🙂 I really need to stand back think about what’s said.

        I had a hard time sleeping last night and was just searching the web for photography related topics when I came across your post. Like many people these days that’s what I do when just killing time. Surf the web I mean. I guess have a “sickness” where I look at photos and photography as if everyone is in the position where they squirm and cringe every time they need to upgrade. I guess for most people it’s a happy time 🙂

        At the same time I agree with the post. Old photos just have a feel to them that the newer shots don’t. I like digital. I like the results that I get with it but there has been much lost in translation as well and there is no turning back.

        Anyway I’ll quite blasting your blog with my silly comments. I’ve just spent the last few min browsing our other pages. While I have the time. Tomorrow I’ll be getting back to work so it’s nice just browsing on my own time while I can.

        Have a great day!,

        Barry

        • I wouldn’t say you’ve been corrected. In fact you made a good point – at the high end of digital photography, the film and processing aren’t the most significant cost. I hadn’t thought of that before. But I’m not going to pity anyone who can afford a Hasselblad!

          There is no turning back from digital? I guess not, as far as the mainstream is concerned. But the Lomography movement has picked up quite a following. There is still a place in the world for film die-hards!

  • Thanks so much for that post. I’m currently trying, again, to really understand my old digital single lens reflex camera so that I can use it in other than auto mode. Reading your post prompted a recall of something my very first photography instructor taught me (with my old Nikon film camera): When approaching places that require spontaneity, set up the aperture and such ahead of time to capture what one believes might happen. Sure, that won’t work if, for instance, you see a great bug on a parade watchers shoulder; but one should be able to capture the parade pretty well.

    I’m sure you already know the hint I suggested above; I’m just happy that your post resurrected the hint for me.

    But I’m still awaiting the ability to buy the “shoot first/focus later” camera I mentioned to you a long time ago.

    • Putting the tech of the Lytro camera into standard compact cameras is definitely going to be a lot of fun. I’d love one of those Lytro cameras now, but alas, the price tag is too steep for me.

      For now, I’ll just have to continue playing around with Lightroom presets to get the vintage look…

      https://www.lytro.com/camera

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