Digital or Analog? Does there have to be a Choice?

I don’t really see a huge divide in photography between digital and analog photography. No reason why somebody who practices one should not practice the other. There are some obvious advantages and drawbacks to either format…ideally I would hope a reconciliation of sorts, that people use both side by side in situations when using one format over the other is advantageous.

For that, of course, the market would have to shift quite significantly – or rather, people would have to think differently about photography. In the following paragraphs I’ll just jog through a few situations where I think one format is better to use than the other, in the hope of reaching some sort of personal clarity.

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Photography for online use (websites, online publications etc.)

This is the prevalent use for commercial photography and here it is quite obviously necessary to use digital format. It reduces working time for both actual photography and post-processing and quite simply transfers the images where they are supposed to be. This is where tweaks can be made, where images can be processed for better or for worse – it’s a playground where there are many tools and very little practical limitations. It also requires the least amount of skill and pure knowledge. It’s time saving, non-intensive photography. Results can be great, but someone who has working knowledge of digital photography only stands on somewhat shaky ground as far as photography as an existential raison d’etre is concerned.

It’s photography for the professional amateur who is also a designer, advertiser, programmer, experimental artist and gods know what.

It’s also photography for journalistic photographers who only work for online media.

If you want to work as an active photographer it is almost unavoidable to have a considerable amount of knowledge of digital photography and post-processing (that said, you can always position yourself in a market niche where you only offer analog photography).

You will be faced with a hundred factors that limit your time, most of them pointless to the work at hand, but leaving you very little time for the actual work. Speed is an advantage here, so digital is probably unavoidable if you are operating in a competitive environment.

Amateur photography

I find it hard to decide whether increased digital options and a larger range of equipment has brought any actual advantages to casual photographers…to say they save time that they would need to devote to a hobby is not exactly an endorsement. Basics are easier to learn and results are more readily visible, but the overall visual skill that is required and that would develop has rapidly declined or has specialized to see as you would see on the screen.

As far as general use is concerned, digital photography has altered (some may say destroyed) the photography market unalterably. Equipment is slowly catching up to high standard analog quality, but the lack of printing options and colour management that were provided by different film stock and printing techniques cannot be adequately replaced. Digital photography is a commodity, in the truest sense of the word, but is it actually beneficial to casual photographers or to photography in general?

I would recommend that amateur photographers learn to use traditional photography techniques and spend at least some time in darkrooms, simply to develop not only their pictures but their visual skill. Here, of course, one has to consider the question of resources – it’s more expensive, but if more people were to demand it, there could be more places that serve as shared darkrooms with shared equipment.

Snapshots

You want to take pictures of your family gathering? Your day out? Selfies? Etc? Memories with no artistic consideration? Get a smart phone with a good lens, enough megapixels to brag about and forget about more expensive cameras. It’s money you don’t need to spend and you help the market shrink a bit.

Photography which is going to be printed

Unless there are limiting conditions concerning time of delivery and changeability of the images, it’s probably beneficial to treat image-making, post-processing and printing as three entirely separate stages. To use separate tools helps create this sense of separation without the mediatory effect of the computer.

Generally an image requires a certain remove to exist…if you constantly check whether something is right it’s a slightly compulsive and obsessive behavior that is in the way of actual reflection. Being able to constantly check is good for product photography or advertising, but that is not all that photography is or is meant to be.

If you want to print your photographs I assume that you want to spend a considerable amount of time, energy and imagination to make them good and worthwhile. This means allowing time for reflection, careful image-making, considered rather than automated choice of post-processing and choice of paper, printing appliances and all the minor and major adjustments along the way.

This is time-consuming and requires skill and experience. Digital photography does not provide any short cuts in this area and analog offers more options and rewards to an experienced photographer.

That being said the high end range of digital equipment provides a wealth of options and post processing has advanced considerably…still, the overall psychological impact of an image is higher if you see it as an actual rather than a virtual object. It is a representation of something actual to begin with and so stands at a remove from the very start. To remove it twice is akin to making a copy of a copy, but that is a very subtle difference that might not even register with many people.
I find arguments for both side and of course digital and analog should exist side by side. The market will ultimately decide the direction photography moves in, but the market is composed of our own individual choices.

Personally I enjoy shooting with analog cameras and love the thrill of discovery and not knowing exactly what you will get, but concerning paid work I will continue to use digital, simply because it is easier to satisfy the demands of the people you work for and because almost the entire professional machinery is set up for digital over analog.

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Terranigma

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Welcome to our mysterious home – I would like to introduce all of you to a project of mine. This is an introduction, but also an attempt to raise funds, so if you are allergic to such requests, stop reading right now 😉

Terranigma (terra = earth, enigma = riddle, terranigma – the earth as an eternal riddle) is a project that I conceived of in 2013, inspired by a preceding visit to the Himalaya region of Spiti in Northwestern India and by conversations and work with fellow travellers, photographers and filmmakers. My goal is to create a platform to preserve and document some of the most remote, strange and culturally valuable places and traditions on our planet through photography and writing.

After seeing ancient monasteries and thousand year old traditions in the valleys of the High Himalaya I came to realize that much of this wealth might be – and probably will be gone from the face of the earth forever in five to ten years time.

The world changes at a breakneck pace. Change, as a matter of fact, is the only thing that is constant in our existence. I want to record and show the world in the way I percieve it while I am travelling: as a deeply fascinating, fragile place full of mysteries and riddles, full of life, of traditions and also of change.

Do you consider such a project worthwhile? If you do, I am asking you to seriously consider supporting it. I aim to create a platform for various photographers and independent documentary filmmakers to collect knowledge of disappearing things. This must – out of necessity – start with my own photography.

This is what I am asking you: If you think it worthwhile, go to my website (http://www.sebastianbuchner.weebly.com/terranigma.html) and have a look at the PDF file. I am offering all of these images for sale in various formats, from very large to very small, from expensive to really cheap.

All money raised this way goes directly into funding further travels and to help create an online platform for photography, documentary film and independent cultural or anthropological reporting. I don’t expect this will be easy or that anything at all will happen without a serious amount of work – I am thankful for anyone who takes enough time to look at it and perhaps is willing to share it as well.

Thank you,
Sebastian Buchner.

OpenArt – Workshops for Painting/Drawing/Photography And Dance All Over the Globe

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OpenArt ist der Versuch von mir, Sebastian Buchner, und meiner Mutter, Christine Buchner, Kunst, Kreativität und Reisen miteinander zu verbinden. Wir bieten seit 2010 Workshops in Fotografie und Malerei an den unterschiedlichsten Plätzen der Welt an. Bisher haben wir Workshops in Europa, Afrika und Asien geplant und durchgeführt.

Dazu mieten wir gemeinsam mit einer bewusst klein gehaltenen Gruppe eine Basis, ein Haus oder ein Riad oder ein großes Apartment oder eine Villa, in der wir genug Platz haben diese Workshops durchzuführen und das in einer Umgebung steht, die uns reichhaltige Motive für die künstlerische Tätigkeit liefert.

Wir arbeiten beide als Künstler und Kursleiter – ich habe zusätzlich mehrjährige Erfahrung als Reiseleiter, die mir hier bei Organisation und Durchführung der Workshops sehr zugute kommt – und möchten unsere Philosophie des Reisens mit offenen Augen mit diesen Workshops vermitteln. Nach Möglichkeit versuchen wir in Kontakt mit regionalen und lokalen Künstlern zu treten und sie bitten, ihre Arbeit mit den Besuchern zu teilen.

Es ist zwar eine Gruppenreise, aber sie ist mit dem Geist einer Individualreise organisiert. Wir arbeiten nicht nach Fließband und liefern vorgefertigte Erfahrungen, sondern jede Reise ist einzigartig und wächst mit der Teilnahme der Mitreisenden. Unerwartetes, die eigentliche Essenz des Reisens, versuchen wir nicht zu vermeiden nur um zweifelhaften Komfort und steril-reibungslosen Ablauf zu bieten.

Programm sind unsere Workshops, die meistens halbtägig ablaufen. In manchen Fällen haben wir Ausflüge organisiert, aber wir achten immer darauf, dass es genug Freiraum für Improvisation gibt.

Mit 2014 freue ich mich sehr, dass wir zusätzlich zu Malerei und Fotografie auch Tanzworkshops anbieten können. Die werden geleitet von der wunderbaren Tänzerin Michaela Hamajova, die solo und als Teil des Tanzduos Nakari nationale und internationale Auftritte und mehrere Jahre Workshoperfahrung vorweisen kann. Sie tanzt in der faszinierenden Welt von Tribal Dance – eine Art des Tanzes in der uralte und moderne Einflüsse aus der ganzen Welt zusammenkommen und wo der Fokus auf individuellem Ausdruck, Improvisation und Kreativität liegt. Eine Bereicherung unseres Angebotes, das besser kaum in die Philosophie von OpenArt passen kann.

Das hier ist unsere Vorstellung der Philosophie, Idee und der Veranstalter. Wir arbeiten derzeit am Programm für 2014, das wir bald präsentieren können. Für interessierte, das verbleibende Programm von 2013 ist auf unserer Seite http://www.openart.or.at zu finden.

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OpenArt is the attempt of myself, Sebastian Buchner, and my mother, Christine Buchner to bridge creativity, art and travel, the fundaments of our lives. OpenArt offers painting and photography workshops all around the world, allowing people to experience foreign cultures through art and develop their own creativity. We started this program in 2010 and have so far offered courses in Europe, Africa and Asia.

Our basic setup goes like this: We rent a place that serves as our headquarters. This can be a loft, a villa, a riad or an alternative style homestead. From these headquarters, where there is ample space to conduct the workshops, cook our own meals if desired and to have some space of one’s own as well as the comfort of the group, we explore the surroundings, looking for ideal motifs to sketch or places and people to photograph.

Both of us have experience working as artists and conducting workshops – in addition I have been working as a tour guide for several years and can benefit from this experience while I organize the workshops and scout for new locations. Our philosophy is all about traveling with open eyes, an open mind and an open heart. Whenever we have the possibility we try to work with local artists and encourage them to show us their work and methods.

We are traveling with a group, yes, but we do our best to organize the workshops in the spirit of individual traveling. This is not a factory-made, all-expenses-paid, resort-and-animator style workshop, but a communal and cultural and above all creative experience. It requires participation, but it also rewards it. Additionally we do not try to eliminate the Unexpected – a staple of every journey – but we try to embrace it.

The program consists of our workshops. These usually take up half the day. Some days we organize excursions or meetings, but there is always enough room for improvisation.

From 2014 (and hopefully onward) I am very happy to introduce a new aspect of OpenArt. Dance workshops. Those are led by the wonderful dancer and teacher Michaela Hamajova. She has been dancing nationally and internationally as a solo dancer and as member of the duo Nakari and has been teaching workshops for several years. Her style of dance is Tribal, an eclectic mix of ancient and modern traditions that emphasizes personal creativity, individual expression and improvisation. I couldn’t imagine a better fit for OpenArt’s philosophy.

This is simply our introduction – we hope we have presented the philosophy and idea behind OpenArt in a convincing manner. Currently we are working on our program for 2014. For anyone who is interested in the current program, may I refer you to our website: http://www.openart.or.at

Art Can Happen to All of Us

henri_cartier_bresson011Henri Matisse, by another Henri (Cartier-Bresson)

  Art is a fundamentally undemocratic process. It can be deliberate, raw, tortured, beautiful, cynical, strange, stunning, gorgeous, contradictory, but it is not decided by committee.

  Maybe that’s an old-fashioned view – the world after all is connected now and everything seems designed by a collective or at least that’s the utopian idea behind the society many people wish to see.

  However, art as such is not a part of the collective realm of commerce, economy, society, politics or religion, but a voice and a place that stands – by its very necessity – apart from all that. It is what allows a work of art to comment or reflect on any other of the elements of our existence. It stands at a remove.

  It may be a Utopian remove, a locked ivory tower of the senses and perceptions, or it may be the cold and harsh voice of a hermit or the unconcerned voice of a self-absorbed wanderer, but it is a deeply necessary aspect of life, this remove from the bustle and self-importance.

  It’s a playground of the imagination, but it’s also a hall of sometimes distorting, sometimes deeply truthful mirrors. A necessary mystery, because it allows for quiet and reflection.

  From a very regular and normal point of view it certainly seems superfluous, especially if it doesn’t sell, but that is missing the point completely. It is superfluous, but at the same time it is our own greatest achievement, because it is a reflection of self-awareness and presence, of what we like to call out own humanity.

  Art creates a place where we can reflect on our own actions, as an individual or a species, look for answers and alternatives or simply amuse or scare ourselves by those puzzling mirages that we observe, forgetting that they are ourselves.

  Art is not defined, it happens sometimes and sometimes fails to happen. It can appear for moments in a soap opera or in any circumstance of our lives or it can be there permanently, for a mind open to watch out for it.

  To decide by committee what art is and what not, to imagine that any label would turn something into art or turn something away from being art is a ridiculous notion. To teach somebody what is art and what not is equally ridiculous. To imagine that something is and always remains art, ridiculous.

  But a moment of openness can turn errors into art, mistakes into fantasies, small moments into something meaningful.

  Art, in short, is something that happens to all of us, but is not something that we can get together and nominate to appear.

Suffering and Beauty – on the Ethics of Photography

I often think about the ethics of photography, about the lines that should not be crossed (or if, in rebellion against your own feeling of shame, they should be crossed) and about the dignity of your subject.

My own photographs cannot be said to be very striking or insightful, I think. They are in part superficial, momentary, sometimes beautiful and I hope that I manage to portray the dignity of the people I choose to photograph, and their sense of themselves as well as their joy. I do not photograph intellectually and I do not seek out suffering. If there is anything I choose to photograph, then it is the joy and wonder of travelling, of seeing the world, rather than of thinking about it.

  Photography, respectable photography, seems to be concerned with suffering. How a person goes through agony, madness, disease and ultimately death or how they take on the cruelty of the world, which does not care about them. Because these, or so the images would suggest, are the cornerstones, the irrefutable realities of our existence against which all other things pale and wither.

  Respectable photography, like respectable philosophy, has long dealt with ideas of despair and emptiness, a world devoid of god. It is a strange dogma, this stubborn existentialism, the idea of the purity of hopelessness. I do think that our time demands a more diverse approach, a more open and flexible philosophy, an eye for not only the connectedness of all things but also the contradictory nature of everything.

  Suffering is only a part of the truth, if I may use this heavy word.  The world, in my experience, is never clear. There are hundreds of contradictory emotions and impressions floating around at every moment and if one has clarity it is only the clarity of one’s own emotion. Speaking as a photographer, that certainly makes for effective images but they are rarely truthful.

    There are no pure, undiluted moments. Not even in despair. You have to look for them and keep all the other moments out, because they might change the mood. I am still looking for the photographer who aims to show glimmers of hope in desperate situations or moments of strange, unsuitable, contradictory emotions.  A photograph freezes the moment and makes it eternal. The man in agony is not in momentary but eternal agony. This, I think, is why I would like to see more contradiction. Because it increases the awareness that moments flow and change.

  Having travelled extensively in Asia, I have seen instances of disease, famine, despicable living conditions, depression, gruesome accidents and death. But I would not decide to photograph such moments, unless I would aim to show the human dignity that must be there underneath.

  To me it seems as if there is an accepted image of suffering, a representation of it that will reflect upon the photographer and bring him some sort of twisted glory. Prize winning photographs depict unspeakable horrors because unspeakable horrors, especially if presented artistically and resonantly, sell and find an audience.

  I find there is a danger in this. It creates expectations and desensitizes the audience as well as the image maker – the next reportage must be more shocking. The photographer becomes a seeker of gruesome images, no longer because they are a reflection of the truth, but because they have become the world in which he is successful. It also strips the subject of the image of dignity. The subject becomes an object of pity and a canvas on which one can project many things, one’s own fear of the primitive side of man first among them all.

  But is a beautiful image more truthful? Is beauty truth, as the old adage held? No, of course not, but it is antidote to an ethic and aesthetic of suffering.

  If you want to have a truthful image of Asia or of Africa, look at images taken by Asian and African photographers and try to see through their eyes. Look for photographers who have managed to get rid of their own cultural lenses or have understood them insofar as to make them unimportant.

  Many of the greatest photographers have taken time to develop an understanding of the person or the situation they want to photograph, along with all the contraditions and complexities. It is as simple as that. My own photographs do not even begin to measure up to such a standard, but I think it is a direction worth taking.