More than 40 years before we had a stream of photographs about everyone’s lives on our phones, American critic Susan Sontag observed that photography wasn’t an art form any more. “It is mainly a social rite, a defense against anxiety, and a tool of power,” she wrote in 1977. With phone cameras, this may be truer than ever as we capture, filter, post and re-post, but there’s a set of photographers who are going the other way. They are choosing film over digital, measured over immediate, process and precision over being trigger-happy, as one of our writers finds.
There’s something about shooting with film that forces you to slow down and wait for the right moment—you have to compose your shot, meter your light correctly, adjust your shutter speed, be judicious with exposures. There’s no quick check, no instant do-over, no zillion shots to take and then sort through later, knowing that at least one will work. It’s a combination of being intentional while also responding quickly enough to capture the moment.
Shooting digital is fun of course, it’s the instant capturing and reliving of an experience, and not every photograph needs the deliberation that analogue demands. But then, with analogue there’s the excitement of waiting to see how your work has turned out. There’s also an inherent respect for the handmade that is re-emerging after years of trying to replace the analogue with new, faster and more convenient methods of doing things, and film’s resurgence is tied to this change.
Other stories in this issue also focus on the idea of going analogue, deliberate action and the pursuit of perfection. Rohit Brijnath writes about the struggle and effort that goes into a sportsperson achieving perfect form. Being in form, whether as a sportsperson, a writer or a surgeon, is about achieving flow, understanding complexity and working deliberately towards it. Sandip Roy pays tribute to musician Bappi Lahiri and the genuine joy of guilty pleasures. And to help you slow down this weekend, we have reviews and recommendations for books, food, films, art shows and events.
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