I was watching a video program from PBS about Richard Avedon a few nights ago and it made me sad. Not sad for the person (Avedon--who passed away a few years ago) or the people in our industry but sad for just how much good stuff we've (as an industry) been willing to let go of in the thoughtless pursuit of the "free" practice of digital
photography. And how complicit we've all been in our own artistic decline. I am as guilty as the rest of you. If you still shoot larger formats than 35mm you are excused from this discussion and from automatic inclusion amongst the collective guilty.
Let me explain what I mean before the fire breathing forum experts
go into spiteful overdrive.
Regardless of whether we work in digital or film photography there are certain aesthetic manifestations resulting from the use of different sized imaging sensors, or different film sizes, just as there are obviously different effects that come from using different focal lengths of lenses to achieve the same angles of view across formats.
Newer technologies in sensors might yield less noise or higher perceived resolution but all the new advancement(?)
comes at the expense of a truly diverse range of tools.
And the ones that have mostly gone away are the larger formats. The same formats that made most of the amazing images from the last century. Six by six. Six by seven. Six by nine. True, in camera large format panos. 4x5 inch and bigger.
When discussing different styles of cameras most people aren't well educated enough to get very far beyond counting the number of pixels on a chip. Most don't understand that there are many visual differences between the constitution of different kinds of sensors and most don't understand the very idea of movable (non-parallel camera movements) lens and film planes. But the biggest issue is that we all chose to ignore the obvious visual differences that come from the inter-relationship of sensor size and focal length/angle of view.
We're like happy ants toiling in the tiny garden of m4:3, APS-C and good ole fashion small format 35mm frame sizes. We've completely tossed away medium format, wouldn't know what to do with 4x5 inch sheet film and are probably depressingly unaware that once film could be readily had in 8 by 10 inch sheets---and larger. And we're equally unaware that many, many practitioners of the recently past era didn't use the larger sizes to get more "megapixels"
they worked in the larger formats because the larger formats gave the artists different looks
. They delivered images that looked unique by format----not just stylistically but fundamentally. Down at the level of physics. If you could make a snap shot with an 11x14 inch view camera it wouldn't look like a 35mm camera used in the same spot with a lens having the same angle of view. It would look totally different. The much, much longer focal length of the lens (for the same angle of view) used at the same subject to camera distance would have yielded a totally different depth of field in which sharp focus would fall off at a much steeper rate
. These were the days of giants in the field of photography. The gear and the people.