Future of Photography Q&A No.7 – Tamara Bogolasky

Oomska’s ‘Future of Photography’ Series continues…

We presented our interviewees with a set list of questions, and left the matter of in what format and at what length they should answer entirely up to them. Here are Tamara Bogolasky’s responses.

1. How and when did you first become interested in photography? What was the trigger which led you to take a serious interest? How different would that trigger be now, with all the changes – technological and otherwise – in photography during the intervening years?

I first got interested in photography when I was about 12 years old and I found my father’s old Canon AE-1 camera and I became obsessed with learning how to use it. I thought it was really cool to develop your own pictures and the darkroom became my favorite place.

I feel the trigger would be completely different now with most people learning from digital cameras and not even printing the pictures most of the time. I feel like now, people take pictures for the instant gratification and rarely go back and see what they took a month ago.

2. Photography is often described as a mixture of art and science. It’s also a medium. How has digital technology altered the way these elements combine to produce what we think of as ‘photography’? Has technology altered that balance?

Photography will always remain a mixture between art and science, no matter how technology advances, the principles remain the same and there is still science in the process. Besides, technology and science go hand in hand so maybe now photography has become a more complex mixture of art, science and technology.

3. Prior to the introduction of digital, how much did the equipment you used change over the years? How has digital changed the way you use equipment? How would today’s technology, if you could have used it earlier, have changed your relationship with photography?

I still shoot on film with a medium format camera and I develop in the darkroom. It is now faster to scan images and upload them to my website. I also do use digital cameras for commercial work. I feel that the digital technology has really sped up the process in commercial photography because now clients want everything right away and they want to see what the results are as you are shooting which was impossible before.

There is more control over what you do but you loose a bit of the concentration film had, where you really had to rely on your knowledge and spend time producing a single image whereas now, you take a picture, you look at it, and then fix it.

4. How would photography’s great pioneers have embraced and utilised today’s technology? Might Ansel Adams be using software to stitch together panoramas of Yosemite? Would Garry Winogrand be using an iPhone? Would Eadweard Muybridge be experimenting with HDR?

I think for some of the pioneers, digital technology might help, for example, I think Ansel Adams’s life might have been a lot easier with digital photography; street photographers today might use their iPhones sometimes but they are still shooting with cameras, even if they are digital cameras, there is still a professional aspect to photography that you can’t get with toy cameras and iPhones.

Back when photography was getting started, there was no nostalgia involved because there was no past to be nostalgic about, they where creating. As time has gone by, technology has turned into the new creation and there is a past to remember and to be nostalgic about and there is a beauty in that too.

5. In some ways, digital seems to have ‘won out’ over film. Digital photography is everywhere, while companies such as Nikon and Fuji are discontinuing some of their films and film cameras. Is this process irreversible? Should we care?

It is sad that there is less access to film and film products but I feel that there is still a place for film in photography and I think that even though there are fewer options, it is still alive. I think that we are always going back to the origin. For example, Polaroid discontinued their products but a few months later, Fuji was putting out their version and it was in again. I definitely care about film; I think there is a different feel to images taken with film than digital, there is more thought put into it, there is more value in each picture you take.

6. Are there some qualities or aspects of film photography which digital will never be able to replicate or replace? If so, will these aspects of photography die with film?

I think nowadays, digital photography can look very similar to film photography. I think the main differences are in the output and in the approach to taking a photograph. The control a photographer has over the image he/she is producing, there is way more trial and error in digital whereas in film, you have to set up all the aspects and measure correctly before you even think about taking a picture and I think that aspect will die with film, but I hope film does not die.

7. Will the ‘camera’, as we (still) think of it, even remain as a distinct device? Or will ‘camera’ become just one of a plethora of multimedia features people expect to find on any number of hybrid consumer appliances?

I think there will always be “camera”. There might be cameras in appliances also but I feel there will always be a more professional camera that gives the user more control over the image they are producing.

8. A few years back, Magnum photographer Eliott Erwitt was quoted as saying: “Digital manipulation kills photography. It’s enemy number one.” He also disdained digital in general, for its ability to produce “an image without effort”. To what extent would you agree or disagree with these sentiments?

I partially agree with the statement that it produces an “image without effort” because anybody can point and shoot a digital camera but there are many photographers who put as much effort into taking a digital photograph as they would a film photograph. I think digital photography has gotten to the point where people can hardly see the difference and it does not mean the image is manipulated. Image manipulation is a different art alltogether. There is a threat in digital photography and it is that it pushes film away.

9. We’re all thoroughly weary of the ‘fix it in Photoshop’ approach. But defenders of digital post-processing often say, “Well, it only does what you used to do in the darkroom.” Is this a valid argument?

Depends what you are fixing in Photoshop. If you are just cropping or color balancing, and spotting, then yes, but Photoshop gives you a lot more tools and you can do a lot more than you could in the darkroom.

10. For how much longer will the general conception of ‘photography’ refer exclusively to static, two-dimensional images? Imminently, 3D is looming, and ‘convergence’ – meaning not just the ability of modern DSLR’s to capture high-definition video, but the compulsion to make use of that functionality – is a current buzzword. Does this trend – photographers becoming film-makers, and vice versa – ignore the important divisions between static and moving images?

There will always be a difference between static and moving images, if the people producing them are the same or different, I don’t think it really matters. If people want to explore new medias and mix moving and still images, then that is up to each person. I don’t think it is a problem to mix them or to do both.

11. Cinema historian David Thomson, in his ‘Biographical Dictionary of Film’, wrote the following, regarding Marilyn Monroe: “She gave great still. She is funnier in stills, sexier, more mysterious, and protected against being. And still pictures may yet triumph over movies in the history of media. For stills are more available to the imagination.” How much more of a contentious statement does that seem today?

I think it is still true. Still images require the viewers’ participation, the story is in the dialogue you have with the picture and the feelings that arise from that. In film, the story is told and you become just a spectator, I don’t think it matters if the static image is digital or film, it still leaves space for interpretation. A lot of younger people know who Marilyn Monroe is but never have seen any of her movies, that confirms how iconic her photographs are.

Originally from Santiago, Chile, Tamara Bogolasky came to New York in 2004 to pursue a career in photography. She received a Certificate in General Studies from the International Center of Photography. It was then that she began photographing at night, a practice that became her staple. She has participated in several group shows in New York, Chicago and Chile and in 2010 she received a MacDowell fellowship. Her latest work is a discovery of the details in nature, color and darkness. Tamara works as a photographer and photo assistant in New York.

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