In the second part of our interview with David Todd, Soho Photo National Photography Competition winner, Todd talks about sophisticated photo technology, cheap plastic film cameras and responds to the question “Is Photography Dead?”
IMSO: Why did you choose to shoot video? What would have been lost if you’d only shot stills?
David Todd: I chose to shoot “Still Photography” in HD slow-motion video as a direct commentary on the merging of the still and moving image today. The two have a long and storied history, which is only going to get more interesting. Almost every digital camera available on the market now also includes video. With the creation of the HDSLR we are seeing an entirely new perspective emerge, and with it the romanticization of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment” will finally be laid to rest. With the Phantom HD I was able to catch 1025 frames per second at high quality resolution, allowing me to later pluck out any one of the nearly 22,000 individual frames. I can choose any “moment” I want from an event that lasts only milliseconds. More than ever, as the dramatic increase of image production continues to rise with the advance of photographic technology, so too will the importance of keen editing. The video process also allows me an awesome range of flexibility in output. There are innumerable ways that I can present the work across the spectrum from still to moving and everything in between.
IMSO: Do you recommend that we all blow up our old equipment and start totally fresh with photography? Is there a place for the old processes and working methods in the post-5D-Mark-II world?
David Todd: Ha! No, I certainly don’t recommend that everyone blows up their old equipment. This was something I felt I had to do as an expression of my thoughts and concerns about the current state of photography, as well as my personal relationship with it. I believe that photography has changed, and we need to recognize that before we are able to understand what it has become, as well as where it is going.
Digital photography is 35 years old. Photoshop is 23 years old. Millions, if not billions, of new images are created every day, and spread around the world instantly. I think it’s fair to say that we’ve moved into a new era of photography, one that is post-digital, and which we haven’t quite come to terms with yet. In the past 2-3 years curators and artists began to gather en masse to ask the question, “is photography dead?” The answer is obviously a resounding “no,” just as painting wasn’t dead either when the same question was asked about it. However, clearly something has happened to challenge our idea of photography. We have entered a period that is both a renaissance – a revival of interest in classical forms of the art – and a simultaneous charge into the future with advances in computational photography.
While all of the cameras I blew up were analog, I still believe there is a place for these earlier processes today, as long as the user acknowledges that they are using an archaic form of the medium. I’m a fan of history. At the very least, the methods of the past remind us where we’ve been and can help to teach us where we are going. In the mean time, it’s amazing to watch the surge of “alternative” photography flooding popular culture. Who would have thought there would be international competitions specifically for images only created with cheap plastic film cameras? Or that retailers would be selling these cameras alongside skinny jeans? On top of this, look at all of the digital effects made to replicate analog processes. It goes on and on.
There are, of course, also serious artists who still only use analog technology to create incredible works of art. When talking to Marco Breuer about the subject he replied simply, “I have no relationship with [digital photography],” to which I would argue is in fact a very meaningful relationship. But he is working at a very conscious level, purposefully with specific materials, and with lots of thought behind his actions. Unfortunately for artists like Marco, it’s only going to become harder to access materials.