Category Archives: Photography Rants

Fresh Photographic Product Consistency
Rules Are For Fools

By Chuck Baker

I purchase and use a lot of products for my photographic endeavours. These include cameras, film, paper, chemistry, along with digital products such as special papers, printing inks…etc.

Since the advent of digital I have found that established film companies who continue to produce film have a consistency to their product that I enjoy and even demand. I find Kodak, Ilford, Bergger and Rollei are films with excellent consistency. Even handmade film from Washi are trustworthy from batch to batch. Perhaps, I take this consistency as a matter of fact. For instance, Kodak’s TMax films vary little to none and inconsistency doesn’t even enter my mind while Impossible films vary wildly from batch to batch and inconsistency is always on my mind. The same applies to chemistry, paper or any time-sensitive product made in batches…I need to trust them in order to use them in any meaningful way.

Kodak Verichrome Pan

I don’t want to imply that a surprise outcome can’t be extraordinary. Impossible films, now Polaroid Original, are a perfect and expensive example. But when I want to use an instant film that I can rely on for consistency, I use Fuji Instax film in any number of specific cameras with a Fuji Instax film back.  The same goes for expired films, which I enjoy shooting with…sometimes the older the better! However, I never go out to a specific shoot armed only with a film knowing the results will be a surprise.

My internal conflict expressed here may have something to do with experimenting before one knows the way that the materials work together so that controlled experimenting can happen. I helped a young photographer this week who is very talented. We spent some time in my darkroom, he wanted to print silver for the first time, and I equipped him with the materials to print at home…his first bathroom darkroom. I found myself expressing the importance of consistency in developing, to change one variable at a time to get the final result. I said without this foundation, long term success was impossible. Then I thought back to a time when I was this young person’s age and would scream “Rules are for fools!”

With that said, I’m the type of artist that feels the need to know the materials so that they can be manipulated in such a way to achieve my desired final. I labor with new cameras coming into my arsenal, running film through them until I know their personality. The element of surprise can be fun but doesn’t cut it when trying to create art as a coherent thought or idea. In a discipline such as analog photography, there can be so many variables that each variable that can be controlled helps with the creative process. Only by knowing the variables and adjusting one at a time to achieve what’s wanted can a true creative end be accomplished.


I’m interested in your thoughts about this. Am I being to strict? Do you agree with me about material consistency and practices? Or maybe, a bit of both?

The Selling of Lomography

by Chuck Baker

Lomography means different things to different people. I won’t go through the complete history of how the word came to be, you can read about it here, however the meaning of Lomography has changed since the Viennese art students using the Russian-made LOMO LC-A founded The Lomographic Society International.Picture of Old Diana Camera

Lomography, for me, has come to include cameras and a style with roots established well before Lomography was in vogue. It use to be just “shooting with goofy cameras” for a certain effect that was attainable only from these cameras, before scanning and Photoshop existed. This discipline, if you will, included cheap and sometimes crappy toy cameras along with old Brownies, Agfa’s, pinhole cameras…you get the picture. The emphasis being on “cheap” crappy cameras, many with plastic lenses and light leaks producing heavily vignetted images with dream-like qualities. Each camera producing it’s own unique effect.

I love it when people get interested in photography. That they are helped along by the hipster appeal of the Lomography phenomenon is unimportant and I certainly enjoy the results by both beginners and experienced artists. I have many cheapo-plastic-flipped-lens-analog-digital cameras in my arsenal that are used for those subjects calling for them.Flipped Lens Kodak Brownie Hawkeye

What does bother the grumpy side of me is the “club” mentality associated with Lomography, somehow being more important than what is being produced with the camera. Maybe it’s that I find the Lomography company’s advertising campaign irritating…”it’s cool to shoot with plastic” or “use crappy film and be surprised by the results”. With that said, I actually have a great respect for the selling of Lomography, it is brilliant marketing. That cameras worth $5 can be sold for $50 or more and inconsistent films are sold at high prices makes that evident.Toy French Fry Camera

I have very mixed feelings about this.  On one hand, I like the fact that more people are experimenting with photography, for whatever reason. On the other hand, the selling of Lomography can blind new film photographers from seeing that cool or hip is basically a waste of time and energy. I’m not so sure that someone wanting or needing to label themselves as a photographer should be concerned about how cool their camera is.

I hope that those who have been swept up by lomography as an expressive tool take the time to find a camera at a flea market or accept that old box Brownie camera given to them by a family member. Think about where that camera has been and what images it has produced…clean it up, load it with film, and do photography with it…that is cool!