A few months back I visited John Whitmore (@thedarkshed on Twitter). A the time, I was in the depths of my photography funk, so decided it might be nice to try and snap myself out of it by doing something a little bit outside of my usual shooting habits. The plan was to make a bit of a video of the two of us going out shooting some large format film then developing and printing it in his darkroom. We did exactly that too, but we also filmed a little bit of a conversation we had about the value I attribute to my photography… including a little bit of a chat about why I throw away my negatives.
Since that particular subject seems to cause a few people to feel a little bit faint/distressed/angry when I talked about it in a recent post about me owning my personal film workflow, I thought it might be interesting to share the conversation as a discrete video to the actual shooting/printing experience.
I must admit, listening/watching this back, I can detect just a touch of the grump I was in about photography at the time. For a start, John hardly gets a word in compared to my ranting/stream-of-consciousness waffling… And that’s not just a product of the edit. The unedited conversation went of for about 40 minutes and had all sorts of ranty-tangents from me. Anyone who’s met me, seen me in videos or heard me on podcasts is probably familiar with this trait of mine, but I mention it purely to prepare the uninitiated.
That said, as ineloquently as I articulate myself, I do manage to go into some detail about the parts of my photographic experience that I value and some that I don’t. With me being a “hybrid” photographer and John being a fully signed up and committed darkroom aficionado, he does manage to provide a useful counterpoint to my waffling too. I’m certain this isn’t going to convince many people that throwing away negatives is a good idea, but hopefully it might enlighten a few people a little bit more as to why I personally don’t see the value in keeping them.
The conversation starts with me talking about how the photography I value the most is the shots I take of my kids. This builds up to me breaking it to John that I bin my negs. If you don’t watch the full video, seeing his face and reaction when I do break it to him makes it worth watching that much of the video at least.
From there I then go on to talk about how I feel that as photographers there is a little bit of arrogance in the idea that believing there is innate value in our own work, and how I feel it has been beneficial to me to avoid that way of thinking. The topic of film being the ultimate backup, and how I feel that’s meaningless to me, of course, comes up too.
We then get onto the topic of ‘process’ and there is value inherent in the processes we undertake as well as the outcome itself. The need for value and if indeed there really is a need is next, then quite a bit about how me and John differ in the way we think despite the fact that we both shoot film. We then talk about some of the unnecessary ways we sometimes try and justify the things we do, and then ultimately, we come back to the idea that the value in what I do is, for me at least, often more in the experience than the outcome itself.
The latter point is quite interesting for me to reflect on now, as actually once I found myself less distracted by a feeling of grumpiness toward my work, it was indeed remembering how much I just needed to enjoy myself that has seen me clear of all that grumpiness… which was indeed the point of my recent post that started the conversation about binning negs in the first place. In short, as is usually the case, I had the answer to my problem all along, I just needed the chance to reflect on it/rediscover it.
But anyway, here’s the video:
(If you’re really keen, I have also released the 40-minute version to my patrons here)