Tangled nets, Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic, Connecticut © Steven Willard
I’ll admit right here that I was a latecomer to the digital revolution. Not that I’m a Luddite, I was just lazy and more than a little bit intimidated by “The New”. I had grown up reading real books, listening to real records and watching real television. What did I need with all this new stuff that seemed to only exist in some nebulous “cloud” someplace out there? My camera was real, mechanical, understandable. It used real, comprehensible, film. I could develop the film and make real prints in a method that was physical. I didn’t have to know all the chemistry to use it, but at least it was something “touchable”; hypo had a smell I could relate to. Now I know that there are those of you who will point out that it isn’t necessary to understand the digital world to use it. It would never have grown the way it has if we all had to understand how it works.
It goes without saying that I was finally assimilated. I have become one with the Borg because resistance was futile; and to a large extent it has been enjoyable. Once I let go of my fear and tasted the kool aid I felt that I could get by in the new reality. Digital was my friend, the internet was a sandbox I could get comfortable in because I thought I could get out any time I wanted. The toys I was used to weren’t really all that different. But little by little I began to realize what was happening. Instead of the net being used as a tool, a source of information or entertainment, it became a sponge, soaking up more and more of my time and focus. I spent more and more time reading about how to navigate the internet highway than going anyplace. I was spending more time looking at the “map” than looking at the scenery. I became more interested in the tool than the craft or art.
There is nothing new or revolutionary in that. Artists and craftspeople (and industries) have always experienced a breaking in period when a new tool or process becomes available. But the internet has become such a huge, all encompassing, presence that it feels at times that it is sucking the air, the life, out of everything we do. We are spending too much of our energy feeding and tending to the beast; and the more we feed it the bigger and more powerful it becomes.
I don’t suggest that I’m going to go back to my old methods. First of all it’s too late. I’m in too deep, and I like many of the things I get out of the new technology. What I am trying to do for myself is be more mindful of just how much of my time and energy is is spent in the process rather than the product. I don’t want to spend all my energies and time searching the internet looking for answers I’ll never find like what makes a better photograph, or how HDR can revolutionize my workflow. I’ve decided to do my best to stay out of the net to keep from becoming entangled in it.
Pentax K10D with kit zoom. Processed in Photoshop CS4.