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Corn Bin near Defiance by Richard Keeling on 500px.com

This photograph was taken on Christmas Day 2015. It looks older. This is deliberate, a consequence of using a specialist film, Adox Color Implosion, that is formulated to produce muted colors and heavy film grain.

You can do the same thing – or similar at least – with a bevy of ‘nostalgia’ type filters for Lightroom or Photoshop, or indeed with Instagram.

In truth, the ubiquity of Instagram has led to an over-proliferation of artistic-algorithm altered images, all of which are starting to look much the same but let’s let that pass. I don’t use Instagram myself and the effect you see here is about as old fashioned as you can get, short of taking a conventional color film today, magically going back in time thirty years or so, and letting the negative sit in a shoebox in a humid house until today.

It’s not a look I luxuriate in. I like it as an alternative to more polished images but not necessarily as an artistic end in itself. It’s a more a comment, a criticism in truth, of a current trend towards ever more the highly resolved, ultra-sharp and vibrant photography that passes as one form of photographic achievement.

An achievement that is very much predicated by technological advances in both cameras and lenses and as such is woven into the fabric of the camera industry as a means of encouraging sales. For a long while, I went along with this logos, rather unthinkingly following these technological trends as I accumulated ever more advanced digital cameras and lenses.

What stopped me?

I could say it was the realization that I was spending a great deal of money for really only mildly incremental improvements in my equipment, and perhaps that played a part. But really is was art. Not the sort of art you see on most photography websites, but the art you see in a museum. A few years ago my local museum, the St. Louis Art Museum, set up an exhibition of works by the Düsseldorf school of photographers as part of the opening of a new wing. These were revelatory to me. Photographs of industrial objects and deliberately ordinary settings, many with a distinctly lo-fi or retro look – these images were 180° away from the prevailing (and still prevailing) look that fills popular photography websites, magazines and many sales galleries.

I loved them. I loved them for their ordinariness, their emphasis on gritty reality versus colorful sheen, their deliberate anti-pretty concept.

I still do. That way of looking at things allowed me to step away from the consumer product rat race and go looking for increasingly esoteric and obsolete means of taking a photograph. Hence my return to film and a deliberate move away from taking the picture postcard type of images that dominated my photography in earlier years, some good, more bad.

It got me thinking too. I’ve written dozens of posts here over the past years that have helped me hash out what is meaningful to me and what isn’t. I’ve got the point now that I have a personal aesthetic that drives what I do, what I appreciate and what I dislike. I feel pleased with my own work, not all the time and not consistently over time, but enough to give me a continuing sense of achievement that is independent of what anyone else thinks of my work. It’s not fashionable and it’s not popular but it’s true to me.

That’s the peak. I need go no higher. But perhaps I will anyway. We’ll see.

 

Roadside pond near Matson by Richard Keeling on 500px.com

 

 

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