Hunt­ing­ton Wither­ill,

Pasatiempo - - No more wet work -

move­ment in a form, which in that case are pho­to­graphs with a tiny depth of field be­cause I’m so close, so I’m us­ing tonal val­ues to show depth and form.”

The pho­tog­ra­phy he prac­tices now is “dry.” Com­pared with tra­di­tional film pho­tog­ra­phy, the dig­i­tal pro­cesses are much less phys­i­cal: there is no car­ry­ing all the rolls of film, no wind­ing and un­wind­ing film onto reels for devel­op­ment, no mix­ing (and smelling) chem­i­cals, and no mov­ing the print from tray to tray dur­ing devel­op­ment, fix­ing, and wash­ing.

With film pho­tog­ra­phy, the pho­tog­ra­pher has a phys­i­cal re­la­tion­ship to each print. Does Wither­ill miss it, or does he think it was valu­able in terms of the end re­sult? “I don’t,” he re­sponded. “I think it was as valu­able as hav­ing to crank a car to start it. I don’t re­ally care what it takes to get the im­age. One of the rea­sons I love dig­i­tal is that there’s so much more con­trol over what I call or­ches­trat­ing the light and over im­age man­age­ment, to where I re­ally can get the im­age to what I see in my mind. There is that ar­gu­ment about the re­al­ity of it and that dig­i­tal im­ages can be far more manipulated than they could with film, but my ar­gu­ment is that pho­tog­ra­phy has never been with­out ma­nip­u­la­tion.”

Pho­tog­ra­phy has al­ways pos­sessed el­e­ments of magic. With the right kind of cam­era, light­ing, and film, you could stop ac­tion — as in Harold Edger­ton’s fa­mous close-up of a milk drop — and you could “erase” all of the mov­ing peo­ple and cars from a busy city scene by us­ing a time ex­po­sure.

The Po­laroid “in­stant print” process once seemed mirac­u­lous, al­though dig­i­tal cam­eras vir­tu­ally match that feat by al­low­ing you to see the pic­ture you just took on the cam­era’s screen. “That’s the key: be­ing able to edit in the field,” Wither­ill said. “Yes, the pro­duc­tion rate of im­ages is ten­fold what it was with film. How­ever, I’m still get­ting the same per­cent­age that I used to get, about 1 per­cent to 2 per­cent of what I shoot. Most of it gets thank­fully put in the trash, or as Brett We­ston used to say, put up on a high shelf where it won’t hurt any­body.

“I’ve seen maybe 2,000 prints by Ansel Adams, but he had over 100,000 neg­a­tives. What hap­pened to the rest of them? It’s like base­ball: if you can hit a home run one out of 10 times, you’re bat­ting pretty well.”

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