In 45 years, this is my first photo expedition without a single roll of film in my bag. A wise move? At any rate, the rationale behind it definitely makes sense. My book Surabaya Johnny is going to be showcased in 12 months at the book fair, so time is of the essence.
The biggest advantage of working with film is certainly that images on celluloid last a long time and you’ve got something physical in your hand. What’s more, on the road and after a strenuous day in the field, the rolls can be labelled and numbered, then stowed away, not to be developed till months later in the lab. This time lag and the reawakening of past moments in the developing bath make for a special quality and plenty of calm quiet reflection. Since you can’t view any immediate results in analog photography, an extremely precise working method and a great deal of technical know-how are key to the success of each shot. But these requirements for the most part fall by the wayside when you’re working with a digital camera. The possibility of immediately adjusting and correcting digital shots has given everyone access to the photographer’s craft, which was once the preserve of specialists.
But digital photography does have drawbacks when you’re on the road. You have to lug a lot of electronic gear around – electronic cameras, computer, external hard disc, wires etc. – sensitive equipment that’s vulnerable to shocks, humidity, heat, cold etc. The big advantage for the photographer, on the other hand, is that he can organize and sort his images right away, edit and send them off whilst still on the road, and even submit a ready-to-print prototype of a book or catalogue before heading back home. But your easygoing evenings spent hanging out with the locals become fewer and farther between, you don’t sit down on the bridge next to the captain anymore or with pirates in the dockside pub: you sit at the computer and edit the day’s work.
I, too, have now become – at least temporarily – a digital victim of my own self!