The bridge series is being shot on large format film, and printed traditionally in the darkroom. My original intention was to create large prints, but as the project developed I came to realize that although the scenes are of massive structures, they are better seen intimately. So the question then becomes why use film at all? Why not go ahead and grab the convenience of digital imagery? Certainly, I would be able to more quickly get what I am after (as well as be gone from the scene before being chased away by the authorities).
The first of the two parts of this answer deals with process. Perhaps there is something that makes me smile when I have to carry a backpack full of equipment (in addition to a heavy tripod). Perhaps I like the adventure of covering my head with a dark cloth in an area where I should be more concerned with simply being able to hold onto my wallet. I do know, however, that I am a process-oriented person who enjoys setting up the camera, unfolding it and directing it slowly to the area of interest, and going through the ritual of making sure that everything is right before exposing fifty cents of film within a fraction of a second. It gives me more of a feeling of being involved with what I am doing.
The other part of the answer deals with the fact that it makes me a better photographer. Those who have never looked at an image on a ground glass are amazed that the scene is backwards and upside down. They often wonder how I can make decisions based on something that does not represent what they normally see. The answer is quite easy. For one, since I see the scene before I prepare to take the shot, I already know what is going to be included in the exposure. More importantly, perhaps, is the fact that the scene becomes more abstract, which allows me to notice things that may have passed me by. The small things eventually become important to the viewer, and the relationship with these small things to the whole of the image can have an important subliminal effect.
Additionally, there is nothing automatic with a view camera. One must think about how they will render the scene – not how the camera will make those decisions. Depth of field and shooting speed are the obvious choices to be made, but to those not shooting on sheet film, it needs to be pointed out that the range of light in the scene needs to be taken into consideration because that will affect the speed by which the film will be based. There are many decisions to be made, but the photographer gets to make them all, which folds back into the first part of the answer where the process makes me feel more involved.
This weekend I will be doing the absolute opposite of what I have posted recently, which is that I will be in New York City shooting street photography. I will be shooting both digitally and using my little Nikon TI-35, which is the perfect street camera. Sometimes it is good to shake things up.