Monday, March 11, 2013

On Hipsters using Film

We can look at the various trends that have taken up the public’s imagination as a symptom of modern times. In this digital age, with almost every house in this country having some form of connectivity, there are unparalleled levels of connectivity. Ideas go “viral”, and videos and images become memes. But those are just the transient effects of the information age, which while contributing much to image of our generation, contribute nothing to the zeitgeist. Somewhat like the long hair and bell bottoms of the 70’s. Sure, they were highly visible, but have cars or the brand of cereal you eat in the morning been affected by it?I want to talk about a thing, trend, if you may that I think will.  
I was rereading Bruce Stirling’s Dead Media Manifesto recently. Written in 1995, when the internet was at the cusp of becoming what we know of it as today, I find this quote precient.
“Listen to the following, all you digital hipsters. This is Jaqueline Goddard speaking in January 1995. Jacqueline was born in 1911, and she was one of the 20th century's great icons of bohemian femininity. Man Ray photographed her in Paris in 1930,...
Jacqueline testifies: "After a day of work, the artists wanted to get away from their studios, and get away from what they were creating. They all met in the cafes to argue about this and that, to discuss their work, politics and philosophy.... We went to the bar of La Coupole. Bob, the barman, was a terrible nice chap... As there was no telephone in those days everybody used him to leave messages. At the Dome we also had a little place behind the door for messages. The telephone was the death of Montparnasse."
"The telephone was the death of Montparnasse." Mull that Surrealist testimony over a little while, all you cafe-society modemites. Jacqueline may not grok TCP/IP, but she has been there and done that. I haven't stopped thinking about that remark since I first read it. For whom does the telephone bell toll? It tolls for me and thee -- sooner or later.”
There is considerable dissatisfaction these days about “hipsters” taking really bad photographs using film cameras, because they want the “retro look”. I myself am guilty of that, but not for the retro look. As Stirling mentioned, as newer technologies come forward, older technologies died out. Well, film photography, with the advent of technology is dying out. Look no further than our college for the best example. The Darkroom, which is a substantial complex, with three rooms and multiple enlargers light tables and the other flotsam of the wet darkroom, lies abandoned. I am the only person on campus who uses it. A place bigger than the house i live in, is completely abandoned. Until five years ago, that place was buzzing with activity. What goes on with all the knowledge contained in those walls, in the developer stained tubs, and the glow in the dark timers? It disappears. This gradual disappearance of knowledge is what is disheartening. Of course, legitimately speaking, the knowledge never disappears, it just sits in the dark recesses of the internet, alongside knowledge about such things like telephone relay exchange hackery, and blacksmithing.
Which is why I am happy that these Hipsters have appropriated film. They are keeping the knowledge,and the experience of fumbling around in a dark room, getting slopped by chemicals, and smelling like urine from wet chemistry vital, and alive. I guess it is one form of validation for Reipl’s Law, which states that new, further developed types of media never replace the existing modes of media and their usage patterns. Instead, a convergence takes place in their field, leading to a different way and field of use for these older forms.