Analog Sea and Photography

Further to my post about the omission of photography from Analog Sea (22nd November), an interview with Canadian film maker Peter Mettler by editors Jonathan Simons and Janos Tedeschi in Analog Sea Review Number 2 (2019) suggests some inconsistencies in its approach.

Undertow, p.37

Mettler says the using cameras ‘does make me see more deeply into things’, though acknowledging the risk that it can be like taking poison ‘if you want to be extreme’.   Jonathan Simons responds by referencing Wim Wenders, who said, ‘he just couldn’t bring himself to take pictures anymore because they’re everywhere’.  Wenders published a book of his Polaroids taken during the 1970s and 1980s, to accompany an exhibition at the Photographers Gallery, London, in 2017 – presumably he still thought photography had some value!  Mettler in turn acknowledges the work of photographer Robert Frank, ‘who’s made great documentations of real life on the streets, and it’s an epic body of work for its time’, then goes on to regret that ‘now everybody is doing that….it’s no longer so special’.

Undertow, p.49

Simmons makes an eloquent reference to the importance of analog working: it ‘…maintains at least some connection to nature and physicality.  Recording sound or image on analog media is an organic process…’  Mettler agrees: ‘The different processes retain different connections to the original experience.’  He explains how he used analog material to film the Kogi people in Colombia, because he saw it as being more in tune with their way of life.  He also describes the relative complexity of modern digital cameras; and Simons agrees that ‘an analogue camera seems limited to drastically fewer technical distractions’.  Mettler accepts the challenges posed by the surfeit material, yet says that it’s worth carrying on, ‘like stepping into an immensely mysterious dancehall and using whatever tools you have to understand the nature of the dance’.

What do I take from this?  Well, an acknowledgement of the value of photography in the first place.  Then support for analogue film processes, which is consistent with the case I made for analogue photography in the first post.  More broadly, the implied support in the interview for Mettler, faced by a glut of moving images, seems to me to be an argument for not being distracted by the perceived glut of still photographs.  Analog Sea could shine a light that illuminates great photography for its off-line audience  In part of the interview that explores the importance of things outside the ‘familiar system’, Janos Tedeschi says, ‘Ultimately, it’s about being fully open to whatever emerges…’

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