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February 3, 2010 / Indigo

Film & Food — Dying Arts

Hello lovelies,

This morning I have for you some thoughts I have been mulling around the past few months on traditional darkroom processes & food. Two seemingly unrelated topics, but more alike than you would think.

My dad is a chef & I am a photographer. For me, photographing his food & food in general is a common practice. As a chef, he has amassed a growing collection of wonderful cookbooks & books about food. As a vegetarian who enjoys cooking immensely, I have begun to add vegetarian cookbooks to my library. We both agree that shopping at farmer’s markets is better than the supermarket, that making your own food is better than eating pre-made processed food & that real food is better than “fake” food.

But the time to cook is the problem. & that got me thinking. Why can’t an average person spend two hours making a meal? Why is it so seemingly impossible to find meat that hasn’t been altered, pumped with chemicals, fed things which are bad for them, etc. etc.? Why is it so hard to find REAL food? In this fast-paced society that we now live in, it seems as if real food has been traded out for convenient food. The frozen meals, fast food restaurants, whole meals in a bag; all of those things have been taking over the food world for the average person.

But really, how difficult is it to make your own spaghetti sauce? How difficult is it to make your own dumplings? How difficult is it to make your own salad dressing, your own bread, your own muffins, your own sandwich, your own anything? The answer is, IT’S NOT. It is not difficult at all. In fact, the recipes are really very simple. They just take time. & therein, my friends, lies the basic problem.

Remember how in the fifties the husband would go to work & the wife would spend almost all day cooking dinner? While I’m not saying that we should go back to that way of life where women did not work, I think that the time that was dedicated to making a delicious meal by hand is ideal. Honestly, if I could, I would be taking all of my high school classes online & would spend all day cooking & crafting &  taking photos. But as the decades progressed, people have wanted food faster & faster & faster till now where we think it’s a long time to wait 20 minutes or less to cook in the oven. No, now we have 90 second meals-in-bags, 2 minute microwaveable frozen meals, so on & so forth.

I believe that we should remember what it’s like to spend more than 20 minutes to eat a meal. I believe that we should know what we’re putting in our bodies. I believe that we should make as much as we can, that we should eat slowly. We should savor the flavors & sensations. We should be able to taste the love we put into those two or three hours of cooking. We should buy local & buy fresh. As a high school senior who will very soon be in college with who knows what money, I understand the predicaments that come with wishing to live this way. Does that mean that I will compromise my eating beliefs? No. I will not. Because why would I fill my body up with things that will make it not work as well? Why would I fill my body with chemicals? Why would anybody?

This brings me to my next point; traditional darkroom processes. A lot of the arguments for food apply to film. Film is a dying art, slowly becoming obsolete. Why? Because there is a surgence of affordable DSLR cameras. There is a surgence of hey, I can take those photos myself; why would I pay someone to do something I can do myself? Because the instant gratification of digital photography is a craze sweeping the nation & perhaps the world.

I beleive that in order to understand how to use a digital SLR one must first completely understand how to do the same things with a darkroom & a 35mm camera. You can do almost everything in a darkroom that you can do on a computer; it just takes more time. One of the reasons that the Polaroid camera was such a large success was because it offered the instant gratification in a film version. But now even those are sparse.

If you don’t know how to compose a shot when every exposure is precious, how will you be able to understand how to translate that to a digital form? If you haven’t experienced the magic that film brings to the photos, the depth of emotion & light it captures, how can you even try to achieve that with digital? I don’t know close to everything about darkroom & all the different types of amazing film cameras out there. I’ve had a basic class that is offered at my high school on traditional darkroom processes & 35mm cameras. But since I took that class, my photography changed. It wasn’t just “Oh, look at that pretty tree. I’m going to take a photo of the pretty tree.” It became “Look at the light on that tree. Look at how I can compose this shot to show the best light of the best angle of this gorgeous tree.”

In a digital world, not many people may see the value of learning traditional photography. In a fast-paced world, not many people may see the value in taking the time to cook an entire meal. Which would you rather have – a world in which animals were treated humanely, plants were allowed to grow without the aid of antibiotics & pesticides & growth hormones, where you had the time to make every meal from scratch; or a world in which the modern food market is treated — animals being fed things that are not good or right for them, animals that are bred so that they must be killed within perhaps a year of their birth because after that they will be unable to support their own body weight, where plants & fruits & vegetables are available no matter what the season – no matter what the cost? I know which world I would choose. Would you rather have the knowledge of how to see magical light & how to experiment with tubs full of chemicals in order to appreciate the digital landscape of photography, or a world in which traditional photography became legend & children grew up without knowing the fun of disposable cameras, where there was no true craft to it anymore? Again, I know which world I would choose.

But the question is not what would I choose — what world will you choose? Will you let the global climate go out of control? Will you continue to support the horrible treatment of mother nature’s gifts? Will you allow an art form to be lost because of convenience?

Will you choose to let these things die?

love & magic,

indigo

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2 Comments

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  1. Susan / Feb 3 2010 11.15 am

    The food question is interesting.
    I would disagree with the notion that it is a ‘dying art’
    However it’s more along the lines of real food becoming for the wealthy. the poor cannot afford the ‘real’ food we glamorize. Certainly even if one of the spouses wanted to stay home and cook to survive two people need to be working at lower income levels.
    Looking back on the 1950s we tend to only see or recognize the ‘perfect’ (oppressed, racist) middle class. However processed food was in fact coming into existance during this time with ‘tv dinners’ and food products created to give women more time to clean.

    As well people are beginning to realize they want ‘real’ food thus the prevelance of organic brands at every supermarket and the growth of whole foods, local food stores, and farmers markets. People are beginning to care. Mostly its a middle class and up sort of caring, but it is a start. the internet really allows us to realize and see what’s happening. Consider “the ominvore’s dilenma’ and ‘fast food nation’ were incredibly well selling novels, or the movies like “food inc.”If anything the prevelance of real food is on the rise for those who can afford it and can afford to be informed.
    I can go out to eat at quite a few places where the veggies are from the garden in front of the house or where all the ingredients or sourced locally. its a pretty impressive and growing movement.

  2. Curious Ted / Feb 3 2010 12.38 pm

    The thing is, I think it’s about being aware. So many people are growing up these days where take out pizza or prepackaged meals like lunchables become favorites of kids that they grow up continuing these patterns. It’s not really unless you learn of what crap you might be eating or you’re used to and enjoy the heartiness of a homemade meal that will really make you want to change. It IS a lifestyle and it’s possible for the university student too! I have tons of friends who spend less than 50 dollars (and this is Canadian dollars) for a week’s worth of food and still manage to get good servings and the good stuff for ingredients! You just have to gather intelligence and know your city, because knowledge is a huge part of it.

    I like the connection you made with the two arts, I think people underestimate darkrooms because they haven’t experienced the dim red radiance and the swishing of chemicals themselves. It’s more about going back to the roots of it and having that personal connection to your art, which is really being forgotten on countless fields.

    Buuuut, there are some beneficial versions of abridged work. I can honestly say that I appreciate washing machines, but I still like to hang my clothes out to dry when possible. I think it’s about knowing what you’re doing and finding the balance between efficiency and sanity.

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