Re: [Frameworks] Letter to other Filmmaker Artists

From: Fred Camper (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Jul 20 2010 - 10:44:24 PDT

This is a bit personal and self-promoting, perhaps, but what the hell.

As a kid, before the age of ten, I had a 35mm still camera, a cheap
enlarger, and darkroom trays, and could take and process and enlarge
black and white photos. The process fascinated me. Discovering cinema
at 15, I started shooting, first 8mm, then 16mm, then later super-8,
completing a number of films. I loved the particular light of cinema,
and the uniqueness of various emulsions. In 16mm there was Kodachrome
and ECO and the old Ektachrome ER and later EF. There were also those
weird Ansco stocks, like D100 and D200. In 1970s in super-8 Kodak had
a great selection: Kodachrome, Ektachrome 160, Ektachrome G, EF, and
SM. Each had a different look. The filmmaker Warren Sonbert talked
about the different looks of the various 16mm emulsions, which he

When films started to come out in VHS (mis) translations, I objected,
and still do: Admittedly
Blu-Ray is much better, but still, not the same, if a film was made to
be shown on film.

In 2002 I got my first digital still camera. Two years later I began
making art works based on the photos I was taking. This has become my
main "project." The photos themselves don't have the same kind of
depth as an excellent 35mm or medium format negative might, but I've
found other virtues in them. Additionally, I can take as many as I
like without spending any extra money, unlike with actual film. I
don't think I ever would have started if I were paying per roll. Now
I'm doing this work full time, and it has changed a lot in recent
years, and I'm now exploring things unique to digital imaging.
( , but this work loses more than you would
think in the Web versions )

Back to celluloid. Some filmmakers have made works that depend on the
particular qualities of film projection, the particular kind of
flicker, and other unique things. I hope they can keep going. Others,
such as Bruce McClure and Louis Recoder, make excellent
film-projection performance works that obviously don't translate at
all to video. But when some others who are attached to film say, "I
love the look of film," without having tried high-def video and
experimented with various kinds of video display (such as high quality
projection), I find myself wondering: is this merely a taste, or even
a fetish, or is celluloid really *that* essential to their art? When a
filmmaker talks about loving to physically handle film, I wonder even
more. Digital video, both high quality and the various "low
qualities," has its own possibilities too, possibilities different
from celluloid, and the only way to discover them is by working with it.

In still photography, artists still use various 19th century
processes, such as platinum printing, so there's certainly hope for
celluloid as an artisanal medium, along the lines that have already
been mentioned in posts here. But the glorious weirdness of Ektachrome
Type G, or the absolute Kodachrome clarity of ECO printed on 7387, are
unlikely to return. Some of us will always be mourning these losses,
but time spent in such mourning is also time wasted. Work with what
you have!

Stan Brakhage used to say that if film died, he make scratchings on
flat stones on the beach and line them up like dominoes to make a
primitive flip book. He also made various statements against video as
well, statements I mostly don't agree with. But also, late in his
life, I asked him: "If someone offered you for free the best possible
digital video setup, with a technician to help..." and before I could
finish the question, he surprised me by answering, "I would work with

Fred Camper

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