White makes leap from film to digital

BRANDON — Although photographer Neal White is best known for his black and white silver gelatin prints, he says he wouldn’t go back to film photography for all the tea in China. Digital photography, he says, is just far superior.
“It’s the greatest thing that’s happened to photography since its invention,” the Brandon resident said in a recent interview.
Digital photography offers “more artistic control, it’s not toxic, the results — better. There’s a myth that silver gelatin is better. It’s just a myth being constantly reinforced by the people who want to sell vintage photographs for large sums of money.”
When digital photography first came into style, White was skeptical. His friend and former teacher, Jack Welpott, who was best known for black and white nude photography, began experimenting with the digital medium at the turn of the century. White was unmoved by the images until one day in 2003.
“Finally, he sent me some prints that I was impressed with,” White recalled.
In 2003, White made the switch from film to digital, and he hasn’t looked back, except to take his old negatives and digitize them.
“My digital prints, which are done using archival paper, with inks permanent enough to last hundreds of years, are far superior to my vintage pictures done on silver gelatin,” he said. “The silver gelatin might sell for $5,000, but it’s a piece of poop compared to what I can do processing a picture using a computer and printing it on archival paper.”
With digital photography, White isn’t constrained by cost, toxic chemical exposure — which he formed an allergy to — or rolls of film.
“The thing about digital photography … is it enables one to shoot unlimited numbers of pictures,” he said. “You’re not burning film and that affects the cost … there’s no expense” — other than a camera and computer — “until you make a selection for a print.”
For photographers like White, who value control above almost all else, the post-production computer programs offered by software companies like Adobe enable photographers to adapt an image with unparalleled precision.
“This is the dream of the obsessive-compulsive photographer — a lot of people in photography are sort of obsessive-compulsive. They’re not like Jackson Pollock splashing paint around — they have a thing for perfectionism and detail. In fact, it’s probably a good thing Ansel (Adams, 20th century pioneer of black and white photography) died before this was all available to him, because he probably would have been institutionalized.”

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