In the old days, I used to get together with my fellow photographers pretty often. It was usually a great pleasure. We were able to discuss different problems we had encountered in work, which tool was best for a particular job… and of course, to share anecdotes related to our craft, which were well understood by our colleagues. Photography was always a popular hobby. But there was a big difference between the experiences of an amateur photographer and a professional. We all knew amateurs who got fantastic results. But they didn’t always know how they did it. They were less concerned with the craft than the professionals. The major difference between professionals and amateurs in our field, was that the amateurs had to learn how to satisfy themselves, but we had to satisfy the customer.
And because the processes of developing and printing were quite difficult back then, Those of us who did ‘in house’ processing were concerned with issues almost unknown to the amateurs. We spent hours in the darkroom, trying to get the exact image that we had envisioned, either before the actual shoot, or while we were behind the camera. And worked with chemicals whose temperature had to be controlled. those chemicals underwent changes in the very process of work, so replenishing chemicals could be a challenge too. I remember conversations over lunch, in which a photographer would bring a print with a problem that he had encountered, and we would exchange ideas and methods till we discovered what needed to be done to overcome the problem.
Our world changed radically when digital photography took the place of analogical. It was easier working on the computer, and there were far fewer tools to master. But there was a lot to learn. Most of the photographers that I knew suffered very serious losses during that period of change. Most of the old equipment became worthless, and we were forced to buy very expensive new tools. Cameras became automated to a degree that we couldn’t dream of 30 or 40 years ago. And many of the jobs we used to do for customers were no longer demanded. Some of my friends left the profession. Others were forced into bankruptcy. And the conversations around the table were often unhappy and pessimistic, as we tried to deal with the changes in our professional lives.
A friend of mine, an excellent photographer with much experience in dark room processing, left Israel about a decade ago, and was back for a visit this week. We met in a coffee house in the center of Jerusalem; a place that has a long history in our city, and whose customers have ranged from bohemian artists to members of parliament. The shop is getting old too. The original proprietor no longer stands behind the bar, but it has the same old look it always had, and it brought back memories.
The two of us were both equipped with digital cameras. We had experienced the upheaval in different places. He and his wife live in Canada now. And he’s involved in the artistic side of photography. I saw some of his work, and was impressed. I’m hoping he will send me some small files that I’ll be able to share with my readers. They told me that Jerusalem looks quite different from the way it was when they used to live here. I hadn’t noticed the difference so much. When you’re living in a place, those changes sneak up on you on a day to day basis. The biggest change, it seems to me, was the tram… what we call the ‘light train’ here. But in our conversation I was reminded of all the changes we’ve gone through here… both in our private and professional lives. Suddenly I became very aware of the passage of time.
I took some pictures of the downtown area to show you. Jaffa street used to be the most busy here in town. Always filled with cars and busses, and a lot of people. And since it has been dedicated to the tram, it does seem a rather different thoroughfare. But looking at the low buildings, I had the feeling that we had only seen the beginning of change.