If you can keep your head when all about you are loosing theirs...
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it...
-Rudyard Kipling's If
The air about photographer Nikki Greene is one of understanding the duality of the dynamic nature of humanity (a mouthful we know, but true nevertheless); if digital photography is the overall upward trend of how photos are produced, then Nikki is adept to describe herself as being stubborn in nature by sticking with film photography... and only film photography.
She learned photography practices in the traditional sense, which includes messing up shots and staying long nights in the dark room. But as she points out, there is a joy to be found in tradition. In coloring outside the lines. And enjoying the process. "It is fun to listen to music alone, concentrate and create something out of nothing" and as she jokes, a silver gelatin print has value beyond the image it captures "when our economy crashes and the dollar is worthless, maybe I can barter silver for bread." The value of using not just silver gelatin, but the chemicals and the time, make the entire process of making one photo intrinsically more valuable than just shooting a digital image.
Not to mention because of this, all film photographers tend to be more measured in when they decide to open that shutter to expose their film, creating a photo. But when you also factor in the potential of losing the image somewhere in the process of developing the roll of film, it adds another quality of uniqueness to that photo. Nikki has all of this in the back of her mind during the journey; from opening the shutter to final print and the memory of many mistakes of loosing film "and I have to deal with the fact that now all the images are in my head and no one will ever see them and I have to learn to never mess up again. It is a challenge to become better, but also more flexible."
With this fragility of film comes the obvious questions of why even bother with film if there is such a high cost and risk associated with every print made. Each film photographer has their own take, but Nikki sums it up well,
"The fact that information is shared so quickly and we are so visually overloaded by technology, things feel like they are moving so quickly, I think slower art processes will become even more valuable. Everyone wants to be a rock star but no one wants to learn guitar. And I totally understand that, I've never managed to learn guitar. But I learned traditional photography practices so I guess I'll keep chugging away at that, and grow old and get better and in the end hopefully I've spent enough time meditating in the darkroom, whether anyone recognizes my work or not, that I'll be pretty content."
That mindset of striving to be content with her work allows Nikki to make photos that might be considered more risky in a medium of art that sees mainstream images garner popular recognition. Striving is a key word to note, "I say that I find photography only somewhat satisfying because even if I like an image I've shot, I don't necessarily love that image. That's why it is addictive, because I always want more from it." But for it, Nikki's drive to make photos of people and things that are eccentric or on the outside of society's vision means you get a true window into another world that is genuinely the story of our world in all of its complexity.
"I think [my work] is going in a direction that is more focused on the body and movement and how awkward it is to be a human when you're so full of feelings yet confined in such a relatively small place."
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