For the fine art photographers I'll show you -- my favorites -- all of them remain film photographers. Why? If you are producing photographs for the web, even simple digital cameras are fine -- because screen resolutions generally do not exceed 72 dots per inch - DPI. Although imho, 300DPI pictures look better. If you have a business that requires fast results, for example, Newspapers, then digital cameras are terrific. If you do long exposure shots of Planets, moons and the deep sky, again, Digital Photography (and Videography), offer great advantages.
However, for printed photographs, the digital cameras that are the most expensive today (Leaf, Phase 1 and Hasselblad for example) cost between $20,000 to $40,000 plus lenses. These have image resolutions that approach medium format film cameras that cost under $2000. When you move to photographers who work with large format cameras, there is no digital equivalent, outside of NASA, and most of us have some sort of limit.
But money is not the real issue. The real issue is the art form itself. Once you get to medium format film cameras (I'll go into formats), your work changes. Instead of just looking at scenes and holding your finger down on a digital trigger, hoping that one shot will work out; Film photographers know about light and shadows. They know the best time to shoot, they carefully wait for the moment to set up the shot and take it.
Shooting is one of the three or four processes in photography today. It is the only one that has a digital equivalent.
Film photographers, after long shoots, then retreat to darkrooms. First to develop the film; then to make contact sheets, then to make "work prints", and finally finished art. At each of these steps, the artist is working with chemical systems, light systems and trade-offs. Developing the film can be chemically modified depending on how you shot the film. Work prints (usually 9 x 9" to 9 x 12") are analyzed for tonal range, for artifact that are not wanted in the finished print, and these parameters are resolved back in the darkroom using hand-held techniques with names like "dodging" and "burning", "bleaching" and "toning".
It is a physically rigorous exercise at every step. But the results are stunning.
A better analogy is painting. Would you tell a painter to use a computer program (Adobe Illustrator?), instead of brush and paint? Why not? Because the texture, the light, and the soul of the result is at stake.
So here are some of my favorite photographers. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. (Writers do not say this). Please don't sue me..
"I feel that utter truth is essential," Bourke-White said of her work, "and to get that truth may take a lot of searching and long hours." In practice, this attitude resulted in pictures of starkness.
Food line following Kentucky Flood - 1937
DC-4 Flying Over NYC - 1939
Workers in Gold Mine - Ladders 1997
Ethiopia - 1984
Carrying Dirt - Brazil 1986
The Terminal, New York - 1892
ΤΑΚΗΣ ΤΛΟΥΠΑΣ (TAKIS TLOUPAS)
Minors Returning -1931-35
Agave Designs 2
Churchill Annoyed (No Cigar) - 1941
Untitled Film Still #16 - 1978
Fifth Avenue - 1915
Couple at Zoo
W. EUGENE SMITH
The Walk to Paradise Garden - 1946
Riverside Gas Station - 1940
Displaced People - 1916
Nahui Olin - 1924
Barn and Clouds, in the Vicinity of Naples and Dansville, New York - 1955
Monolith, The Face of Half Dome,
Yosemite Valley, California 1927
ANDRE BRESSAI (Gyula Halasz)
JULIA MARGARET CAMERON
Julia Jackson - 1867
Beatrice - 1866
Death of a Loyalist Solder -- Spain 1936
MARY ELLEN MARK
Sudden Shadow - 2006