Analog and Digital: CineStill Film and the Brothers Wright

When I sit down to write, I generally need a pencil and a few scratch pieces of paper. I might do 90 percent of my composing on the computer, but those analog tools remain essential to my writing process. Sometimes the words start to flow, but my thoughts somehow get jumbled on the way from my brain and the keyboard. I need my thoughts to slow down, so I stop typing, pick up my pencil and jot down the sentence I'm trying to articulate. The change in rhythm helps me clarify my thoughts. The words start to untangle themselves on the page, and I’m soon back to typing. 

People are now discovering that all important things in reality have an analog beginning and end, and the digital world is just one step between one analog experience and another.
— Brian Wright

When it comes to using a word processor or writing by hand, it's not an either/or choice. I need both. The two methods support and reinforce each other, and hopefully make me a better writer in the end. What I've recently come to see—thanks to some incredibly thoughtful and creative friends—is that this cyclical relationship between the analog and the digital is not just about writing, it's really a way of understanding the many creative possibilities that surround us. 

For fresh style, we ran a web series on the modern craft of film photography, and talked to photographers Brandon and Brian Wright (jointly known as the Brothers Wright) about their creation of CineStill Film. Their work makes motion picture film available to still photographers—something unheard of in the past. Now, they’re in the midst of a Kickstarter to expand production to a medium format film. In the story, I explored what their invention means to film photographers. I think their work sends a bigger message, though, to anyone interested in innovation and creativity, regardless of whether or not you pick up a camera or can tell a light meter from a flash card. 

Portraits of the Brothers Wright by  Stephen DeVries . (Left: Brandon Wright; Right: Brandon - left, Brian - right).

Portraits of the Brothers Wright by Stephen DeVries. (Left: Brandon Wright; Right: Brandon - left, Brian - right).

I asked Brandon and Brian about their take on the relationship between digital and analog. Knowing that they're dedicated film photographers, I wanted them to actually explain why film still matters in our digital age. Brian responded that he believes we’re entering a “post-digital” Renaissance. 

“Digital is no longer a new and shiny ‘revolution,’” he continued. “People are now discovering that all important things in reality have an analog beginning and end, and the digital world is just one step between one analog experience to another.” 

Left: Brandon (left) and Brian (right); Right: Brian Wright. 

Left: Brandon (left) and Brian (right); Right: Brian Wright. 

Brian’s point helps explain why there’s a growing market for vinyl records and vintage typewriters; why there’s a return to handicrafts, and you can attend entire fairs dedicated to carefully spun fibers. People are discovering their most meaningful present by returning to older forms of creativity that have them using the same methods generations earlier employed. It’s not about finding an altogether new creation, but a more mature understanding that what we do now confidently stands on the shoulders of those who came before us.

The Brothers Wright are embracing the modern growth of analog with more dedication than most. Supporting their expansion of CineStill is an opportunity to participate in a new innovation that is as deeply connected to the past as it is relevant to the present. I can’t invent a new pencil and paper that will help me develop as a writer. For me, that’s all the more reason to help support the development of an important new tool for other creatives.

A conversation about art and life with photographer Lara Porzak

Lara Porzak at her studio near Venice Beach, California. Photo by  Stephen DeVries , courtesy of  fresh style magazine .

Lara Porzak at her studio near Venice Beach, California. Photo by Stephen DeVries, courtesy of fresh style magazine.

For the most recent issue of fresh style, I wrote the artist profile of Lara Porzak, a fine art film photographer based in Los Angeles. Her ability to capture feeling and emotion on black and white film has gained her the attention of many LA celebrities, several of whom have had her shoot their weddings. That said, she does not name drop—although after a few enjoyable phone conversations I did hear some entertaining stories. The story on Lara, though, really focused on her fine art photography and how her career has developed.

During one of our conversations she shared a succinct statement about her life as an artist that has stayed with me: “My life is my art that’s made.” 

Every time I went over my notes, I paused at the quotation. I underlined it, and even put a star next to it. But it never found a place in the story. Rather than weave it into a larger narrative, the sentence deserved more careful attention, so I turn to it here. 

My life is my art that’s made.
— Lara Porzak

What does it mean to have your creativity and the everyday routines of your life be so interconnected that you cannot separate the two? How do you produce something and then stand back from it and say, yes, that’s me? How do you find the confidence to take yourself that seriously as an artist? Or as a musician, writer, or baker—whatever your particular expressive mode might be?

Lara shared a story about how she came to see herself as an artist. Nearly 20 years ago, she attended a workshop given by Mary Ellen Mark, a photographer well known for her ability to capture deep elements of humanism. (Her most famous images include photographs of circus performers in Mexico and India, captured in her book Man and Beast.) Lara recalled that all of the other attendees showed up with expensive Leicas—the signature camera of a professional documentarian. Lara, however, brought her plastic Holga, known for its vignettes, plastic lens, and square images. That willingness to be herself apparently impressed Mark, and she asked Lara to assist her on a shoot at a nearby Mexican circus. 

So Lara went to the circus, Holga in hand. While there, she snapped a shot of a young boy wearing a plastic animal mask as he stood in front of a tent. It has since become one of Lara’s signature images, and led to entire photo series on people wearing animal masks. The photo also had a deep personal meaning for Lara. She told me that it proved to her that she could be a fine art photographer—that she had what it took. While she has since had that conviction confirmed by a significant number of outside voices, believing it for herself was such an essential part of seeing herself as an artist. How would she be capable of understanding her life and her artwork as in sync, if she didn’t operate with the conviction that she is an artist, regardless of outside recognition? 

There’s a bravery to pouring yourself into a creative endeavor and then putting it out there for others to see. I think of a shy and cautious musician whose love for his work forces him onto the stage—his art transforming him into a performer and entertainer. That process can be so intimidating that some people never even give their creative dreams a chance. But what a reward to be able to stand back and say that your life and your art are one and the same. 

Hearing Lara’s story encouraged me to take myself all that more seriously as a writer—to see myself as a writer, and to produce work that I truly believe in. For me, that process hasn’t come without the encouragement of those around me. (Stephen’s matter-of-fact statements to friends and colleagues that “my wife is a writer,” has meant more to my professional development than he probably knows.) I share Lara’s story here in hopes that it prods others to consider their own passions more earnestly, so that they truly become a part of who they are.

Read her statement a few more times, and let it really resonate.