I think I understand what Rob really means about the "golden age".
Here is an interview of my boss they did for a small retrospective of his work in Madrid: http://vimeo.com/31216410
I wouldn't like to be back on film age. But I'd like to live in the profession what those older guys have been living. I think the interview talks about what Rob is saying. (my boss is shooting digital and likes it, it's not about cameras, it's something else, and in this I agree with Rob, I don't see it now. Maybe it's there but I don't see it)
Thanks for posting that link, his words were fascinating, and as for Pepe's photography ... I hope one day to see prints rather than just low-res video.
There is a lot of what Pepe says that is relevant to this discussion, but to my mind it is what he doesn't say that is more interesting to this discussion and the thread in general.
Does he talk about this camera or that, this lens or that, this technological frustration or another, this upcoming camera that will ...? Nope, he talks about photography, about his love for the medium, and more importantly about his love for his subjects. Not only his words, but the love for his subject is evident on his face.
Compare that to many of the discussions and posters on this photography forum, that photography forum, or any other forum. Gizmo this, Brand X camera that, this one is crap, mine is best, this interface/design is not good ... blah blah.
I call BS on 'the golden age of photography' and 'digital vs film'. This, IMHO, is a product of our marketing driven age. We strive so hard to have that perfect experience. We fit in a photoshoot in our spare time and expect to be creative. Our ideals of perfection have been learned by 1000s of adverts, magazines, tv, blogs...
Having worked as a professional landscape photographer for 8 years; having lived, loved (and photographed) in the landscape for nearly all my years; and having run landscape photography workshops; I continue to be fascinated by people 'trying' to make photographs, in the way they think the camera will do the work, in their trying to fit it in, in trying to achieve a certain image.
We all lead busy lives so trying to find time can be hard, but perhaps if we stopped for longer to watch and empathise. Certainly in 'The Golden Age' people probably had more time to watch, to go on "clicking away through the moment. Watching is important for photography, or any art. We need to watch our subject, understand it, empathise with it or at least understand what we want our photograph to say about the subject or the moment. The guy I met on Northumberlands coast one day who had visited 3 locations (with about a 10-20min drive between each) over the course of one sunrise was far from the path.
We need time to suffer too. Not in that existential way, but in having time to give to something till we are exhausted from doing it, from letting it seep into our bones, from letting our subject get into us and our whole outlook being our vision of that subject.
And we want to achieve certain images, maybe successful or a pre-defined notion of beauty ones. Joe Cornish in the UK has a lot to answer for. How many of us try to emulate his work? How many super wide angle shots in a Joe Cornish style do we see in magazines/websites? Don't get me wrong, Joe's work is beautiful and I enjoy visits to his gallery and reading/viewing his books. But he is his own voice that is his response to his subject and his feelings on it.
As others have pointed out product marketing seduces us. And camera interfaces further compound this. Even if we don't use those 'scene' modes they still IMHO subliminally suggest to us that the subject or moment before us must fit a certain category. We are distracted by extras on the camera that flash and beep. Extras that may only work in certain situations forcing us to further categorise the subject.
And they look pretty, damn it if I haven't walked back to my own camera sat their in it's space age and trick glory, on that carbon fibre tripod, and thought "wow, that looks just the thing for making photographs".
I've spent the last year on a commission for the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts producing 360x180 panoramic images and virtual tours covering the whole of the UK. As a commission it has been a true privilege to undertake, both in the subject and with a brilliant client who was fun to worth with and willing to take creative risks. I did a large part of my travel by bike and usually wild camped near to or on location for most of that year. I spent more time under canvas outside or under the skies than I spent time in my house. My empathy for the landscape during this time was unparalleled compared to any other time in my life. On the last month I was exhausted, ill and the weather was bad so I had to slum it and resort to hotels. Immediately I felt my empathy drop, my understanding and love for the landscape and my subjects reduced. It was an awful way to end such a sublime journey.
I took delight in the photography too. Whilst the panoramic setup to make parallax free shots for easy stitching looks a bit complex (to some), after a while I reduced the setup to simple, it became ritual. Screwing the head together, manual metering after evaluating the whole scene, manual focus always the same at 2.5m (with a fisheye at f/11 this is plenty dof). Wait, watch, wait, watch, click click click. Record sound after careful listening. Make supplementary photographs of details within the scene.
And then tieing it all together on computer. Photoshop became a joy (really), watching the image stitch on the screen like a print in the tray of developer, editing the sound, pulling it into a virtual tour with all the sounds and supporting photography, going full screen with the final tour and letting it spin away with the sound of waves, birds, people, bikes, dogs, it took me right back into the moment.
So here's my point. It's not the manufacturers at fault. It's us. Ignore the marketing, ignore the menus no matter how good or bad they are, whether you are Canon, Nikon, Sony, Leica, Hasselblad doesn't matter a damn. Rather than loving your camera, learn to love your subject, watch it, caress it with your thoughts, pre-visualise, whatever, just get into your subject.
J'Accuse? Yes, I accuse YOU, (and me).
PS Lots of coffee today and I think the straightforward Russian attitude is starting to rub off on me:-) No offence meant, especially to workshop clients who were always fun to work and photograph with.