Wizards and Alchemy · DEDPXL


Soooooo… That Crop or Crap post I made went around the Internet a few times and sparked some discussions. Photographer Sid Ceaser left a comment here on DEDPXL that had me standing up from my chair and throwing my fists in the air.

Here is Sid’s original comment:

Whenever someone around me wants to argue sensor size (“Mine’s bigger. Mine’s better. Mine sees in the dark more. MOAR BOKEHZ! bigger Bigger BIGGER!!!) I go to my flat file and I pull out my wedding portraits. My wife and I met in art school (Oh, gawd, lovey-dovey schmooze!) and when it came time for us to take the vows, we knocked our brains together (and, ahem, other things) and we wanted special photos taken. Not the “documentary-stylistic-brou-ha-ha-capture-the-feeling-emotion-day-time-zone-blahblahblah” crap that gets shoved down everyone’s throats. We wanted special. We were both photographers. We wanted to honor craft. The history of photography. Back when it was part Wizards and alchemy and magic chemicals and dirty-finger stains. We found a guy that shot 20×24″ tintypes.

20. by. 24. inches. Of pure tin. Plates. That’s like Godzilla walking in and step-splatting everything around. Squash.

The results were breathtaking. I almost died. Not because I exposed myself to silver nitrate for too long, but because the images where gorgeously crafted and huge and beautiful and instantly had a sense of history and time and place and appreciation of craft. I almost had a stroke. Photo coma.

I don’t know why I mention this. Maybe because I remember shooting 8×10 and 5×7 in college. Maybe because shooting 4×5 pinhole images with my then girlfriend now-wife brings back not only nostalgia of shooting giant negatives, but celebrating the alchemy of photography with someone I loved. Because no matter how far we get with digital cameras and stoopid photoshop actions and large-format-pigmented-inkjet-shut-the-hell-up printers, I love to remember where we’ve come from. Those completely insane guys with a horse and a cart with giant wooden splinter-giving wheels with no shock absorption at all traversing the world with giant bottles of lethal chemicals and huge glass plates that could break any time with looks on their faces like they are all just a *tiny* bit off kilter, because of the desire to make amazing photographs. They would say, “I love this thing. I love it so much, I want to document it and photograph it and show others all over this world because I love this thing so much I need to show it to people”. And they did. And it is more amazing than what we deal with today.

Today we argue and self-justify what we bought and we stop thinking about the images that we should be taking that could, maybe, one day, change how someone might see something. Change their world.

The first time I made an 11×14″ contact print, a part of me died and went to heaven. It was awe-inspiring. In these days of digital and everyone arguing about what is better Better BETTER BEST we need to put the brakes on, climb up into that horse-drawn carriage, and mix a few chemicals for our own sanity. Our fuzzy eyes help us see better.


YES! YES! Wizards and f*cking Alchemy!!! YES SID!

I asked Sid if he had any photos he could share with us. Here is one of him and his wife, Sara, and the photographer Wizard, Yige Wang, who took the photograph. There’s also a behind the scenes video you can see here.


“I love to remember where we’ve come from.”

I love to remember where we’ve come from.

I love to remember…

I love…


More and more comments went around the web about how all of that video was just a sponsored Fuji Ad and how full frame is actually twice as large as APS and how Nikon blah blah blah’s are better at blah blah blah, and how no pro would ever blah blah blah, and, actually, I am wrong about depth of field because of blah, blah, blah, blah. For everyone who thinks I’m just paid to say all this. Please see this post. Thanks. This is the last time I’m ever going to talk about it.

I love the comment someone made to them… “Do you hear that swoooosh sound over your head? That’s Zack’s point.”

Wizards and Alchemy.

I love to remember where we’ve come from.

Sid, you created so much signal that cut through the noise and I thank you for that.

ForTheMotherland_0 1941

The image above was photographed by Russian photographer Dmitri Baltermants in 1941. Dmitri is part of where we come from. We stand on his shoulders.

What camera or format was that image above shot with? Who knows. Who cares?

Bouke White chryslerbuilding

Margaret Bourke-White kicking ass on top of the Chrysler building with God knows what brand of camera. We stand on her shoulders.


I seriously doubt that any reader of this blog, author included, has yet to create the type of iconic images that Dorothea Lange created with whateverthef*ckitis she is shooting with as pictured above in 1936. I’m far more interested in her shoes actually. Those are some amazing kicks. We stand on her shoulders. She passed the baton a little further down the line so we can chase the light.

APS. Full frame. CCD vs. CMOS. Fuji sponsorships. Well actually such and such is better. No… blah blah blah. No… I just posted on DPreview that blah blah blah. Yeah. Gear. Love gear. Will talk about gear. Review gear. Gotta have some gear if we’re going to do any of this right?

All of you who are “blah, blah, blah, blah’ing”… author included… I want you all to go look at Pep Bonet’s photo essay from the Kissy Mental Home in Sierra Leone.

Everyone needs to look at that essay. And we all need to STFU and remember moment, and light, and expression, and composition, and connecting to our subjects and to the world at large, and leaving something behind that might just change someone’s life one day or remind them why they fell in love with each other or take them back to that first time she smiled or to remember that war is still ravaging the earth and maybe we should all stop fucking killing each other. Photography has this power to do something and it doesn’t matter one bit what effing sensor size you use.

Thank you Sid for your comment. Thank you.




Zack Arias

A full time commercial and editorial photographer, Zack shoots everything from bands to CEOs to ad campaigns. A gifted teacher and communicator, he has an uncanny ability to meet and connect with all types of people.

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